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Aquatic and Community Recreation

Overview

This page provides information and data on the Aquatic and Community Recreation sector, which is one component of the Sport, Fitness and Recreation industry.

Community Recreation refers to recreation at the local level like community recreation facilities and community activity programs, and includes activities like sport, aquatics, personal development programs, rehabilitation programs and government initiatives.

The delivery of aquatic and community recreation activities are primarily facilitated by state and local governments and commercial leisure centres, other businesses involved in the delivery of these activities include community-focused organisations (e.g. Police Citizens Youth Club and Young Men’s Christian Association) and voluntary organisations (e.g. religious groups).

There are over 1,300 public swimming pools across Australia and approximately the same number of swimming and water safety schools. These facilities play a vital role in aquatic skill development, recreation, sport and healthy active lifestyles in the community. In addition, they provide Australians with a safe place in which they can familiarise themselves with water activities, supported by lifeguards, good visibility and marked depths which enable visitors to develop their aquatic survival skills in a low-risk environment.

Aquatic facilities provide employment opportunities for local people and are essential to the social fabric of the community, particularly in rural and remote communities.

Examples of job roles within this sector that require vocational education and training include:

  • Sports and Recreation Centre Managers
  • Pool Lifeguards
  • Aquatic Exercise Instructor
  • Swimming and Water Safety Teacher
  • Recreation leader.

Nationally recognised training for Aquatic and Community Recreation occupations is delivered under the SIS – Sport, Fitness and Recreation Training Package. 

For more information on Fitness, Outdoor Recreation and Sport sectors, please visit the respective pages.

All data sources are available at the end of the page.

Employment trends

Employment snapshot

The employment level in the Sports and Physical Recreation Activities industry more than doubled over the period between 2002 and 2019 (from around 54,500 to 117,800). Figures dropped sharply in 2020 to 61,000 before increasing again, with a level of 95,700 in 2022. Employment levels are projected to increase to 104,300 by 2025.

For in the Amusement and Other Recreation Activities industry, employment levels increased substantially over the same period to 2019 (from 10,400 in 2002 to 17,500) and also declined sharply in 2020 to 5,900 before increasing by 247% to 20,500 in 2021. Employment levels declined in 2022 to 15,200 and are projected to decline further to approximately 14,200 by 2025.

Sports Coaches, Instructors and Officials, and Fitness Instructors make up approximately 25% of the Sport and Recreation Activities industry workforce, with employment levels in these occupations projected to further increase by 2026 by approximately 10% each. The occupation of Amusement, Fitness and Sports Centre Managers, which makes up close to 8% of the industry workforce, is projected to see the largest increase in employment levels by 2026 with almost 18% growth.

Training trends

Training snapshot

Program enrolments in Aquatic and Community Recreation-related qualifications fluctuated sharply between 2017 and 2019, declining from 7,820 to a low of 1,650 before increasing to a peak of 9,760. Levels have declined further since then, falling 61% since 2019 to 3,800 in 2021. Program completions also declined between 2017 and 2018 (from 250 to 100) before increasing each year since to around 1,610 in 2021.

All training was at the certificate III level in Aquatics qualifications with the main intended occupation of Community Worker. The bulk of this training was provided by private training providers (92%) and the majority (88%) training was funded through domestic fee for service, with the remainder funded by the Commonwealth and states.

Over half (58%) of students resided in Queensland, followed by New South Wales (15%) and Western Australia (10%). Similarly, the majority (62%) of training was delivered in Queensland, with much smaller proportions delivered in New South Wales (13%) and Western Australia (10%).

Apprentice and trainee commencements peaked at approximately 1,430 in 2014 and declined significantly to a low in 2019 before increasing each year since, to just under 90 in 2021. Completions peaked in 2015 at roughly 840 and also declined in the following years, with a particularly notable decrease of 85% between 2016 and 2017. Levels have continued to decline overall, falling to around 20 in 2021. The only intended occupation in 2021 was Community Worker.

Almost three quarters (73%) of apprenticeships and traineeships were reported in New South Wales, followed by 13% in Victoria.

For more data specific to your occupation, industry or training package, please visit NCVER’s Data Builder.

For more data specific to your region visit NCVER’s Atlas of Total VET.

If you are interested in extracting NCVER data to construct tables with data relevant to you, please sign up for a VOCSTATS account.

Industry insights

 

Industry insights on skills needs

According to the Sport and Recreation IRC’s 2019 Skills Forecast, the following form the top priority skills required across the industry:

  • Teamwork and communication
  • Problem solving
  • Self management
  • Technical/Job specific skills.

