GMC Events’ Ryan Wilmott takes time out from working on events such as Glastonbury, PRIDE and Shambala to provide his perspective on the industry’s efforts to close the skills gap and present new opportunities for budding event profs.
Those of us who are deep into our events careers, especially those in the music and festival sectors, will likely have endured a series of unpaid and informal roles as we carved our way into the industry.
Traditionally there has been the expectation that those looking to break into the industry carry the financial burden of inadequate budgets, and more often than not endure long hours, below acceptable welfare conditions, and undefined outcomes. We considered ourselves lucky to even have the vaguest of opportunities to get our foot in the door. I suppose we were the lucky ones, as there were and continue to be many who simply can’t afford the luxury of committing their time unpaid or may struggle to work in an environment that historically wasn’t structured to support those with accessibility needs.
“Things feel like they are changing for the better for the new generation of event professionals.”
Things feel like they are changing for the better for the new generation of event professionals. The turnover of staff has been almost unprecedented in recent years, and consequently we are seeing more placement schemes providing a more structured scope of development and guaranteed point of entry. There are numerous schemes and opportunities arising across all sectors, which not only offer more tangible financial support, but are much more diverse and inclusive than previously.
Team Love’s Big Team project is opening opportunities for young people in Bristol who have traditionally been excluded from the festival industry, while charities such as Youth Music offer paid opportunities, funding, industry connections and networking events for those who face barriers to earning in music. Continental Drift’s newly launched Festival Lab offers a free nine-week course with paid work experience to Black, BAME and PoC 18 – 30-year-olds to address the lack of diversity in the festival industry.
Educators have also recognised and filled a gap. Courses specific to the music, events and festival worlds being offered by the likes of BIMM and the Backstage Academy are now able to be covered by student loans and offer fantastic work-based placement opportunities to students.
Traditionally, the events industry has struggled to acknowledge our fundamental systemic issues but since the pandemic we’ve seen the industry open up. Apps like Linkedin have become a much more open and active space for advice and connecting, with entry levellers using them as platforms to reach out to promoters, event organisers and those they’d like to work with and learn from. The Fair’s ‘Advice Line’ has recently been launched to offer free advice to anybody looking to kickstart their career in the industry.
Support for those looking to bridge the management gap and step up has also improved through structured initiatives. NOWIE’s Level Up mentor scheme, for example, offers those in the early to mid-stages of their careers the chance to be paired up with a specialist mentor for six months. Access All Area’s 30 under 30 scheme celebrates and rewards the successes of the young people within the industry, offering access to resources and networking opportunities to further promote their development.
These are all positive steps forward for an industry that’s traditionally been the archetypal gig economy. It is a sign of an industry finally taking its systemic issues seriously.
This feature was published in the Summer edition of Access All Areas, which is available to read for free HERE.