“The Denmark group thought, ‘We never thought to educate [students] beyond physical training, basic muscular movement and how to use equipment,’” Erfurt said. “But the whole idea is, that’s not enough. The local community and society in general needs to demand more from our fitness leaders.”
The roughly half-dozen representatives from the Danish Trade Commission said they thought the certificate program could yield the framework to train their own physical therapists. They visited two other Southern California community colleges on their fact-finding trip.
“This stood out as an exemplary program,” said Ron Harlan, dean of instructional services. “They wanted to talk to us about what they really felt was a model program for fitness training.”
The international exposure could spur the program back into active status.
“I think when we realized how much interest, and how much praise we got from the Danish group, it gave us greater motivation to look into marketing this program and getting it back on the road,” Harlan said.
The fitness certificate program could be exported to Denmark, where there is greater control over private industry. But in the U.S., the program’s rigor seems not to have meshed with the free market.
“How do I get people in classes and get them to work as hard as I want [when] I can’t guarantee them a job where they are making more than someone who barely graduated high school?” Erfurt asked.
Erfurt said some people in business circles advocate robust health programs for employees as a way to cut rising health premiums, absenteeism and make for happier employees.
“That’s where we hope to go with this program,” Harlan said.
As part of her presentation, Erfurt brought alumni who spoke about their internship projects, which complement classroom instruction. One student spoke about working in a domestic violence shelter and forming several nutrition education sessions and presentations on diabetes and heart disease.
The Danish visitors were brought to a nearby private gym and YMCA to see how graduates were placed into jobs, a central element of how the Danes envisioned their program, college officials said.
“The hard part about the Y is they don’t have a lot of money to pay people; my trainers can’t afford to stay there,” she said.