Additionally, other skills and knowledge gaps identified included online and social media, marketing, initiative and enterprise (i.e. small business management) and sports administration.

The following generic skills were also identified as highest priority for the Sport and Recreation industry:

  • Customer Service/Marketing
  • Communication/Virtual collaboration/Social intelligence
  • Learning agility/Information literacy/Intellectual autonomy and self-management
  • Design mindset/Thinking critically/System thinking/Solving problems
  • Managerial/Leadership.

The importance of communication is supported by findings from the job vacancy data, in which communication skills was identified as the most in demand advertised generic skill in the Sports and Recreation Activities industry, followed by energetic, organisational skills, planning and detail orientated.

According to job vacancy data the most advertised occupations were for Fitness Instructor, followed by Swimming Coach or Instructor, with the top two employers identified as YMCA and Anytime Fitness.

The Sport and Recreation IRC’s 2019 Skills Forecast highlights that workforce shortages currently exist for swimming teachers and aquatic centre managers, with the high demand for people to fill these roles expected into the future.

Another challenge facing the sector is access to these facilities in remote areas. As sporting and aquatic facilities are often provided by local councils, access can be limited due to restricted operating budgets. Solutions are required to overcome these challenges as the benefits of accessing these facilities are widely acknowledged and include improved health outcomes, providing culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) communities the opportunity to participate in the community, and offering an avenue for young people to pursue sporting interests.

In addition, current data suggests children are leaving swimming programs prior to reaching the national benchmarks for swimming and water safety. Socio-economic factors appear to further impact the incidence of attending swimming lessons, with attendance from a younger age more likely amongst those from higher socio-economic areas as opposed to children from low socio-economic areas. The call to strengthen school, vacation and water safety programs in the community will further increase the need for quality swimming and water safety teachers.

According to the Sport and Recreation IRC’s 2019 Skills Forecast, increasingly sedentary lifestyles have contributed to Australia’s rising obesity rates. As people are living longer there are many who are living with chronic conditions and this contributes to the need to think differently about the role of sport, fitness and recreation in promoting physical health. More than one in two adults are living sedentary or low activity lifestyles and four in five Australian children are not meeting the recommended activity guidelines.

According to a journal article, the aquatics industry has been experiencing unprecedented levels of turnover amongst lifeguards. Analysis determined that lifeguards leave their current positions for four main reasons: lifeguarding being a temporary position, a negative working environment, pursuing employment in a higher paying lifeguard position, and location. Centre managers therefore need to consider both short and long-term strategies to retain lifeguards.

In response to this turnover the Sport and Recreation IRC has updated the Aquatic Instruction training package products in the SIS training package relating to job roles in the aquatic industry, with the update comprising of two units of competency and the creation of one new skill set.

FutureNow’s 2021 report on sport and recreation reveals that Swimming Instructors and Pool Lifeguards were heavily impacted due to the pandemic when swimming pools and beaches were closed. Across Australia the COVID-19 pandemic led to a loss of employment or a significant reduction in hours for many of the 67,000 frontline workers, of which almost half were casual employees, three-quarters female and 40% between the ages of 18 to 24 years. Two nationally recognised short courses, the Pool Lifeguard Skill Set and the Swimming and Water Safety Teacher Skill Set have been developed to fast-track participants into entry level pool lifeguarding and swimming instructor roles.

Links and resources

Data sources and notes

Department of Employment 2021, Industry Employment Projections viewed 1 August 2021, Labour Market Information Portal

  • by ANZSIC 3 digit industries, employment projections to May 2025
    • 911 Sports and Physical Recreation Activities
    • 913 Amusement and Other Recreation Activities.

 

National Skills Commission 2022, Occupation Employment Projections viewed 10 August 2022, https://www.nationalskillscommission.gov.au/topics/employment-projections

  • by ANZSCO, selected occupations, employment projections to May 2026
    • 4523 Sports Coaches, Instructors and Officials
    • 4521 Fitness Instructors
    • 4524 Sportspersons
    • 1491 Amusement, Fitness and Sports Centre Managers
    • 3623 Greenkeepers
    • 5421 Receptionists
    • 6211 Sales Assistants (General)
    • 4522 Outdoor Adventure Guides.

 

Australian Bureau of Statistics 2022, 6291.0.55.001 - EQ08 - Employed persons by Occupation unit group of main job (ANZSCO), Sex, State and Territory, August 1986 onwards, viewed 1 August 2022, https://www.abs.gov.au/statistics/labour/employment-and-unemployment/labour-force-australia-detailed/may-2022

  • Employed total by ANZSIC 3 digit industries, 2002 to 2022, May Quarter
    • 911 Sports and Physical Recreation Activities
    • 913 Amusement and Other Recreation Activities.

