The sport and fitness industry will play a vital role in helping to reduce the level of unemployment as a key employer of young people, according to the industry’s skills body SkillsActive.

Although the rate of unemployment is at its lowest since spring 2011, youth unemployment remains a worry with figures from the Office for National Statistics indicating that youth unemployment has risen for the first time since last summer, now at 957,000.

Some experts, including influential think tank the Institute for Public Policy Research, predict that the number of those out of work may once again surpass a million this year. The industry has stepped forward as an important and viable route to enable young people to find meaningful employment.

With the sector experiencing strong growth, there is good news on the horizon for the nation’s young people.

Jean-Ann Marnoch, Registrar for the Register for Exercise Professionals, which is part of SkillsActive, said, “Despite the challenges facing the economy, the sport and active leisure industry is experiencing growth as people try to step up healthy lifestyles. The take-up of personal trainers is increasing 15% year on year. Much of the job creation is going to be among the 16-24 age group who make up 30% of the workforce in the sector. And as interest for jobs in our sector increased following the Olympics, now is an ideal time to introduce young people to the active careers.”

Official figures released by the Office for National Statistics show a fall in unemployment over the last three months to November 2012. The data for those out of work indicates that there are now 2.49 million people unemployed, down 37,000 on the quarter.

Jean-Ann continued, “The skills agenda lies very much in the hands of employers who are now beginning to embrace the idea of apprenticeships and traineeships as a practical way of preparing young people to enter the sector. SMEs make up 75% of the industry so it’s particularly important that young people are shown the correct pathways and given the opportunities to grow their skills at the smaller companies in the sector.

“We are working with employers of all sizes to ensure that the needs of the employers are met and that training programmes are geared towards creating effective workers in active careers that at the same tackles the country’s obesity problem.”

SkillsActive has created a programme called ActiveAmbition which engages with employers, gauges their requirements in regards to skills, and provides solutions through funding from the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES). This programme is currently developing the skills protocol for training throughout the sector. Over a hundred employers sit on the group that is funded by ActiveAmbition.