LIGHTING FIRES: HOW CAN WE IGNITE THE EVENT PASSION IN YOUNG TALENT?
This week on the blog I want to reflect on a couple of conversations I’ve had recently, which surprised and saddened me, in the hope that we can all start talking differently about a career in events. A friend has a daughter studying for her GCSE’s and is starting to think about careers when she mentioned to her mum she was thinking about hospitality. Over a glass of wine her mum said ”Oh great, she’s going to be a waitress her whole life.” Cue my raised eyebrows, flaring nostrils and a 20 minute monologue about all the amazing roles and events she could work on in the hospitality industry. Her mum hasn’t returned my texts since – oops!
This was followed by a visit to a couple of schools to help inform pupils about different career options. Both the schools offered lessons in Event Management but they were only available as a vocational option to make up the timetable for pupils who weren’t considered to be academically astute. One school were offering an Events GCSE course, but how can teachers realistically be expected to understand the syllabus content, and inspire pupils about an event career when it’s just bolted onto all the other lessons they are planning . In some schools, whilst there are lessons, there isn’t even an option of a qualification at the end of the study. The careers advisers we spoke with were taken aback to learn there were Event Management degrees, and even PHD’s being completed in the discipline (watch this space!)
To pause just a second, I am absolutely not criticising any of the individuals in these situations – my friend was just trying to be a good mum and already stretched teachers were trying to provide an alternative for a diverse range of students. How on earth can we expect parents, teachers and careers advisers to know about all the rich and interesting careers paths, requiring vastly different levels of skill and ability that our brilliant industry (talking events, meetings, hospitality, tourism, conferences, festivals etc) encompasses? Very often on our own podcast, when asking guests about how they got into the industry, we hear that they ‘fell into it’ after temping or training for something else. Very infrequently do we hear of colleagues who were bitten by the bug at an early stage and ruthlessly followed their dream. Admittedly (and thankfully) though, this may be slowly changing with the growth in event management degrees and formal education.
Whilst we were in one of the schools we spoke with pupils about what they liked doing and thought they were good at and tried to demonstrate how diverse the events industry really is. For example:
- To the guy who loved numbers and was thinking about accountancy – Finance Director for an Event Organiser
- To the young girl who enjoyed designing and building things – Creative Director at an agency
- To the boy who loved writing and wanted to get into journalism – PR/Communications Manager or Trade Media Journalist
- To the terrified looking child who loved music but just wanted to be working outside – On-Site Logistics at Music Festivals
- To the wannabee engineer – Lighting & Staging Manager at an international venue
- To the girl who adored French and wanted to travel – Interpreter or Venue Liaison around the world
- To the guy who was looking at attending a drama school in Liverpool – Compére or Voice of God at awards ceremonies
- And finally the embarrassed and shy pupil who thought or had been advised that he wasn’t good at anything and just wanted to get out of school and do ‘stuff’ with his hands – Event Crew or Security
By the end of the day I think we had inspired a few pupils to think differently about events and how they might carve out a future in an industry they had never even thought about. There was an entry route we could plot out for every hopeful, be that via traditional academia, apprenticeship or straight into work experience. We showed there is the opportunity to progress and succeed, earning good money, working on interesting projects for those who are tenacious, hard-working, reliable and determined – regardless of qualifications.
But we were one voice in front of a couple of audiences – the challenge is huge. As you’ll be aware from our support for The National Literacy Trust, we have chosen Quality Education as the UN Sustainability Goal we feel we can offer most value to. As part of that education, we want to help pupils and adults, understand and learn about different options that are available to them, ignite a fire and then help to keep it burning. We’re keen to get back into schools and talk to pupils about what an amazing industry we work in, how diverse it can be, and how we need new talent of all abilities and skills – but we can’t do it alone!
We might have all fallen into events (ourselves included) but it would be an amazing future if we could inspire some of the fresh, creative and talented youth to pro-actively choose us for their careers. Let’s not lose the brightest accountants to the City, the most creative producers to film and TV, or the most astute project managers to the public sector – let’s show them the fulfilling, fun, diverse and rewarding career they can have in events & hospitality.
We’d love to hear what you’re doing to inspire great talent to join the industry and we’d be keen to help if we can so please do get in touch!