 

Australian Bureau of Statistics 2017, 2016 Census – employment, income and unpaid work, TableBuilder. Findings based on use of ABS TableBuilder data.

  • Employment level by:
    • 910 Sports and Recreation Activities, nfd
    • 911 Sports and Physical Recreation Activities
    • 913 Amusement and Other Recreation Activities
    • 4 digit level occupations to identify the relevant VET-related occupations in the industry as a proportion of the total workforce.
    •  

Training data has been extracted from the National VET Provider Collection and Total VET students and courses from the following training packages or qualifications:

  • SIS Sport, Fitness and Recreation Training Package
    • SIS20110 - Certificate II in Community Activities
    • SIS20113 - Certificate II in Community Activities
    • SIS30110 - Certificate III in Aquatics
    • SIS30113 - Certificate III in Aquatics
    • SIS30210 - Certificate III in Community Activity Programs
    • SIS30213 - Certificate III in Community Activity Programs
    • SIS31015 - Certificate III in Aquatics and Community Recreation
    • SIS40110 - Certificate IV in Community Recreation
    • SIS40113 - Certificate IV in Community Recreation
    • SIS50110 - Diploma of Facility Management
  • SRC Community Recreation Industry Training Package (Superseded by SIS)
    • SRC10206 - Certificate I in Community Recreation
    • SRC20201 - Certificate II in Community Recreation
    • SRC20204 - Certificate II in Community Recreation
    • SRC20206 - Certificate II in Community Recreation
    • SRC30201 - Certificate III in Community Recreation
    • SRC30204 - Certificate III in Community Recreation
    • SRC30206 - Certificate III in Community Recreation
    • SRC30301 - Certificate III in Community Recreation (Instruct)
    • SRC40201 - Certificate IV in Community Recreation
    • SRC40204 - Certificate IV in Community Recreation
    • SRC40206 - Certificate IV in Community Recreation.

Superseded qualifications and training packages are grouped with current training products. 

Data covers a range of selected student and training characteristics in the following categories and years:

  • 2017 to 2021 program enrolments
  • 2017 to 2021 program completions
  • 2021 subject enrolments.

Total VET students and courses data is reported for the calendar year. Program enrolments are the qualifications, courses and skill sets in which students are enrolled in a given period. For students enrolled in multiple programs, all programs are counted. Program completion indicates that a student has completed a structured and integrated program of education or training.  Location data uses student residence. Subject enrolment is registration of a student at a training delivery location for the purpose of undertaking a module, unit of competency or subject. For more information on the terms and definitions, please refer to the Total VET students and courses: terms and definitions document.

Low counts (less than 5) are not reported to protect client confidentiality. 

SIS Sport, Fitness and Recreation Training Package apprentice and trainee data has been extracted from the National Apprentice and Trainee Collection, including:

  • 2012 to 2021 commencements
  • 2012 to 2021 completions
  • apprentices and trainees in-training October to December 2021 collection, by qualification and state and territory of data submitter.

Job vacancy data have been extracted from Lightcast 2022, Labor Insight Real-time Labor Market Information Tool, Boston, viewed August 2022, https://lightcast.io/apac.

Data shown represent most requested generic skills, occupations and employers according to internet job postings in Australia between July 2019 and June 2022 filtered by ANZSIC and ANZSCO classification levels listed below.

  • Generic skills/Occupations
    • Community and Personal Service Workers
    • Managers
    • Clerical and Administrative Workers
    • 9111 Health and Fitness Centres and Gymnasia Operation 
    • 9112 Sport and Physical Recreation Clubs and Sports Professionals 
    • 9113 Sports and Physical Recreation Venues, Grounds and Facilities Operation 
    • 9114 Sport and Physical Recreation Administrative Service 
    • 9131 Amusement Parks and Centres Operation 
    • 9139 Amusement and Other Recreation Activities n.e.c.
  • Employers
    • 452111 Fitness Instructors 
    • 452315 Swimming Coach or Instructor
    • 452317 Other Sports Coach or Instructor
    • 541211 Information Officer 
    • 141411 Licensed Club Manager
    • 9111 Health and Fitness Centres and Gymnasia Operation 
    • 9112 Sport and Physical Recreation Clubs and Sports Professionals 
    • 9113 Sports and Physical Recreation Venues, Grounds and Facilities Operation 
    • 9114 Sport and Physical Recreation Administrative Service 
    • 9131 Amusement Parks and Centres Operation 
    • 9139 Amusement and Other Recreation Activities n.e.c.
Updated: 30 Nov 2022
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