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Is Traditional Fitness Registration Holding Us Back?

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FITREC recognises and promotes fitness industry professionals. While it differs considerably from other registration providers, it does have in common an expectation that professionals meet minimum professional development standards. But maybe this common expectation is actually holding us back…

[UPDATE 01/05/17: At the time of writing this article we were questioning our minimum professional development standard for FITREC. Shortly after this blog was written, we dropped our requirement for ongoing education in favour of professional transparency.]

Could the opposite of how we currently manage fitness registration lead to a stronger, more informed and unified industry?

I was recently looking at a FITREC profile and thought ‘this candidate will not be eligible for renewal if they do not undertake some education.’

But wait! I only know this because their profile was visible!

In fact, I can see exactly what their experience and education is. I can take into account their references. In fact, I have a much greater knowledge of this person than would be possible if they were no longer an active member of FITREC.

This got me thinking; For many years fitness registration has been binary – You have it or you don’t. If you don’t meet standards for professional development, you don’t register. Therefore, there’s no specific accountability. After all, fitness registration is not a legal requirement nor does an absence of registration reflect your abilities.

A lack of registration rarely impacts on employability and certainly has no impact on whether a qualified professional can get insurance.

What if the new industry standard was one of public accountability and transparency?

That is, an expectation that ALL qualified industry professionals were registered, regardless of professional development, so that their experience and qualifications were available for verification by employers (and clients).

‘If anyone with a qualification can register, are we lowering industry standards?’

On the contrary. With the current registered/not registered attitude, there is little attention to exactly what makes up a professionals background. Under an accountability and transparency model, leading professionals (and those just coasting) are more easily identified.

Further to this, many employers set their own benchmark with regards to professional development and in many cases current ‘industry standards’ are not enough. Not to mention, many clubs/studios have varied levels of Trainers within the club – so the standards met by Trainers within a business can vary.

With the new FITREC rating system, rather than simply ‘I’m registered’, it becomes (for example) ‘I’ve got a FITREC rating of 243’. A quick visit to a profile will show everything an employer would like to know.

‘I’m an employer, registered/not registered was an easy filter.”

FITREC rating provides so much more at a glance. A score over 100 shows some effort, over 200 is a professional with some accomplishment and close to 300 (the maximum) you’re dealing with an industry leader.

PLUS the score is only possible by entering relevant information, so any score is verifiable on a publicly visible profile.

The FITREC rating will make recruitment easier – employers might look for a minimum rating – either collectively (out of 300) or for different elements (Education, References or Experience).

When we created FITREC it was because we saw the need for a more representative, responsive, transparent and proactive registration service. As we’ve progressed down this path, two things have become obvious;

  1. Professionals are put off re-entering/growing their career because, although qualified, are not able to be recognised by any relevant group.
  2. Those that do become registered often view professional development as a chore rather than a choice.

Rather than FITREC being another sole arbiter of industry suitability, our belief is that it’s time for our fitness industry to take the term ‘self governed’ to heart. Let’s get everyone registered and use accountability and transparency to celebrate the achievers and encourage those that are starting out in the industry, or rejoining after a time of absence.

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10 thoughts on “Is Traditional Fitness Registration Holding Us Back?

  1. Jimmy says:

    Having been both registered and unregistered I feel like this still is not the solution. I am in my 9th year in the fitness industry. I have done many CEC courses. Few of them valuable to my business. It seems a dollar value is placed on the number of CECs and not on actual content.

    The idea of a ranking system still fails to sort the quality from the quantity. You might have 300 “FitRec Points” but it may only mean you have spent 1000s of dollars on content that should have been covered in your initial course. It looks great having a list of “qualifications” under your name. However, it doesn’t mean you are a better trainer/coach/instructor than someone sitting on 150 “FitRec Points” that has a handful of loyal clients and volunteers their time on the weekend coaching team sports.

    What you have suggested is certainly a step in the right direction. That direction being a complete overhaul of an industry rife with barely qualified people who couldn’t be trusted with their own health and fitness let alone that of another.

