Small businesses in the economic downturn

The current economic climate presents a real challenge to businesses and many outdoor employers are coming under increasing pressure to keep a tight rein on their budgets. As companies face tougher choices to ensure they remain profitable, training budget cuts are being considered, especially if the return on investment is not immediately apparent.

The good news is that outdoor employers of all sizes could actually benefit from the doom and gloom the rest of the country is currently seeing. Research from the OIA (Outdoor Industries Association) revealed that 49 per cent of adults surveyed said the credit crunch has made them more inclined to go on an outdoor-based break in Britain rather then heading abroad.

This further supports the importance of investing in staff training. It will be the employees who play a significant role in providing new and existing visitors with an enjoyable experience and therefore encouraging them to return even when the economy improves.


Florence Orban, interim CEO of the National Skills Academy for Sport and Active Leisure, says: “Cutting budgets is a prime example of a false economy. It is essential companies do not compromise staff training budgets in an attempt to make short-term savings. Having the right staff, with the skills needed to do their jobs, is crucial to the success of any company.”

According to the national audit office, skills gaps due to a lack of training can cost a 50-employee business up to £165,000 each year. As financial constraints become more pressing it is important to ensure that staff gain the specialist skills they need to be efficient and productive in their jobs.

Outdoor employers should be investing in the skills and talents of their staff. The need for training is constantly being reiterated throughout the country by some of the UK’s most senior businessmen, politicians, and union leaders.


So while slashing investment in staff training can seem like an obvious and quick way of trimming costs, employers should actually take advantage of the training opportunities on offer. The National Skills Academy for Sport and Active Leisure is the answer.

Launched last November, it provides one single and coherent approach to skills training in the sector. All training, qualifications and careers are employer-led and employer-directed, ensuring better quality, more targeted training and better access to funds for training. Growing all the time, it will continue to develop relevant and cost effective programmes to help businesses survive the downturn.

One of the biggest challenges the outdoor sector faces is recruitment and the Skills Academy can help employers to get recruits with the right skills and at the same time cut recruitment costs. Many small businesses are unaware that rather than recruit one person, they could have two or three apprentices for the same cost, with the added benefit of training and moulding them with their specific company values and ethos.

The National Skills Academy, from its University of Cumbria base, will act as a central point of information for employers and training providers.


Membership at the National Skills Academy gives employers access to quality assured training and information from a single point of contact at a lower cost and based on their needs. Benefits include the Online Academy, Resource Centre and the activepassport. It will also give outdoor employers the recognition that they are contributing to the development of the sector’s skills needs on a national, regional and local level.

The Online Academy offers a wide range of business and development relevant courses that are delivered both online and offline. The Resource centre includes exclusive use of the member area within the Online Academy that offers general training, HR and business information to help your business grow and prosper.

activepassport is the skills passport for the active leisure and learning sector. It is a unique, web-based facility for recording verified qualifications, training, employment and volunteering. Employees get a transferable record of achievements, which gives them mobility within the outdoor sector and others.

The National Skills Academy for Sport and Active Leisure is a unique opportunity; it will ensure that anyone involved in the sector is better placed to undertake their role or job and to progress to whatever level they have the aspiration and ability to achieve.

For more information on the National Skills Academy for Sport and Active Leisure, visit