Leisure Centre Assistant

The Job and What's Involved

Leisure centre assistants help and supervise the people who visit leisure centres. Their role is varied and may include:

  • Taking payments, issuing tickets, and taking bookings.
  • Providing information about activities.
  • Hiring out equipment.
  • Setting up equipment and displays.
  • Moving, setting up and taking down equipment not in permanent use, eg nets, portable goalposts, tables and chairs.
  • Maintaining equipment.
  • Demonstrating equipment and checking that customers are following safety regulations.
  • Helping to deliver training or fitness sessions.
  • Supervising swimming pool users.
  • Swimming pool maintenance and safety.
  • Cleaning and tidying all areas and facilities, including pool areas, changing rooms and toilets.
  • Giving first aid and performing emergency procedures.
  • Helping in the catering section, serving food and drink.

Assistants at a small centre might be involved in any of these activities. At a larger centre they may be able to specialise in areas like swimming pool supervision or outdoor sports.

Assistants work in a team with colleagues such as supervisors, managers, fitness instructors, coaches and lifeguards.

Leisure centre assistants work up to 40 hours a week. They work shifts and unsocial hours, including early mornings, evenings, late nights, weekends and bank holidays. Part-time work is common and can lead to full-time posts.

Depending on the centre, the work may be indoors, or outside in all weathers.

Leisure centres are mainly clean, light and airy, often with air conditioning. However, assistants may specialise in working at the swimming pool, where prolonged exposure to chlorine-based chemicals can irritate the eyes, nose and throat.

The work can be physically demanding, especially in busy centres.

Assistants are usually provided with a uniform.

Starting salaries may be around £10,000 a year. Earnings can be increased by overtime, shift and weekend duty payments. Assistants may be paid more if they have professional qualifications. They may also get free use of leisure centre facilities outside working hours.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

There are over 6,000 leisure centres and health clubs in the UK, and over 200,000 people employed in the health and fitness sector. The industry is growing as people have more leisure time, more money and have become more health conscious. New facilities are opening, existing ones are expanding all the time and there are plenty of jobs available.

There are job opportunities with both local authority and private leisure centres and health and fitness clubs, mainly in towns and cities, but also in some rural areas. Private clubs include those in hotels, the workplaces of large organisations and holiday centres.

Jobs are advertised in the local press and leisure magazines. Vacancies are also advertised through the publications and websites of employers and professional bodies, such as the Institute of Sport and Recreation Management (ISRM) and the Institute of Leisure and Amenity Management (ILAM). There are also specialist recruitment websites such as www.leisureopportunities.co.uk, www.leisurejobs.com and www.jobswithballs.com.

Education and Training

There are no formal academic entry requirements, but some employers may ask for:

  • GCSE's/S grades (A-C/1-3), or equivalent qualifications, in English and maths, and possibly a science subject.
  • A levels/H grades or BTEC/SQA national qualifications in sport or leisure.

Vocational courses, such as NVQ's/SVQ's in Operational Services, and Operations and Development, may be taken before starting work.

Leisure centre assistants need specialist qualifications to work in specific activities. For example, life-saving qualifications are essential for working as a swimming pool attendant. There are basic life-saving courses for waterside helpers, as well as full lifeguard qualifications, such as the Institute of Qualified Lifeguards' National Pool Lifeguard Qualification (NPLQ) and the Swimming Teachers' Association (STA) National Rescue Standard (NaRS) qualifications.

Other qualifications that improve the chances of getting a job include:

  • Certificates in first aid and pool plant operations.
  • National Governing Body coaching awards.
  • NVQ's/SVQ's in Coaching, Teaching and Instructing, or Instructing Exercise and Fitness.

Apprenticeships in Active Leisure and Learning are available.

Apprenticeships and Advanced Apprenticeships provide structured training with an employer. As an apprentice you must be paid at least £95 per week; you may well be paid more. A recent survey found that the average wage for apprentices was £170 a week. Your pay will depend on the sector in which you work, your age, the area where you live and the stage at which you have arrived in the Apprenticeship.

Entry to Employment (e2e) can help to prepare those who are not yet ready for an Apprenticeship. In addition, Young Apprenticeships may be available for 14- to 16-year-olds. More information is available from a Connexions personal adviser or at www.apprenticeships.org.uk.

There are different arrangements for Apprenticeships in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

For further information visit My World of Work www.myworldofwork.co.uk/modernapprenticeships, Careers Wales www.careerswales.com; and for Northern Ireland contact www.careersserviceni.com.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

On-the-job training is given, and there are a number of courses available for leisure centre assistants. These may lead to NVQ's/SVQ's in Operational Services, and Operations and Development, or to professional qualifications in areas such as life saving, fitness instruction or first aid.

Other qualifications include those awarded by the Institute of Sport and Recreation Management (ISRM), and the Institute of Leisure and Amenity Management (ILAM).

ISRM offers an Operations Certificate, which provides underpinning knowledge for the NVQ/SVQ Level 2 in Operational Services.

ISPAL runs a Professional Qualification Scheme. The first two levels of the scheme are the First Award and the Certificate in Leisure Operations, which involve the completion of work-based projects.

ISPAL also runs a modular Leisure Assistant Award for people working in the industry at NVQ/SVQ Levels 2 and 3.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

Leisure centre assistants need to:

  • Be able to work well as part of a team.
  • Have a friendly, helpful attitude.
  • Be aware of health and safety issues.
  • Have good communication skills.
  • Be physically fit.
  • Be energetic and enthusiastic.
  • Be able to cope with emergencies.
  • Be able to deal with problems.
  • Be willing to do routine tasks.
  • Be flexible and able to move quickly from one job to another.
  • Be prepared to do training courses when necessary.

Your Long Term Prospects

With experience and qualifications, there are opportunities for progression. For example, it is possible to move up to senior leisure centre assistant or supervisor, then to duty or assistant manager, operations manager, and leisure centre manager.

Some assistants transfer into related jobs such as fitness or aerobics instructor, coach, or lifeguard. It may be necessary to move to another centre to take up some posts.

People with relevant experience and qualifications may go on to higher education - for example, to do a degree or Foundation degree.

There may be the chance to work abroad with some employers.

Get Further Information

ISPAL, Grotto House, Lower Basildon,
Reading RG8 9NE
Tel: 01491 874800
Website: www.ilam.co.uk

The Institute of Sport and Recreation Management (ISRM),
Sir John Beckwith Centre for Sport, Loughborough University,
Loughborough, Leicestershire LE11 3TU
Tel: 01509 226474
Website: www.isrm.co.uk

SkillsActive, Castlewood House,
77-91 New Oxford Street, London WC1A 1PX
Tel: 08000 933300 (careers advice helpline)
Website: www.skillsactive.com/careers

Sport England, 3rd Floor, Victoria House,
Bloomsbury Square, London WC1B 4SE
Tel: 020 7273 1551
Website: www.sportengland.org

Sport Scotland, Caledonia House,
South Gyle, Edinburgh EH12 9DQ
Tel: 0131 317 7200
Website: www.sportscotland.org.uk

Sports Council for Wales, Sophia Gardens,
Cardiff CF11 9SW
Tel: 0845 045 0904
Website: www.sports-council-wales.org.uk

The Springboard Charity & Springboard UK Ltd, Coopers' Hall,
13 Devonshire Square, London EC2M 4TH
Tel: 020 7497 8654
Website: www.springboarduk.net

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