Event crew: How do we attract new talent into our industry?

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Event crew specialists discuss current trends, pay rates, and how they are working hard to attract new talent into the sector…

In April, the NEC Group and Crewsaders, the event crewing company, delivered a short four-day programme, designed to encourage young people into the events industry. The Get into Events course, hosted by The Prince’s Trust, equipped young people with new skills and experience; some even had the opportunity to undertake job placements with Crewsaders.

The ambition of the short programme was to deliver key insight and training into the practical aspects of event crewing.

At the time, Calum McConnachie, operations director at Crewsaders, highlighted how once the pandemic hit, the events industry lost a lot of experienced staff, and as a result, something now needs to be done to address the current imbalance of work to workers. There needs to be a real focus on attracting talent.

Gallowglass is currently working with the NEKO Trust under the Future Crew initiative. The organisations have joined forces to develop the next generation of live event production professionals and are providing free training and paid work experience and employment pathways.

Antony Cook, business development manager at Gallowglass, explained: “Ultimately, as an industry, we need to value the people doing the job just as much as the job they’re doing and need to show more respect for all those whose work is vital to make events happen. If we can show the next generation that there is an interesting career path through crewing that can lead to work in TV, film, production, AV, sound, etc. this can only be a positive thing.”

Similarly, Site and Stage has been looking at ways to develop the next generation of events crew too. Dan Wilson, operations director at Site and Stage, concurred with McConnachie. The crewing industry missed out on two years of on-the-job training. Hence, there is a real skills gap. Site and Stage turned to the Government’s Kickstart Scheme, which provided funding to employers to create jobs for 16 to 24-year- olds on Universal Credit. The scheme ended in December 2021, but Site and Stage employed two new members of staff through it and has since had another 40 applicants approach the company, all keen to join the event’s industry.

Rates of pay

According to Cook, Gallowglass has had to increase rates of pay to entice people to join or re-join the sector and is currently paying top rates.

Site and Stage is paying top rates too and has been actively recruiting new crew since January – it is in a “comfortable position” for the work it currently has on the books. Wilson explained: “We have needed to be dynamic in pay and charge- out rates, so going from a flat day rate across the season for crew to an hourly rate based on skills/client requirements. For example, forklift drivers’ pay has risen from around £120 a day pre-pandemic to £15 per hour +. We have also increased our per diems rate for the first time in eight years to cover the cost of living hike and we have offered six-month fixed-term contracts to some of our core crew.”

This year, Site and Stage will be providing crew to American Express presents BST, Boomtown, the upcoming Michael Bublé tour, and Bloodstock, whilst Gallowglass is working on London Marathon, Goodwood Festival of Speed, Wireless, Reading, and Glastonbury – the company’s 12th year of building the fortress fence at Worthy Farm.

Wilson said that the events market has come back with a vengeance. All the big players are being robust with their crew calls and extra demands for kit.

Gallowglass event crew

Cook commented: “In the not-too- distant past, with a surfeit of crewing companies and an abundance of crew to call upon, the crewing aspect was often the last thing to be booked. Even from within, the perception was that we were always at the bottom of the supply chain. Not any longer – this is not being boastful or anarchic but highlighting the shift in the supply chain dynamic. No longer an afterthought but now a forethought.

“We find ourselves talking more and more to clients about what they are doing not a week or month in advance but three or sometimes six months. In the past, this was something unheard of. We will be doing our best to get more of these conversations going.”

Book early

Cook said that because of the nature of the events sector at present, Gallowglass is finding that clients are more flexible with their event requirements/timings. The company has managed to secure several prestigious TV and film contracts but due to non-disclosure agreements, it cannot talk about them. And, Gallowglass is confirmed to work with Cirque du Soleil when it returns to the Royal Albert Hall in 2023.

Cook continued: “Like many, as a company, we have spent the last 12 months or so reflecting, restructuring, developing and finally rebuilding our business. We are extremely busy and turning away a huge amount of work. Clients that would traditionally use one of our competitors are coming to us. We believe this is possibly due to them focusing on large projects, such as the Commonwealth Games, etc. and as a result, maybe not being able to supply their bread and butter clients.”

But what advice would Cook give to organisers this year? He concluded: “This one is simple: Don’t assume there will be crew available – book crew very, very early for your event!”