Strengthening the sport and leisure industry through apprenticeship degrees

The challenges facing the sport and leisure industry – like closures of sports facilities and a shrinking talent pool – demand innovative solutions. Facing the closure of nearly 400 swimming pools since 2010, the industry grappled with the departure of skilled employees seeking stability elsewhere.

Fusion Lifestyle, a sports and leisure management charity, has tackled these challenges head-on by investing in apprenticeship degrees for its workforce. 

Stacey Allen from Arden University, in partnership with Fusion, credits prioritising workforce development for their success. She says, “Being able to adapt in this tough climate is vital if businesses want to survive. It’s why we make sure the programmes we offer businesses in this industry are tailored to the specific challenges they are facing, to ensure that learners and workers can help their business to thrive.”  

Over 94% of hospitality and leisure businesses struggle to find workers. That means that a focus on recruitment and retention has proven crucial. 

Tanya Wright, Fusion’s workforce development business partner, emphasises the organisation’s dedication to supporting and investing in its workforce. She said, “At Fusion … we wanted to ensure our employees could develop on their career pathway – not just for the betterment of our company, but also for the industry and future generations of communities that access our services.  

“We wanted to ensure our employees could develop on their career pathway.”  

Ben Stancombe, head of fitness and health products at Fusion, is enrolled on the degree apprenticeship programme. He said, “I’m very passionate about learning; I’ve always been an advocate of self-guided learning. I’ve never had the chance to gain a qualification but have always wanted to do an MBA.  

“Without the recognised qualification, it’s harder to progress in my career. But now I have been working toward gaining my MBA, not only do I have an extra accreditation for my CV, but I also have additional knowledge that allows me to be more informed as a professional.” 

Often in the sport and leisure industry, long-term employees are promoted to leadership positions, then left without support or training. Fusion’s approach removes the likelihood of these ‘accidental managers’. 

Ben said, “There are so many people at senior level in businesses that don’t [know] business theories … Through my degree, I can merge theory with practice and base everything on real-world examples. I see how solutions to the current market challenges apply; I can test solutions by applying my newfound knowledge of business theory.” 

The success stories extend beyond personal development: degree apprentices often contribute to the growth of the charity. Tanya explains, “The projects some of the students have been working on have already been implemented into our business.  

“The degree content is not only helping our workers gain confidence and stronger industry knowledge, but it’s also benefitting the growth of the charity, and with it, what we can reinvest in our communities that we service. 

“In a time where the sport and leisure industry is facing challenge after challenge, this is a valuable benefit to supporting our employees’ learning and development as well as our sustainability in the industry.”   

With the sport and leisure industry needing to retain and attract new talent, while also trying to overcome its unique challenges, investing in employee learning and skills development is a strong method to help tick all boxes. By nurturing talent, addressing industry-specific hurdles, and providing globally recognised qualifications, Fusion proves that apprenticeships are not just about individual growth but are pivotal to the sustainability and success of the entire industry. 


Want to work in the sport and fitness industry? View available sport and fitness apprenticeships 

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