The program provides students with the knowledge, skills and experience required for careers as health and fitness professionals.
"In the industry, we are really seeing an upturn in personal training as opposed to people just joining a gym and kind of figuring it out on their own," says Deborah Ivey, Coordinator for the program. "At the end of this two-year Ontario College Diploma program, you can write national exams which will allow you to become a certified personal trainer, which is sort of the crème de la crème."
The program prepares students to meet the multi-dimensional demands of the growing fitness and health promotion market. Upon graduation, students are equipped with the skills and knowledge to identify needs and design programs for individuals and groups, meeting a wide range of fitness health objectives and goals.
"Our program is recognized by the National Fitness Leadership Association, which would recognize those students that are successful on an international level," explains Ivey. "So our students can take that certification worldwide and travel and work in different countries."
What makes St. Clair's Fitness & Health Promotion program unique is that it focuses on both the academic and practical sides of the industry.
"We needed this in the fitness industry - a program that combines a good balance of academic and practical time so they learn how to be a good trainer all the way from counseling your client to writing the programs to delivering the programs and then following up and being a lifestyle coach," says Ivey. "We've got a lot of staff here that are in the industry who share their expertise, and our labs are small in terms of size so students get a lot of attention."
Graduates of this program will qualify to complete an examination process certifying them as a Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology-Certified Personal Trainer.
"This two-year diploma program and all the courses here are the prerequisites for that," explains Ivey. "So that's for fitness assessment, and that's sort of the gold standard for fitness assessment in Canada."
This is the first year the Fitness & Health Promotion program is being offered at St. Clair's Main Campus in Windsor. The program is in its third year at the Thames Campus.
The program launch in Windsor coincided with the opening of the state-of-the-art multi-million-dollar SportsPlex in September.
"It's a beautiful playground for the students," says Ivey, adding that it's a great thing whenever millions of dollars are invested in health and fitness. "It's bright, it's beautiful, it's new and it's exciting for students."
The SportsPlex facility features a triple gymnasium, 10,000 square-foot fitness centre, elevated walking track, workout studios, 12 team rooms, classrooms and more. Ivey says many students do their placements at the SportsPlex and some land jobs there after graduating from the program.
In the Fitness & Health Promotion program, students are required to complete a 75-hour placement in second semester and a 240-hour placement in their fourth and final semester.
"So they get lots of practical experience," says Ivey. "We have students doing placements in long-term facilities, in fitness centres, correctional facilities, so it's very widespread."
After graduating, employment can be found in a variety of settings, including fitness and health clubs, YMCA/YWCA, corporate recreation and fitness programs, public and private fitness programs, community institutions for special populations, hospitals, and municipal recreation departments.
Graduates may also choose to be self-employed in this field, which a lot of students choose to do, says Ivey.
"We have a business course in our program where they learn how to be self-employed, write their own budgets and be really good with their time," says Ivey. "And they can work wherever personal trainers are needed, so if a kinesiologist wants to work alongside a personal trainer, our trainers are qualified to do that."
Joel Yorke is a first-year student in the program. Now in his second semester, he is currently fulfilling one of his placements at St. Clair's SportsPlex.
He said he loves the program so far and is learning way more than he had anticipated.
"I am learning proper techniques to use as a personal trainer, as well as nutrition and great communication," says Yorke. "I would suggest this program to anyone that wants to explore the fitness field and wants to make a prominent career out of it."
Upon graduation, he hopes to become a certified personal trainer and aspires to one day own a gym facility of his own.
"I feel like the fitness field is growing worldwide on a big scale, so for St. Clair to provide a proper way to learn these professional skills, it's a blessing for all the people that have a passion for fitness," says Yorke. "To learn the proper way to work around a gym and has been a success for me. I'm learning to work with others as a personal trainer, helping others get through touch workouts, as well as sharpening my communication skills, which has built my confidence."
Two-thirds of all Canadians are obese or overweight, which is an epidemic we need to be qualified and prepared to deal with within our city and country, says Ivey, which is one of the many reasons she recommends the program.
"With their disposable income, people really do look at hiring a personal trainer instead of just joining a gym because they need direction and every single body is different," explains Ivey. "So we write programs specifically for individuals and we teach them how to do that and how to do it safely for their health, depending on chronic disease or whatever challenges they're facing….We have great teachers and we have great energy in our program, and it's so much fun. And there are jobs in this field, and it's important that our students get jobs and have fun."