PUBLISHED : Saturday, 15 July, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 15 July, 2006, 12:00am

A twice-monthly column about learning on the job

A GLOBAL HEALTH and fitness chain that is a byword for innovation is offering a limited number of internships for those with a genuine love of exercise and customer service.

California Fitness, which set up its first Hong Kong branch in 1996, prides itself on giving its members first-class attention and a five-star experience at any of its six local branches. The California Fitness group operates a total of 324 fitness centres worldwide.

Human resources officer Isabella Tam said the Hong Kong company took on up to 10 interns every year.

'We have a limit as we are quite selective,' she said. 'We want interns to be energetic, have a good customer-service mentality and speak English, Putonghua and Cantonese. Not too many people meet all our requirements.'

Applicants can be high school or university students, but they should be passionate about fitness and what it involves, and responsive to the needs of members.

Those with a background in sports, recreation or leisure studies, or studying for a degree in physical education, are likely to have an advantage.

Once on board, interns can expect to spend five or six weeks of eight-hour days in full-time training with California Fitness.

The hours are divided between three main departments - sales, personal training and operations - to give interns the chance to learn how the business works and understand the full scope of staff responsibilities.

Most importantly, interns have the opportunity to see exactly what the company expects in terms of customer service and interaction with clients.

'Of course, a manager will act as a mentor and coach them in their job duties,' Ms Tam said.

One of the programme's chief benefits is that it provides practical experience in the fitness field and the chance to apply classroom theories to real-life situations.

'Most students don't have much of a chance to meet customers. Here, they learn to develop self-confidence and social and communication skills,' she said.

'While doing the internship, they can also discover their strengths and weaknesses.'

This can lead to offers of full-time jobs. Two recent interns have landed roles as personal trainer and receptionist.

'We have found some very good employees through the programme,' Ms Tam said. 'Interns are usually with us during their first or second year of undergraduate studies, but if they are serious about joining us after graduation, we are very happy. Their experience benefits both parties.'

WHO GOES: Fitness fanatics

WHERE: California Fitness

HOW MANY OPENINGS: 10 per annum

HOW MUCH TIME DO I HAVE TO GIVE UP? Five or six weeks, full time

WANT TO KNOW MORE? Contact your student recruitment or development centre