Skills4Sports project identifies the weaknesses and challenges for employment in the sports sector


Youth unemployment constitutes a worrying issue in the Mediterranean region. The low economic growth and the political crisis of the Mediterranean countries have an impact on the educational sector, especially for sports. A great number of young people are defined as NEETs, young people who are neither educated nor employed nor trained, due to the dysfunctional relationship between educational system and labor markets. Through this report, Skills4Sports project tries to measure the readiness and the performance of regional authorities and other stakeholders in terms of Skill4Sports objectives in order to identify the weaknesses and the areas for improvement.

The situation in Education and Sports sector in the participating countries

In most countries, young people have a great interest in working in the sports sector, which plays an important role in the economy of the states. However, there are ineffective educational systems characterized by low quality and inconsistency between educational outcomes and labor market demand, which leads to great unemployment rates.

Particularly, in Greece, there is a versatile educational system ordinated by numerous laws. More and more young people want to acquire the necessary education and skills to work in the sports field. Although the fact that the sports industry is quite small, it has a great history and constitutes a very important business activity. More specifically, in 2020, Greece counted 200 sports workers per 10.000 inhabitants, proving the interest of people to work in this field.

In Malta's educational system, there are autonomous regional colleges (school networks in which a number of 'feeder' primary schools and a 'receiving' secondary school bring together aiming to ensure more continuity in the education) for all the levels of education and there are four resource centres for people with special needs. Noting that Malta provides already at post compulsory level Vocational Education Training (VET) in arts, science and technology and tourism sector, wishing to provide VET in the sports sector, too. The sports sector plays an important role in the economy of the country as in 2018 it contributes to 80.5 million € to the GDP but Malta has low employment percentage in this sector because of the low educational level in the sports field.

Concerning Italy, the investments in education are well below the EU average. Additionally, many young people don’t gain university education so the transition from the education to work is difficult, something that plays a crucial role in the sports sector, which contributes to 30 billion € to the GDR of the country, according to CONI (Comitato Olimpico Nazionale Italiano).

In Spain, the educational system is decentralized, where competences are shared between the General State Administration and the authorities of the autonomous regions. Catalonia is one of those autonomous communities, where the sports industry accounts for 2% of the GDP and has 31.768 employers, 18.000 sports clubs and 73 sports federations, proving the high interest of the people for the sports sector.

Palestine has poor labor market outcomes for young people combined with a high level of early school leaving which leads to a large promotion of young people not being educated, employed or trained. Concerning sports, their industry is tiny and there is a great need for investments in cooperative education and literacy for young people and for exploring the potential of the technology industry in order to increase employment opportunities.

Lebanon's educational system is a centralized one, where the regional education bureaus in the governorates link the public school with the ministry's education directorates. Lebanon's sports sector is small and needs not only private contribution but also investment support from the government.

What are the weaknesses of the sports sector?

Despite the fact that the sports sector is a growing area offering job opportunities, it faces many weaknesses. First and foremost, there is a mismatch of skills between real skills and labor market needs and the skills that the young job seekers are already armed with. As a result, young people's education needs improvement as the sports sector faces a great challenge in finding skills for their growing needs. There is also a great need for financial resources in order to develop the tools and the programs to improve young people's skills.

Concerning the sustainability of the network, the sports sector requires better strategy and management to be more efficient. Additionally, there is still a lot work to be done in human resources and knowledge in this sector. The existing educational programs and trainings should be updated both with the latest new skills young people should acquire to work in the sports sector, and with teachers and trainers that are highly educated. Another important weakness of the sector is the capacity of the buildings. There is a need for better sports facilities not only for the skills training of young people but also for their jobs.

People who are already working or want to work in the sports sector, underlined that the relevant ministry and national authorities should support in a better way this important sector of the country in order to be improved and assimilate more young people into the labor market.

Countries measures to face the problem

Each participating country of the Skills4Sports project should focus on expanding the capacities of regional and local stakeholders to identify the skills supply and the demand in the sector. By doing this, there will be a better adoption of the training programs to sports industry labor market demand. Furthermore, the monitoring of skills demand contributes to the improvement of young people's transition from education to work. Another measure to take is the improvement of the relationship between training and employment, helping NEETs to have an easier occupation integration in the sports sector.

According to the identified skills gap in each country, it is important to provide new curricula for vocational training so that it is more adapted to the real skill needs and gaps of young people. In addition, focus should be given on the establishment of a strategic financial management to develop a sustainable and efficient employment for the sector. Finally, yet importantly, according to the report, each country is required to monitor and evaluate the educational system to be able to count the results in order to have the relevant feedback to plan future steps.

Therefore, by tackling the skills gap and improving the sports sector, the visibility and promotion of the sector will be more effective in the cross-border markets and the potential  NEETs will have a better link with the market, raising the employment rate.