Caroline Clift: Opportunity knocks

CarolineCliftEvent organisers – who gave you your big break? Stand Out editor, Caroline Clift questions where the next generation of events professionals will come from if industry is not prepared to lead the way and council budgets are being slashed

By chatting to a number of event stalwarts it appears that many learned their craft by working as event officers in student unions – yet, with the news last month that university admissions are down, just where are the next generation of events professionals learning the relevant skills for industry?

Creative leaders are championing calls for more work experience opportunities to encourage young talent into the events sector. Nimlok is currently running a future design talent competition, offering one higher education student the opportunity to gain three months work experience and a £250 cash prize. Olivier Vallee, vice president commercial director at George P Johnson, is heading up a panel of industry experts to judge Nimlok’s Talent of the Future competition, and says that whilst experience is key, fresh-thinking minds are also essential in evolving the creative industries.

It’s essential for the creative and events industries to push boundaries and create more opportunities to give graduates a foot-hold in industry. However, there are those which do not relish the university route because a) it’s just not for them or b) education is just too expensive. Some industry professionals may question the cost of training an individual, particularly if they have chosen not to take on the personal financial burden of higher education themselves. And some companies may also choose not to train people for fear of losing that investment when someone decides to move on – but I personally think that the issue has far greater implications for industry if no one picks up the gauntlet that is event skills and education.

Good managers are those which don’t castigate team members for making a mistake because there are greater lessons to be learned from discovering what did not work. But where is the next generation of events professionals expected to come from if industry is not prepared to pass on skills learned the hard way, and through the ranks?

Lewis Field, head designer at Nimlok, says that in the age of austerity, a solid work experience placement and a portfolio of ‘real’ projects can make all the difference to a career. But are you allowing someone that opportunity? Or does the thought of offering work experience or offering a graduate a placement fill you with dread? Indeed, do you have the time to pass on your event and production pearls of wisdom? Young people must be given the chance to learn from the experts and manage their own events.

If you read my editor’s letter on page three (February 2013 edition)  then you will have discovered how a production manager I know feels that all local authority event managers look as though they’ve had all life and creativity sapped from them along with Whitehall budgets. But he also believes that local authorities which employ the skills of event management companies to do their job signifies it’s because they do not know how to organise an event themselves.

So my point… how can young people and those who chose not to attend university go on to achieve great things in the events world if they are not given a platform to do so? As the Government continues to slash budgets and make redundancies within council events team then we must look to the private sector to offer internships, apprenticeships, work placements and basic level entry into the wonderful world of events. The question is who is prepared to give someone an opportunity, or is it so long ago that you have forgotten how desperate you were for someone to give you a chance?