Hiring degreed. Part 3

By Oscar

Patton feels that licensure for the industry is a necessity and would put teeth into the kind of competency and expectations that health fitness professionals must have. Once this happens, institutions would have to develop proper curriculum, he says.

William Stone, of Arizona State University, conducted a survey recently of club managers and directors, and discovered that a deficiency in school programs is in the area of general business skills. On the undergraduate level, Arizona State offers a B.S. degree in exercise science, which is offered as an academic course as part of the college of liberal arts and sciences, and is designed for students moving on to medical school or other degree programs.

A bachelor’s degree in exercise and wellness prepares students for many things and takes a broad-based approach. Students can obtain a bachelor’s degree only or go on to a master’s or doctoral program. It is the master’s graduates who are prepared to work in corporate/worksite, commercial/private, community-based programs, medical, clinical, sports medicine programs or become entrepreneurs (personal trainers). Their activity experiences include fitness-oriented activities, as well as organization, promotion and business skills.

Master’s graduates get better jobs and focus more on management. The focus of their study has been on behavioral and psychological changes, leadership and management skills, exercise testing and prescription, and electives in nutrition, counseling, computers, etc.

Paula Potter, general manager of the Airport Club believes universities need to realize and teach students that they will be dealing with a public that is not as fit as those people in the program. Students need to learn more empathy for the general population and develop stronger motivational skills to keep members exercising, moving and eating right at whatever pace they can.

Gainsboro has found that technically oriented people are not always “up” people, adding that, “The audience will dwindle if you don’t make them feel good.”

Degrees vs. certifications

Whether your staff requires certification depends upon what the primary preparation is. The more respected certifications (ACE, ACSM, AFAA) require a certain body of knowledge. Richard Seibert, director of special projects for the American Council on Exercise, feels that certifications are beneficial for part-timers who don’t want to pursue a formal four-year degree program and for those people with educations that didn’t provide the specific knowledge required (e.g., aerobic certification for someone with a kinesiology background). In addition, for people finding themselves attracted to a specialty after their career has started, certifications offer a great option. For example, ACE has specialty areas such as senior programming, nutrition, program management, etc. A degree plus certifications illustrates a strong desire to be successful in the industry.

“I feel over-qualified for starter positions” is the sentiment from students who have failed to gain experience while obtaining their degree. Quatrochi feels that students should be working in starter positions while going to school. A 10-credit internship is required at his school and can often lead to full-time positions, but if a position doesn’t exist at the internship site, extra experience helps differentiate a candidate from other graduates.

Following are some suggestions offered from both schools and employers to help create a more compatible fit between graduates and employer needs:

University instructors could help their students be prepared for any position by keeping themselves abreast of news in the industry. They should also be emphatic with students about getting experience while in school, more than an internship, paid or volunteer.

Students should collect a portfolio of service. They should solicit inquiries from the community so that they can obtain more detailed experience. Working at health fairs, hospital events, speaking at community groups, writing for local papers, etc., can all be included in a portfolio that will impress future employers (and give students a realistic idea of the types of people they will most likely be working with when they graduate).

A frustration of students after they graduate is the question of where they go after they become manager of their department. Management of the full facility is not in line with the clinical or technical coursework that most studied and want to pursue. Many move to other fields. Those who enter the field later in life as a lifestyle choice (after working in other industries) are more likely to stay in the field because they are less motivated by financial objectives and more motivated by lifestyle choice and a desire to “help people.” Employers should consider these seasoned candidates as a real treasure.

Graduates complain that clubs hire people who “just look good” in a leotard or workout clothes and complain when they receive the same pay as those without the education. If students get work experience while in school, they may be able to move to higher paying positions when they graduate and should look for businesses that support hiring trained staff.

Hiring degreed individuals offers more credibility to businesses. As the population ages and the focus of membership becomes older, more sedentary, with specific, possibly age- or disease-related, problems, a health/fitness business will only survive if the staff are able to safely assist the members, work with physicians and keep people motivated. In addition, community organizations and financial sources (banks, lenders, investors, sponsors) will be looking to work with educated individuals who can write well, speak well and provide a quality presentation.

A balance of personality, skills, experience and maturity will help determine if a candidate is right for any particular position. Once hired and trained, it is up to the business to work with their staff on a continual basis to keep the members happy and motivated, which will lead to high staff and member retention.

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categoriaBusiness commentoComments Off dataOctober 18th, 2012


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