Covid-19 has resulted in the significant loss of talent across many industries, with the MICE and hospitality sectors being no exception. Tes Proos* shares her thoughts on how we breathe new life into talent pools.
WHEN ONE DOOR CLOSES AND ANOTHER OPENS T
he 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 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 employers are looking for experience. What ends up happening is that very little new talent has entered the market and we are now faced with an ageing segment with all the experience and very little, if any, succession planning. One positive aspect of the events and exhibitions industry is that we have natural resilience. As event planners, hotel managers, banqueting coordinators, front office and AV people, we are faced with challenges every day. Changing or adapting plans at a moment’s notice is part of our daily activities. This 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 multitasking, as hotel sales managers are cleaning rooms and serving coffee at breakfast, among other tasks!
20 • MEETINGS l MAY/JUNE 2021
WHERE WE ARE
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. 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 and experiences while sponsors fund mentorship programmes. Several associations within the SA Events Council have successful youth development programmes, including the South African Communications Industries Association (SACIA). SACIA has established eight oncampus student chapters at a university level, encouraging members to provide mentorship and work-integrated learning opportunities to enhance students’ academic learning experience. In addition, they have 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 aligned with their skills and competence. Sadly, all of this has slowed down as a result of Covid-19 restrictions. The Southern African Association for the Conference Industry (SAACI), meanwhile,
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 Cape Peninsula University of Technology 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. The launch of this took place during the SAACI Annual National Congress in 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, as well as networking opportunities dedicated to the youth and an online student/youth portal accessible from the main SAACI website. SAACI is inviting all academic institutions with business-events-related course offerings to contact the SAACI National Office at firstname.lastname@example.org for information on how to get involved in these exciting programmes.