Meet the assessor: Gillian Christian

August 16, 2018

For a business that’s searching for a way to evolve, industry training generates growth from the inside out, says Skills Active roving assessor and exercise advocate Gillian Christian.

Gillian’s lifelong commitment to exercise was sparked by a desire to improve in her sport. She grew up in Ngati Haua/Maniapoto country, in a family of coaches – and netball was her passion. To improve her play, she got a job as an aerobics instructor.

“My netball improved off the chart. The value of planned exercise became obvious. I joined a gym!”

The next step in her exercise journey was taking on the job of managing a women-only gym. Over three years she and her team grew the membership from 56 to 2400.

But Gillian wanted a better way to get all her staff qualified to a consistent standard, as a point of difference in the increasingly crowded and competitive gym market. So she signed up her workforce to formal on-job training.

“We excelled in staff capacity from this point. We grew and attracted great staff, who wanted to work with us because we offered development and opportunity – a career pathway. It was unheard of in those days.”

In recent times, Gillian’s passion has shifted to exercise for non-athletes. She now works for Wellington City Council, bringing exercise classes to a range of venues, for people of all ages, sizes and abilities.

She’s also a Skills Active assessor and helps trainees who are completing qualifications in Personal Training Business Skills, Group Fitness and Exercise Consultant.

Helping workplaces to grow within a framework

“For a workplace, in-house training and development creates an extra dimension of growth for the business,” Gillian says.

The workplace comes up with the systems and the tasks, she says, and these are put through their paces as they are tested by the new learner.

Industry training brings in a framework, so that the workplace can deliver its own content in a way that meets its own requirements, and also fits the framework.

“It’s a unique opportunity for the workplace to grow staff capacity and capability.”

A dynamic industry with many paths

Personal training can be a highly competitive business and many new PTs drop out, Gillian says – but that’s a shame because there are so many different ways to use one’s skills in the world of exercise.

“You can do management, you can own your own business, you can teach, you can freelance, and more.”

Assessing is just one of a multitude of different roles that Gillian has played over the course of her exercise career. It’s honourable work that helps to sow the seeds of the industry’s future, she says.

A typical day of assessing involves reviewing trainee progress, marking, organising learning breaks, setting questions to spark trainee thinking, and having assessment conversations. Gillian also writes reports for employers, serves as a referee, a mentor, sounding board and connector.

“The value of assessing is that with every single client, you are refreshed. There’s always a new perspective. You grow with every trainee, even the ones that pose a challenge.”