    I have always suggested a 12 month apprenticeship system with experienced professionals. It is a practical industry. We need a practical approach. But that is for another day. #2cents

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    • Thank you for taking the time to comment Jimmy.

      To be clear, education only accounts for a third of the FITREC rating. The other two thirds are based on industry experience and references from industry peers.

      Regarding ‘barely qualified’, this is one of the key areas in which we feel accountability and transparency really works, more so than simply registered/not registered.

      Your apprenticeship idea is a great one, and one supported by many others I’ve spoken to within the industry. In fact, we recently considered providing professionals with the ability to mention (and possibly link to) industry mentors/coaches. The two-fold benefit being to highlight the development of the professional and normalise the use of an industry mentor/coach. #2centswelcome

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  2. From my experience I found registration a waste of time and money. Registration was required by the facilities I initially worked in before going out on my own. It seemed a very cosy relationship between the commercial operators, registration bodies and the training providers. Very few of the training providers actually provided value for money with the courses they offered. I have no evidence to support this but I wouldn’t mind betting there were kickbacks involved. I currently engage in my own professional development to keep abreast of things such as the CISSN. When I was registered the only things I received for my money were a plastic card and an occasional email.

    Any proposed registration body needs some legal clout to enforce minimum standards of education. Once again, from my 10 years industry experience the standard of some certificate courses leaves a lot to be desired if the standard of graduates is any indication.

    The industry also creates unrealistic expectations for people undertaking courses by advertising that they will find them employment upon graduation. This involves them providing a list of commercial operators that will take the graduates on as virtual slave labour and pretty much leave them to their own devices to build a client base. any wonder the average life span of a trainer is 3 months. A consistent industry standard and some protection of new entrants is required in my opinion.

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    • Hi Geoff, I don’t know about kick-backs, but it’s no secret that training providers need to pay for CEC recognition. This was one of the key areas that FITREC wanted to manage differently. Shouldn’t learning, rather than point accumulation, be the drive? Under the traditional course approval system, there is also the question of homoginisation of learning and it’s impact on industry growth.

      I would argue that legal clout is not necessarily the answer. And certainly not something that’s going to change anytime soon. Transparency and accountability, on the other hand, is available to us all right now.

      While I agree that unrealistic expectations are fostered in many teaching institutions, I have not met any employers operating in the way you describe. To leave a newbie to their own devices would be the death of any business. There might be low rates of pay, but this would reflect the considerable investment in time and effort to make job ready. As mentioned in an earlier comment, maybe this mentoring provided by businesses should be more widely recognised?

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  3. Jose says:

    PT Training providers already have to comply with governments standards, so why do we still have to pay for registration? , the whole registration system is s rort and a useless thing. I’ve been practicing martial arts for over 20 years, teaching for a good 10 and also qualified PT, yet a gym demanded I registered with fitness Australia and took a boxing course (to teach martial arts, really? ).
    The principles of exercise science and strength training hardly change; in my opinion the whole registration system is designed as a money making scheme.

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  4. Taylor says:

    I agree with most and Jose. I’m a qualified PT and the registration process with all these courses and workshops to get your points up is frivolous. Re-registering and paying money for what? The institutions should be spending more time teaching you almost everything there is to know during your course. Therefore when you get out there, clubs/studios should be hiring their best candidates on a Casual, Part -Time or Full-Time basis to get the experience alongside a more experienced PT. Therefore, if you continue on staying or want to work for yourself then you can venture out with more confidence or pay the club for the use of the facilities and bring in your own clientele. Most of the PTs end up having to fork out a couple of hundreds each week in rent to the (Club) to get expose and experience in the industry, a little unfair and challenging to some that may not be in a financial position to start. A Personal Trainer in the beginning needs to be earning and gaining experience at the same time. For some this can be can hard to sustain and make a living especially when you’re starting out. Hence why so many leave the industry and pursue other careers. Once you have your qualification it should be up to you to keep up with the latest trends to be the best in your field not forced to pay and count your points in order to qualify to train every 2 years.

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