INTERVIEW: Premier Training International CEO Debra Stuart

By J&C Team

Premier Training International, part of the Premier Global Group, is a leading health and fitness industry Training Provider.

Premier has built a first class reputation in delivering quality vocational education since 1992 and has some of the strongest sports scientists and industry experts helping shape syllabuses and training delivery. The company vision was, and remains today, to raise standards throughout the health and fitness industry.

We interviewed CEO of Premier Training, Debra Stuart, to find out more about their work, and how they ensure their students land the best jobs in the fitness industry.

Jobs & Careers: A recent survey carried out of Premier Training’s graduates found that 86% of learners entered the fitness industry from another career. It seems the fitness industry has become an increasingly attractive career option.

Debra Stuart: Yes, we get many different individuals enrolling onto our courses. They come from a wide variety of places really. Over the past few years, we’ve picked up people who have been made redundant and thought, “right this is the chance for me to have a new career doing something I really enjoy”.

We pick up people who may have a job working at Tesco’s or Homebase for example, but also have an interest in fitness and have managed to pull together some money to fund the course. The beauty of our course is that it can take you from zero – having just left school with no qualifications and just a keen interest in fitness and learning – to a guaranteed interview and job within six weeks. The intensive six week course combines three days in class and two days of e-learning. At the end of the course, our graduates come out with 2 qualifications and are automatically entered onto the registry of exercise professionals. The great things about that is, it means you can get a job as a fitness instructor or personal trainer anywhere in the UK and across europe as the qualification is recognised there too.

We work with a whole range of health and fitness employers. If job seekers go to our website, under ‘Find a job’ they will see a list of all employers that we work with.

J&C: There are many studies suggesting that we are becoming a nation of second income earners, do you see this trend among many of your students?

DS: We pick up people who already have jobs, so may already have an office job for example but have a keen interest in fitness, and see this as a means of earning an additional income, because a course in personal training can be done at evenings and weekends. Second jobs can generate quite a substantial income for you.

J&C: Only 7% of graduates had joined your course straight after leaving school. Do you think this shows lack of awareness for university alternatives?

DS: A lot of students are coming out of school, with half decent A – level results but asking themselves, “do I want to saddle myself with massive debts when i can get parents to pay 3500 and at the end of it in six weeks times I can get a job?”

J&C: What do you think can be done to further promote alternative career paths?

DS: Parents need to drop the prejudice. If you’re a parent and have your mind fixed on wanting your child to get a degree, the reality is, your child is going to finish with a huge student loan to repay and no job at the end it. I think what our industry needs to do and what we are doing, is creating more visibility around the careers pathways that are open to you within leisure.

We have many of our large health club operators who came into the industry as life guards and worked their way up the ranks to quite senior positions in the sector. Certainly opportunities there and i think that you can come into the industry as a fitness instructor or life guard tend to sort of work your way up to duty manager and facility manager. Can go into management route or you can take other routes in education for instance.

J&C: How do you think this has an affect on the current UK skills gap?

DS: The government is supposedly committed to vocational skills. They have pumped a lot of money into apprenticeship training, but there is not enough joined up thinking between the people that design the apprenticeship framework, i.e the sector skills councils, and the employers who need apprentices. What we need to do, and what we are beginning to do it in our sector is pull together the employers and ask “What does the apprenticeship framework need to look like in order to provide really clearly defined career pathways, for anybody that’s coming into the job?”