Exhibition News October 2017 - Page 55

COLUMN: INDUSTRY VIEW The Perception Gap Dan Edwards, ESSA board member and group operations director, Mash Media, looks at what we can do to attract graduates to the industry W hen Chris Criscione talked about a recruitment time-bomb in Exhibition Bulletin at the end of last year, he made the point that while plenty of young people are leaving school and university with the skills, enthusiasm and imagination we need as an industry, there is a perception gap that is keeping the event and exhibition sector below their career radar. From event management graduates to apprentice joiners, our industry can accommodate a huge spectrum of talent, so the question is: why aren’t young people beating down the doors of contractors, venues, organisers and indeed the trade press to get involved? I think in part it’s due to a lack of any cohesive, deliberate messaging that shows just how exciting, varied and rewarding our industry can be. Even young event management graduates, understandably, think of events as primarily live music and entertainments – that’s where the ‘stars’ are, and where the glamour, money and lifestyle appear to spring from. Offering work placements for university courses is defi nitely part of the solution to bridging this perception gap – we’ve done it here at Mash Media, where our ops team includes an undergraduate, and I’ve seen it succeed at Epsom Downs Racecourse too. Of course, it’s important that placement students aren’t treated as cheap labour; they need to be assigned to meaningful roles where they can show initiative, creativity and the other skills we covet as event industry professionals. If we simply put them on tea duty and delivering post, they won’t be selling the course enthusiastically to the rest of the student body when they get back to university. “Some companies still make the mistake of treating school-leavers and apprentices as low- cost labour, killing any enthusiasm they might have had for the event industry” Effective, constructive student placements are win-win projects – we get to ignite the interests and ambitions of young people in the industry, and their real-world experience means that when they graduate, they’re much better able to fi nd and secure the kind of job they want. At Epsom Downs, our placement students went on to jobs at venues, contractors, organisers and even into one of the associations. Successful placements depend on selecting the right candidate. During our placement interviews at Mash, we asked the candidates what they knew about the exhibitions and events industry overall. Most had visited an industry trade show like Showman’s Show or International Confex, and read a couple of our titles but, for most of them, their knowledge ended there. Our interviews also included a presentation section in which the applicants were asked to show us what their ideal event would be – to give us an idea of what sort of person they were and where they might best fi t into the world of events. The results were telling; most were able to come up with some good ideas about brand activation, music events or small exhibitions, but their ideas were quite tightly focused around their areas of personal interest, as one might expect. Apprenticeships are important to this effort as well – graduate level entrants are vital, but as we all know the industry relies on th R7&gG66BFPrֆrV&FVB'Vv2`W'2VV7G&62BFV662vFW6v7&VFRB'VBW"W&F26fW&V6W2BƗfRWfVG266VfW'2rf &VF6W62f6R&WGGf&V@fVBB6R6W27FPFR֗7FRbG&VFrFV2rЦ67B&W"ƖrVFW66FW֖vBfRBf"FRWfVBGW7G'6W2W7BffW"FV"&VF6W0vVVR'GVFW2BWW&V6W2&WBvBFW֖vBWV7B2&VF6RW""bFV66pFV"7&gBV6WvW&RBU54v^( &RV&&r7W7FVB6vF6V6FRW7@rW6Frf&VBB&Wv&Fr6&VW"FRGW7G'6&RBv^( &PF&V7FrW"Vff'G2BW7BBWfV@vVVB6W'6W2'WB66W'6W06fW&rFW6v4Bw&72VV7G&726'VG'66VFBFRFW F66ƖW2FRWfVBGW7G'VVG2v^( &RvƖvFrFRrv&FBvW2F7&VFrFR&rF6W@WfVG2ƖRTuw&BFW6v2ƗfR f&&&VvFW&F'6r@FV7G&FrFR6VW"f&WGb&W2&Wv&G2BWW&V6W2f&RvRVVBFWfvVƗ6R&Vb`FRWfVBGW7G'BWfW'f&P'GVGbv^( &RF'&FvRFPW&6WFvFB6VW2w&GVFW2@66VfW'2W66WvrW"GW7G'f FRW&6VfVBfRBv'bFREbfBvW2GW7G'BFRFRF7F'B2rW&FWw26V7F&W"#pS