Our Competition Data Analyst Ed Chapman caught up with AoC Sport, one of our Competition Organising Partners, to find out how they moved their Fitness Trainer competition online.

Most organisations have had to rapidly adjust how they operate in response to the coronavirus. WorldSkills UK is no different and in a normal year we would be running 190 regional qualifying competitions in locations across the UK for thousands of young people. With business as usual not being possible in 2020, a number of our Competition Organising Partners (industry experts who manage a skill area) decided to run their competitions remotely.

Angus Milligan at AoC Sport was one of those who looked at creative ways of moving their Fitness Trainer competition to an online event. Here he talks through how they went about doing that.

Responding to changes in the fitness industry
“The fitness industry has really had to go digital during the pandemic to be able to continue. People are now doing personal training online or through social media and our expert judging team had all moved onto digital platforms such as Zoom and Facebook, so we wanted the competition to reflect that shift.

“Our initial stage of the competition was already digital (with a video showcase and a series of questions) and our qualifying task, of running a personal training session with a client, was relatively straightforward to transfer onto Zoom as that’s what our industry was now used to. This meant that the competition reflected in real-time how the wider fitness industry rapidly adapted digitally to the challenge of keeping the nation fit and healthy in lockdown, and that the team of judges and industry experts reacted so quickly to ensure the students involved still had a great experience’.

“The big change, however, was redeveloping our task and criteria for the national finals. These would normally have taken place over 3 days at the Birmingham NEC but we needed to create something that could run digitally and measure the same attributes at the same level.

“So we created some pre-final tasks including a 12-week progressive training plan, a promotional video, and a home equipment demonstration, such as using water bottles as weights, to adapt to people not being able to get to the gym. Then at the national finals (taking place at the end of October) the competitor will need to use Zoom to:

• run a personal training session with an existing client
• demonstrate their innovation in a home-equipment workout
• attend a mock interview with a leisure employer
• discuss their understanding and knowledge of business practises with our judges, and
• take part in a media interview.

The impact on assessment and young people
“The competitors are being tested in a way that they haven’t been tested before, in their qualifications or in the competition. Judges will watch the competitor demonstrate their skills online and record their marks against the criteria. We’ve managed to keep the competition at the right level, stretching them and testing them beyond what they learnt in college by introducing these new digital elements and giving them the additional training opportunities to support their development. The competitors are challenged to grab the moment, like most professionals have during this time, to try and use technology to ensure they can still deliver for their clients and make money.

“If they did qualify this year, they would be in industry now, so this is giving them the opportunity to build their platform online and push forward with their careers. We had a few people questioning whether they should start their business this year, during a pandemic, but because they’ve got into the finals they’ve gone ahead with it because they have the confidence and tools, like the promotional video they’ve created, to do that.”

The competitor and sponsor view
One of this year’s finalists, James Allen from Coleg Gwent, talks about how he felt about the changes to the competition:

“It was probably the most stressful two months of my life preparing my session plan for the qualifiers! And I had to do it all through Zoom, which actually came in handy as that’s how I’ve started running classes with my new business. Getting used to the technology has been a learning journey. Luckily, I got into the finals and I’m really excited about putting my mind to something that I love.”

Kerry Fearnley, from the awarding body Active IQ, who sponsor the competition said:

“It’s amazing that the AoC have been able to switch the competition to be online. We’re really grateful that the AoC and their judging team have adapted this so that the competition can go ahead, when so much other stuff has been cancelled.”

Digital is here to stay
Angus concludes: “It’s been a challenge this year but we’ve been lucky enough to cope with the situation. Running personal training sessions online is where the industry is going, so it makes sense for us to incorporate elements of the digital tasks into future competitions and we’re confident now that we can run it online.

“One of our immediate challenges is to make the medals ceremony feel special for the finalists when it’s an online event. But we have some pre-recorded messages by college principals and sponsors and some different medal categories to make it feel like an occasion.

“Outside of testing people in new important areas, the benefit of a greater digital element is that it will take away a lot of barriers for people to engage with the competition. If our qualifiers are online for example, then they’ll be no travel restrictions, which will open a lot of doors for people to get involved.”

Digital resources
Other WorldSkills UK competitions have looked at their provision to young people during lockdown and provided online masterclasses, ‘how to’ videos, and technical Q&A discussions. These activities meant that we were able to reach hundreds of young people who would have otherwise missed out.

Whilst we hope to be back to running physical competitions next year, we plan to keep the best of the digital solutions going so that we’re able to offer more of an experience to more young people. We’re also creating lots of online resources around skills and career development so watch this space!

A video of the 2020 AoC Fitness Trainer national finals will be available from 23 October on the AoC Sport website.

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