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You're hired! CN examines apprenticeships

Martin Fullard examines event apprenticeships: are they a viable pathway into the industry?


More and more employers are looking for skilled event professionals, yet the number of those enrolling on degree courses is dropping. For some, university is not an option, but that doesn't mean a career in events goes out the window. In fact, I’d go so far to say that the events industry is further ahead than other sectors in the apprenticeship game.

One such programme that has proven to be popular is Realise, run by David Preston and Richard John.

I caught up with John at the Conference & Hospitality Show in Leeds (30 April) and asked him to explain how it works. “We launched the programme just over two years ago and currently have 40 apprentices,” he tells me. “I'm delighted to say that we now have them coming off the programme and completing it successfully.”

Is the apprentice scheme aimed just at young people or is it open to people of all ages?

John continues: “The government changed the rules. Traditionally people think of apprentices as being at least 16. However, age doesn’t matter. We take them from 18, while the majority are in their 20s, we’ve even got a couple in their 30s looking to retrain.”

The cost, though, is a question a lot of employers want to know more details about, and its good news for smaller companies. John explains: “The government charges large companies a levy, they're effectively paying a tax which will pay for the training, while a small company doesn't have to pay the levy and yet gets 90% of the of the training paid for.

“It must be seen as development in the future so companies can look at recruiting people in the normal way while offering the chance to have ongoing training, which just happens to be called an apprenticeship.

“It may also be suitable for people who've been working in the organisation for a while, like Erin Mather, who decided she wanted to formalise her qualification and take the apprenticeship route.” 

After our chat, John introduced me to a young eventprof associated with the scheme.

Jody Brown is a project executive from Avenue Events. She is volunteering at CHS, and tells me that she has frequent meetings with her employer about her progress. She says: “I've been at Avenue Events for about six months. As part of the scheme we have a lot of one-to-one meetings as well as team meetings. My manager David and I have weekly catch ups to check how I'm doing and if there’s anything I need guidance with.” It seems straightforward enough. 

Another young eventprof in the apprentice world is the aforementioned Erin Mather. She is an events executive at the CHS Group, which runs the Conference & Hospitality Show. Emma Cartmell, the group's CEO, made time to talk to me about her apprentice.

“Erin came to us as a volunteer student and we gave her some work. After she graduated from a degree in graphic design we wanted to keep her on, she had a great attitude and was clearly a great events person, but didn’t necessarily have all the training and experience that an events management student might have. We put her on the apprenticeship programme to get that formal training.”

Does Cartmell think apprenticeships are going to be the future of the events industry? “It’s certainly going to be one of the preferred ways. But I think with events management degrees, and there are some great ones here in Leeds [where we are meeting] and in the UK will still hold an appeal to younger people. However, apprenticeships will gain popularity, especially for those looking to move into the industry maybe later in life.”

I ask Cartmell if she would encourage other events organisations to take on apprenticeships. “Do it,” she says. “Before I took on our first apprentice I was under the impression it would be a lot of work for us, having to micro manage someone without any experience. But when Erin joined she had the right attitude, she had a bit of experience already, but all the formal training takes place off site, so we get the benefit of her doing the work while earning and learning at the same time.”

As student numbers at universities continue to drop, apprenticeship schemes seem seem a logical choice for a number of employers. However what makes this model even more inclusive is that age is no real barrier. 

When you think about how many people ‘fall’ into events, there’s no harm in having an earn-and-learn programme in place to ensure clients get the best event possible. After all, that’s why we’re all here anyway. Visit