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Northern Ireland

There are 10,738 employees in the Northern Ireland active leisure, learning and well-being sector, accounting for 2.8% of UK employment in the sector, in an estimated 974 establishments. The largest industry in terms of employment is sport and recreation (76%).

A significantly higher proportion of the workforce work part-time (43%), compared with 26% across Northern Ireland as a whole. 90% of the workforce are employees, compared with 81% of the whole Northern Ireland workforce. Levels of part-time employment is predicted to grow over the next 10 years. 16% of staff working in the sector are unpaid of voluntary. Sports clubs have a high proportion of voluntary staff.

Employment levels in the sector are forecast to increase over the next 10 years, by 0.7% between 2009-2014. All the industries forecast increased employment levels to 2014 particularly for the health and fitness, playwork and outdoors industries.

17% of organisations in the sector are sole traders and 24% have fewer than 5 employees.

The gross value added (GVA) output of the sector equalled £0.2 billion in 2004, 63.4% of which was from the sport and recreation industry. Output in the sector is forecast to increase over the next 10 years.

Workforce profile:

  • 59% of the sector workforce is female, compared to 54% in the overall Northern Ireland workforce
  • 87% of those in playwork are female
  • 79% of those in the caravan industry are male
  • 30% of the paid workforce are aged 16-24 years, 41% are aged 25-34 years, 17% are aged 35-44 years and 13% are 45 years and over
  • 98% of the sector workforce are white
  • less than 1% of the workforce are registered disabled

23% of all employees are in personal service occupations. Over the next ten years, the number of managerial and secretarial occupations will increase 2.6% annually. The number of skilled trades occupations is expected to decrease over the same period.

The distribution of qualification levels held by the sector workforce is similar to the average for the whole Northern Ireland economy. A high proportion of the workforce have Level 4 and 5 qualifications (37%), compared to 30% in the whole Northern Ireland economy. A relatively small proportion of the sector workforce are qualified to Level 2 (16%) and 29% have a level 1 or no qualifications.

21% of organisations in the sector have vacancies compared with 16% in the whole Northern Ireland. The health and fitness industry are most likely to have vacancies. 13% of organisations in the sector reported hard-to-fill vacancies, whilst 3% reported skill shortage vacancies. These vacancies are the result of a low number of applicants with required skills and a general lack of people interested in the work. 13% of all organisations report internal skills gaps. Skills gaps are reported for planning and preparing work, specific technical skills, team working, communication and maintaining safety, together with management skills.

Key drivers in the Northern Ireland sector include:

  • Consumer trends: fears of obesity and disease associate with a less active lifestyle have
  • Increased demand for active leisure
  • Government policy for sport, recreation and play
  • Legislative and regulatory requirements
  • UK Golden Decade of Sport

Source: UK Sector Skills Assessment – Active Leisure, Learning and Well-being: Northern Ireland 2010 and Sector Skills Agreement Northern Ireland 2007