Building bridges

Wednesday, 12.06.2019

Even the MICE industry is suffering from the shortage of skilled ‧personnel. Employers are fighting for (young) talents. CPD and ‧mentoring initiatives are to remedy this situation.

The shortage of qualified specialists and executives in the event and trade fair industry will become more dramatic in the next few years. This is the forecast of a new study by Chemnitz Technical University, the Academic Institute for Communication, and Westfalenhallen Dortmund. Thanks to long working hours and weekend shifts, the industry is becoming less attractive. At the same time, young talents expect more of their employers. The latter, in turn, are looking for qualities you cannot get out of an academic education alone. The result: a lack of interest and qualifications on the part of candidates and, ultimately, vacancies that cannot be filled.

This gap must be bridged. Internal CPD plays an important role. “Right now, finding good people isn’t easy. As a rule, our planning is always of a long-term nature and our focus consistently on in-house training,” says Markus Preußner, Chairman of Munich-based PCO Interplan. Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre also helps its teams enhance their skills with an e-learning platform.

But even when suitable candidates are found for the job, it doesn’t always mean that the problem is solved. A study by personnel service provider Robert Half warns of new recruits giving notice within the first month. 91 per cent of new employees will leave the job, if the position does not meet their expectations.

Wolfgang Altenstrasser, Director of Corporate Communications at the event agency Vok Dams, also knows that you need to offer career starters a lot nowadays: “A high degree of personal responsibility is a major factor, especially for the young target group. Of course, this includes flexible working hours, intensive feedback talks and CPD.” The introduction of agile management is proving successful, he claims.

Strategies for success in management were discussed in March 2019 by almost 1,700 HR managers from the hotel industry at Munich’s TALENTpro expo festival. The “Agency Directors Forum” on 20 May 2019, the day before IMEX Frankfurt, invites agency managers to share ideas. In order to enhance the skills of MICE newcomers, training and CPD offers accompany the fair. They include the IMEX-MPI-MCI Future Leaders Forum, the SITE Young Leaders Conference, and the GCB Learning Lab. These formats, including workshops, lectures and networking opportunities, make it easier for newbies to start their careers.

Start-ups that convince with fresh ideas and innovative pro‧ducts meet potential investors at trade fairs. The US Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA) supports students and talented professionals with scholarships. Awards such as the AIME Rising Star Award and the German Young Hotel Talents prize are conferred for outstanding achievements. The Restaurant and Hotel Schloss Britz project shows what the young generation is capable of: For 10 years it has been operated independently by the trainees of Berlin Estrel.

In addition to junior staff, experienced talents should also be encouraged to enter the labour market from other sectors: Part-time training courses at Chemnitz Technical University and the International Event and Congress Academy in Mannheim offer some opportunities. The step2mice pilot programme of the Erasmus+“Event Industry Integration” consortium promotes the employment and integration of refugees, migrants and foreign workers in the meetings industry.

Differences between younger and older staff now play a major role in everyday working life. A mentoring programme can help build bridges: Newcomers are supported by experienced industry experts. In “reverse mentoring”, this works the other way round. “Within this highly competitive industry, we are able to match those who would like one-on-one guidance with members who have already been in their shoes and are willing to take them under their wing,” says Purvi Panwala of the Asian American Hotel Owners Association about the AAHOA Mentor Match programme.

Similar initiatives include the European mentoring programme of the Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International (HSMAI) and London’s “Elevate” MICE mentoring programme. Under the motto “Meet the best”, the Food & Beverage Management Association FBMA will bring together young hospitality talents and industry insiders at Europa-Park Rust in May.

Prof. Dr. Cornelia Zanger, Head of the Event Research Department at Chemnitz Technical University, is optimistic that the MICE sector will be able to combat the shortage of skilled personnel. As a strategy, she recommends targeted personnel development and loyalty measures, above all: “The event and trade fair industry is a dynamic industry that offers modern and exciting tasks and excellent career opportunities for the future.”

Julie Freeman