Legitimizing Pilates as a Vocation
By Stella Hull-Lampkin
Recently, I gave a presentation on the necessity of vocational licensing, after which I received many requests asking for more details. To get us all onto the same page, I'd like to give you a brief overview of what vocational licensing is and its importance.
Every profession has a set of standards that guide the education process. When we go to college, we search for accredited, reputable schools, that best fit our specific needs. Pilates teacher training should be similar. As we all know, the process of becoming a Pilates professional is very expensive and can take several years to complete. Unfortunately the reality is, as in many industries, not all schools are created equal or ethical. There are horror stories of unethical schools. They include taking a student's money and not delivering on the promised education. Some schools do not have refund policies and in the worst case, even shut down without any recourse for students who have paid their tuition. These types of schools have been part of this industry for many years, and for some of us, these stories have been unfortunately the reality; this is where vocational school licensing can effect change.
Many of us started our career in Pilates as a hobby or a side gig as we pursued a real profession. Even my mom teased me about my Pilates career asking when I would have a "real job". And yet, Pilates has evolved into a full-time career for many others and myself. Regardless of our position, be it Pilates instructor, studio owner or teacher trainer, and many other career paths, Pilates can be a full-time and rewarding livelihood. Vocational licensing will allow us to formalize the industry. It will help to define us as more than just a collection of hardworking individuals, and to unify our industry into a reputable standard. Offering a system that tells our customers they can trust in the name on our license, that they will be able to trust our brand, as they get to know us.
The Pilates industry is as divided about this next step as it is Classical vs Contemporary Pilates and the PMA's overall role for the industry. I hope one day, we will have formed a consensus and will be able to offer a unified standard. A Standard not just for ourselves and for our customers, but also for future generations of Pilates trainers to aspire to. To some It might seem a vain dream to see our industry reach this level of respectability; but establishing a unified standard, one we can all point to and uphold, is the very first step that we need to take for our future.
My colleague and friend Ray Infante, Certification Manager for the PMA, explains this in an interview in Pilates Style Magazine, “The PMA’s New Pilates School Approval Program” in more detail. I encourage you to read the interview.
I believe the Pilates School Approval Process (PSAP) is a good starting point to assist Pilates Schools to navigate vocational licensing and at the very least help schools self examine their practices. It is not a requirement, but a valuable tool. Besides, being listed on the PSAP website not only serves to provide visibility for the schools but also as a means to quickly identify which schools have met our standards. While licensing is a huge step, I believe that having a unified standard will help us present our trade and passion to the consumers. I am excited to see how the industry will continue to evolve as we take the next step to "legitimizing" Pilates. Now I want to pass the discussion to you. I am looking forward to hearing your opinions about it and how we could shape the future of Pilates together.