Apprenticeships are a vital tool for enhancing the availability of talent in the events industry, but Richard Waddington, Lead, Event Apprenticeships, argues that perceptions must change and that industry leaders should be more active in encouraging them.
The UK events industry is facing a chronic skills shortage, and I am firmly of the view that apprenticeships hold the key to unlocking untapped potential and bringing in a diverse pool of talented individuals. UKEVENTS has recognised this, and as a result has provided initial seed funding to re-establish the Event Apprenticeships programme specifically for this sector. By investing in apprenticeships, we can elevate our industry to new heights while addressing the current staff shortage challenge.
Apprenticeships are another route into the industry, with more than 500 event assistant apprentices between 2017-2021 (IFATE, 2022). Given the number of people employed in the industry, this is a small percentage and a potential opportunity for growth. This is mainly due to a lack of awareness, understanding and investment as to the opportunities available outside of the university route.
Let us be clear that this is not just a route for the young, but for people at all stages of their careers. Nonetheless, there are some wider issues to address.
Changing mindsets and working together
One of the main challenges we face is the need for a shift in the industry mindset. Understandably, many businesses are grappling with their own struggles, making it difficult to invest time and resources into training and development. However, if we fail to invest in the future, we’ll forever be chasing our own tails. The solution lies in working together and making investments in apprenticeships, fostering a more inclusive and diverse industry.
The role of trainers and government funding
We are working with the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education (IfATE), as well as with employers, to develop, approve, review and revise apprenticeships and technical qualifications. To make apprenticeships a reality, IfATE partner with various agencies, companies, universities, and colleges that provide the necessary training.
The Government plays a crucial role by funding the external training component through the apprenticeship levy. Businesses with an annual salary bill exceeding £3 million automatically contribute an additional 0.5% to the levy. For those below this threshold, funding can be applied for, and there are surplus funds available to support apprenticeship programmes.
The journey of an apprentice
When a company decides to employ an apprentice, they embark on a structured training and development programme. The apprentices receive both internal and external testing to ensure their progress and growth. Close collaboration between the company, trainers, and apprenticeship governing bodies aligns the internal training with the external curriculum, creating a cohesive learning experience. At the end of the programme, apprentices undergo a final assessment and earn a recognised qualification.
Expanding opportunities and retaining talent
The benefits of apprenticeships extend beyond the initial programme. By retaining apprentices as skilled employees, companies can continue their professional development journey with government funding the cost of learning through the programme.
Future apprenticeships can focus on management and leadership training, equipping individuals with the skills needed to run teams and handle strategic responsibilities. This comprehensive approach ensures a continuous pipeline of talent within organisations and throughout the industry.
Engaging the industry and raising awareness
We have established an Events Apprenticeship Advisory Board and a Trailblazer group comprising senior professionals from the industry. These forums ensure that our programme is shaped by industry needs, and they foster collaboration across different associations within the UK events sector.
To fund our efforts, we have reached out to the industry and set up a fundraising campaign. We aim to raise approximately £80,000 to cover programme costs and marketing initiatives. To reiterate an earlier point, the Government will fund the training element of the apprenticeship, but the costs of running the scheme, such as its marketing, must be otherwise funded. Any events business which is serious about investing in its talent, be it venue, agency, or supplier, would be well advised to support this programme.
We’re extremely grateful to the Events Industry Forum (EIF) who have embraced the initiative and made a substantial contribution which will allow us to get on the front foot and drive things forward, however we do need more industry support.
Promoting the industry and apprenticeships
Creating a culture of learning within the events industry requires broad awareness. UKEVENTS itself has done a lot of work in this field, researching and engaging, with Priya Narain leading the Skills, Talent and Diversity Working Group, and for that we are thankful. We plan to engage with schools and educators to showcase the benefits of apprenticeships and the endless possibilities within our field.
By collaborating with influencers such as parents, social workers, and career advisors, we can introduce the events industry as a viable – and rewarding – career option. Through trial sessions, we have witnessed the spark of interest in young minds when they learn about the industry and the opportunities it presents. We’re working with the Power of Events on some of these initiatives, promoting awareness of the industry and the many opportunities within it.
This now presents an opportunity for event organisations to encourage more talent to join the industry; we simply cannot complain about the lack of talent without taking the responsibility to invest ourselves. I urge you all to the visit the Events Apprenticeships website to get involved.