The first results of the research of the EN ROUTE Project reveal gap in training paths and qualifications
The EN ROUTE Project, designed to validate the skills of innovative sports professionals who want to work in the tourism sector, reaches the turning point of the first phase dedicated to research. The project was born from the intuition that, despite the sport sector has been recognized as a sector with high employment level, its potential for innovation to increase employability still has to meet some needs.
In this first phase of investigation about sport and tourism professional profiles, the discrepancy between the European qualification levels has emerged, with reference to the European Qualifications Framework (EQF) and the validation of skills and qualifications in all Member States in the case of formal and informal career paths. The heterogeneity of European training and education systems, expressions of different national cultures, makes it difficult to assess the value of a qualification and the recognition of the existing profiles of the sport and tourist professions in the respective national catalogues. As a result, the discrepancy continues to prevent both career development and European mobility, despite the high demand for mobility in the sport and tourism sectors.
The analysis carried out simultaneously by the Project Partners within their national territory - Italy, Spain, Netherlands, Romania, Rep. of Macedonia - has revealed the existence of a certified profile common to all countries, namely the “Sport Manager”. A possible point of contact between the sectors of sport and tourism is mentioned in the description of this profile in the Italian “Atlante delle Professioni” (Atlas of Professions):
“…despite the fact that the sport director operates mainly in the sport sector, he/she can also develop his/her business in non-sport areas, such as tourism, because he/she has useful skills to get managerial roles”.
However, this profession still lacks the fundamental skills and knowledge to work in the tourism sector, just to name a few: knowledge of legislation, customer satisfaction, elements of sustainable and accessible tourism, innovations related to digital tourism, as well as networking skills, negotiation skills, and the ability to relate to local stakeholders. Learning and validation of life skills - such as empathy, mastery of effective communication, exercise of critical and creative thinking, problem solving skills and development of teamwork propensity are also excluded. Such skills do not therefore appear to be sufficiently integrated into the courses proposed in all EU Member States and dedicated to the training of sports profiles. The only exception is the Netherlands, where a good balance between transversal skills and specific knowledge related to the profession is present, but still remains a challenge. Therefore, the Sport Manager profile is not a result of an intersectoral training path and, above all, it has never been declined in any new profession in the tourism sector. Finally, there is no fruitful cross-contamination in training between sport and professional sectors which appear to be closely related and almost naturally related (e.g. medicine, tourism).
Comparative studies have also revealed a gap between the skills acquired in training courses and the skills needed to operate in a rapidly changing society. For example, the growing importance of physical health promotion aimed at different targets (elderly, people with functional needs, people at risk of illnesses caused by incorrect lifestyle and nutrition) demands an improvement of knowledge and skills to understand new needs and to get in touch with these social and market clusters.
The investigation has also shown that the largest number of sports graduates in Europe obtain a final qualification in the field of physical education, while specialization in sport management and outdoor animation affect only a small part of them, always having only technical level qualifications (EQF 4) and not managerial qualifications. It is therefore confirmed that the gap between training courses and the availability of employment in tourism seems to be one of the most detrimental elements for the development of an innovation process in this strategic sector for the economy.
Finally, the validation of informal learning pathways, which should lead to the recognition of a professional qualification through a rigorous certification system (consultancy - assessment - certification) remains a contradiction. Such a system has been already structured in Spain and Romania through Institutions providing vocational guidance and counselling services.
The next step of the project foresees to carry out a survey in the world of sport among associations, federations and professionals to:
identify the real needs for knowledge and skills
establish a methodology for the validation of non-formal learning and the related recognition as a professional qualification.
The results of the comparative analysis developed so far and the statistics of the survey will provide main data to identify the Sport and Tourism Outdoor Manager. This new qualification will be validated according to the parameters of the EQF system and it will be implemented through a training path, shared by all the Partners of the EN ROUTE Project and designed to develop new competences and Life Skills tailored to sport profiles.