Adrian Bossey, head of business & experience design at Falmouth University, and chair of the Association of Events Management Educators, suggests ways in which the industry can address the staffing shortage and attract a diverse new wave of passionate professionals into a sustainable events industry.

The UK events industry suffered badly during Covid-19 lockdowns, losing an estimated 126,000 jobs with a full recovery not expected until 2023 at the earliest. Globally, 48% of live music sector professionals surveyed by Statista (2022) had experienced staff being furloughed within their business in 2020 and over 42% of businesses were also impacted by layoffs. Subsequently, as the sector ‘opened up’ severe staffing shortages have been experienced, with 96% of UK event organisers hit by staffing shortages in 2021. These issues persisted into 2022 as previous employees failed to return to the sector. Simultaneously, the industry has been regularly criticised for lacking diversity, whilst facing the climate emergency … we are living through interesting times!

It seems timely to ask whether the UK events sector can solve ongoing staffing shortages and address diversity and sustainability-related challenges by attracting a new wave of passionate professionals into the industry? Apprenticeships offer one cost effective route into the industry. They are designed to provide paid employment for over 16s, combining work and study in a job. They must last one year, and employers must meet the cost of the apprentice’s minimum wage and a 5% training contribution. T-Level industry placements are a free Government scheme supporting 45-day industry placements designed to allow businesses to grow their workforce in the short-term, with little or no cost, and scout future talent. The events industry should explore these and a range of other UK Government schemes to support businesses via training and employment.

I am privileged to work with undergraduate and postgraduate students studying events management. They learn directly relevant skills and engage in live events and placements. For example, one Falmouth undergraduate student is currently on a month-long micro placement with FIFA in Qatar for the World Cup. University graduates regularly enter the events industry, which needs to continue work with universities to access excellent students and ensure that our provision continues to meet the needs of the sector. The Association for Events Management Education are working with sector wide organisations including The Power Of Events and UK Events to facilitate this process and raise the profile of universities in educating the next generation of event managers.

Broadening inclusion and sustainability within the events industry can also be achieved by upskilling existing workers. Universities can also play an important role here. For example, at Falmouth we have developed two short online Continuing Professional Development courses in partnership with A Greener Festival and Attitude is Everything. They are delivered simultaneously to university students and global live music industry practitioners, upskilling them around accessibility for people who are Deaf or disabled and sustainability for live events.

The world-leading UK events sector offers exciting and rewarding careers. By working with partners and taking advantage of available schemes, the industry can access a rich and diverse pool of new talent and upskill existing staff. In doing so, businesses can drive positive innovation to start to address challenges around inclusivity and sustainability for both staff and event attendees.