The recent SITE Skills Retention in Hospitality virtual conference highlighted the radical loss of talent and experience our industry is suffering, as a direct result of COVID-19 restrictions.
On the one hand this is a terrible blow for the industry, but on the other, this opens up the doors for new talent to spread their wings and fly. The “chicken and egg” contradiction has existed in our industry as long as memory serves: young people entering the market need jobs but the employers are looking for experience. What ended up happening is that very little new talent has entered the market and now we are faced with an ageing segment with all the experience and very little, if any, succession planning.
One good thing about the events and exhibitions industry is that we have a natural resilience. As event planners, hotel managers, banqueting coordinators, front office and AV people, we are faced with challenges on a daily basis. Changing or adapting plans at a moment’s notice is part of our daily activities; which has made us experts at crisis management and problem solving.
So…let’s solve this problem. As it is, our global industry is facing a massive brain drain and teams at all levels have had to adapt and upskill. We put a brand new meaning to multi-tasking, as hotel sales managers are cleaning rooms and serving coffee at breakfast, amongst other tasks!
We have already acknowledged that our industry will not be operating at full velocity when events and groups return. Now is the time to find the talent out there and start preparing them for the next phase. There are many event and hotel management students in their final year of study but with minimal practical experience available to them at the moment. Let’s work together to find the funding and start creating small training events. This will also be an opportunity for the seasoned out-of-work experts to pass on their skills end experiences while sponsors fund mentorship programmes.
Several associations within the SA Events Council have successful youth development programmes including SACIA (South African Communications Industries Association). SACIA has established eight on-campus student chapters at university level, encouraging members to provide mentorship and work-integrated learning opportunities to enhance the students’ academic learning experience. In addition, they’ve formed an alliance with the South Africa Film Academy based in Cape Town – again, to enhance practical work experience and assist students in earning a SAQA-recognised professional designation that is aligned with their skills and competence. Sadly, all of this has slowed down as a result of COVID-19 restrictions.
SAACI (Southern African Association for the Conference Industry) has actively worked on developing young graduates within the MICE sector by initiating a branch-level congress in the Western Cape. This congress is aimed at educating the Events Management students of CPUT with information on the type of work the industry does and how to go about planning a successful conference, exhibition, meeting or event.
SAACI also plans on establishing a national youth brand and the launch for this is anticipated to take place during the Annual SAACI National Congress on 19-20 May 2021. The youth brand will focus on the resources required by students and graduates to grow their careers, study paths and the sustainability of the industry’s future by providing necessary insight into the industry with expert guidance.
Insight initiatives will include a separate National Youth Committee with participants from around the country, workshops and knowledge-sharing initiatives with networking opportunities dedicated to the youth as well as an online students / youth portal accessible from the main SAACI website.
SAACI is inviting all academic institutions with business-events-related course offerings, to contact their National Office on email@example.com for information on how to get involved in these exciting programs.
SITE Africa has also recently launched their first Young Leader committee. The committee’s core objective is to network within the MICE industry across the continent, share knowledge and experiences and drive education opportunities. Connecting with like-minded future leaders promises to yield some innovative ideas, strategies and future potential for this group, which has shown strong vision in ensuring that the current leading professionals of the sector are also engaged and included to allow for a mentorship program within the structure.
The future of our industry lies in the hands of the next generation, but the success of this drive lies firmly in the hands of those of us involved in this sector right now. Let’s take this to the next level and ensure that our new young leaders are fully equipped to take over the reins and lead us into the next chapter.
By Tes Proos