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Apprentice plan fit for purpose

There was a perfect excuse to celebrate the success of sports training this week as national events were held around the country to highlight apprenticeships.

Skills Active - the sector skills council for sport - held celebrations as part of the first National Apprenticeship Week, now destined to be an annual event.

Stephen Studd, chief executive of Skills Active, said: "It's an exciting time for sport due to the 2012 Olympics in the UK and the Government's targets to increase the health of the nation.

"Apprenticeships are a good entry point for the sector, providing young people with the best possible opportunity to be ready for work.

"There has never been a better time to train motivated and talented people for active leisure and learning."

The biggest event for sports and leisure specialists was a summit in London on Tuesday, where delegates discussed the recently published apprenticeships review, which outlines ministers' aspirations for the programme across all vocational areas, not just sport.

But the centrepiece of the Skills Active celebrations took place on Wednesday in Twickenham, the home of English rugby, at an event run in conjunction with the Learning and Skills Council, with an appearance from David Lammy, the skills minister.

Skills Active has been introducing the advanced apprenticeship in sporting excellence, which directly develops athletes' understanding of the technical, tactical, physical and psychological aspects of their chosen sport. It is aimed at everyone, from young aspiring athletes to those already competing and looking to develop their careers.

It is anticipated that many athletes who go on to represent their country will go through the advanced apprenticeship programme, which also opens up opportunities for them to develop other sporting roles once their competing days are over.

A major trend in sports training of recent years has been to equip people with the skills they might need in order to change direction should they not become the next David Beckham.

The sport and leisure sector is one of the fastest growing areas of the UK economy, but Skills Active admits it has had its work cut out in attempting to convince more school leavers of this.

While colleges and employers provide training in a wide range of disciplines, many teenagers do not think beyond the prospect of being a professional athlete, usually a footballer or a coach.

Colleges have been working closely with sporting organisations - including football clubs such as Manchester United - to create activities that combine competitive sports with other aspects of learning.

The 2012 Olympic Games has been a public relations gift for sports training, while also giving a boost to construction and tourism training. Thousands of jobs are expected to be created in the next few years, particularly in the east London boroughs that will host most of the games, including the swimming and track and field events.

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