Digital helping hand for physical activity sector during coronavirus crisis

Friday 17th of April 2020 08:13 AM

Physical activity providers such as gyms, companies that run gyms for local councils and personal trainers could benefit from a scheme to improve the sector’s digital skills.

The West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) with funding from Sport England is putting together a scheme to close the digital skills gaps in the sector by rolling out training and other support.

The programme includes a digital skills audit for those working in sport and physical activity and the opportunity to help organisations improve how they encourage people to become more active, especially now as many people don’t have access to outdoor space and rely on digital resources for exercise.

Called the West Midlands Physical Activity Digital Bootcamp the project is supported by a £40,000 grant from Sport England.

Leader of Warwickshire County Council and WMCA portfolio lead for wellbeing, Cllr Izzi Seccombe said: “Like most sectors the physical activity sector needs extra help in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Spreading digital skills across the sector will help the wide variety of providers to better communicate with the public, and in turn, encourage people to become more active and improve their wellbeing.”

The bootcamp has been developed to address the digital skill gaps identified within the West Midlands physical activity sector. The lack of skills means that providers may be missing out on connecting with customers and service users, and government and Sport England advice. The training will respond to need, but is likely to include digital marketing, capturing and analysing data and how digitally connect to customers. We also recognise that some people may be in urgent need to get some core digital skills to help them manage every day.

This scheme comes as gyms, coaching sessions, leisure centres and community sports clubs have had to shut their doors due to the coronavirus pandemic. The bootcamp will be able to help those who believe they need help to use digital techniques such as social media to better connect with the public.

The project has been developed in consultation with the WMCA’s Digital Skills Academy and digital and physical activity partners such as Dudley MBC, Streetgames and Sport Birmingham.

The digital skills needs audit of the sector will be conducted and leaders in the digital and physical activity sectors will be brought together to decide what further steps need to be taken.  

Sport Birmingham works with public, charitable and private sector organisations, to bring inclusive and accessible activities to disadvantaged communities. Chief Executive, Mike Chamberlain, said: “The government guidance on staying at home has certainly made us all consider how we make effective use of digital technology to keep ourselves and our businesses connected and moving forward. We have had to learn and adapt really quickly, irrespective of our current skills or knowledge base in this area.

“The digital bootcamp will not only help our team to maintain their support to those working remotely, but also provide a lifeline to many in the community who need to stay connected in order to remain safe, well and access further support.”

For further information, contract simon.hall@wmca.org.uk