The demand for events managers grows fast as the population gets physical Sports account for 2.1 per cent (about $27 billion) of Hong Kong's gross domestic product, notes research commissioned by the Hong Kong Sports Development Board. The calculations factor sports into the economic equation. Sports in general are viewed as contributing to the economy by raising the health level of the population. In the long-term, sports help to cut health-care costs and increase labour productivity (by reducing absenteeism). The research concludes that sports participation will continue to grow, and so will its impact on the entire economy. The level of sports engagement is expected to keep rising as young people become more health conscious and increasingly involved in sports activity. In the meantime, sports have come into the spotlight with the government policy of making Hong Kong an events city for Asia. The result is a rising demand for people trained in sports and events management. Hong Kong students are taking up sports in a bigger way than they have in previous years, said Elizabeth Dendle, recreation and sports management programme director at the School of Professional and Continuing Education of the University of Hong Kong (HKU Space). HKU Space runs short-term foundation courses in strategic marketing, financial management, planning and resources management. The school also co-operates with overseas universities in offering bachelors and masters degree courses for working professionals. Increasing sports participation by the public means increasing opportunities for employment. 'More jobs are being generated in the sports and events management sector because of a combination of factors. More residential clubhouses are being provided by private property developers, there's the demand from Disneyland for operational staff, and more fitness clubs and facilities are being set up,' Ms Dendle said. On-the-job students enrolling in the course come from national sports associations, private sport and leisure clubs, property developers, the Leisure and Cultural Services Department, and health and sports service providers. 'In addition, we see a growing need from large corporations looking to hire sports instructors to provide staff in-house or wellness programmes.' Private sports clubs and housing property clubhouses are looking for formally trained people and service providers to help them design and run various programmes for members. 'They have to develop sports programmes for adults and children's activity programmes, all requiring management, marketing, operations and finance skills. HKU Space academic programmes have attracted students from different backgrounds and with different abilities. 'We have mature students with industry experience who want to enhance their skills and knowledge in a formal, systematic way. They want theoretical knowledge to ensure the methods they are using work well. This is more for confidence boosting and skills enhancement,' Ms Dendle said. Others joining the programmes include sports and fitness enthusiasts who are interested in learning the latest in these fields, and those who want to make a career switch. 'Some of our students are fairly senior people. They could be senior executives running a sports consultancy firm or managing a fitness equipment company, directors of a sports association and even school teachers.' The course also attracts athletes who wish to make a contribution to the sector when they have completed their active athletics career. Besides operational and basic management skills, sports executives are also expected to have good interpersonal skills because they work closely with clients. 'Staff should have the knowledge, skills and confidence required for dealing with people and customers,' Ms Dendle says.