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J, consultant exeuliet Pricecutive director of HBAA

HBAA calls upon Chancellor to create a ‘Re-Skill and Re-Equip’ fund

The Hotel Booking Agents Association (HBAA) has announced that it is writing to the chancellor of the exchequer, Rishi Sunak, to ask him to create a ‘Re-Skill and Re-Equip’ fund to help businesses across various industry sectors to "re-Skill their staff and re-equip their companies to enable them to adapt and stay in business".

Juliet Price (pictured), consultant executive director of HBAA, said that the association is committed to supporting its members in diversifying their businesses to survive the pandemic and have greater viability in the long term. "Companies involved in delivering meetings and events, the venues themselves and professional freelancers are unable to arrange, host or work on live events. They are having to adapt to stay in business by creating online and hybrid events which for many, involves acquiring a completely new skill set and knowledge base,: she said.

Price added: “Despite having almost no income from their usual activities purely due to restrictions imposed by the government to control coronavirus, businesses are having to find money to invest in training and equipment to be able to help clients to run professionally presented online and hybrid events, just like the recent Conservative and other political party conferences.

“This is not about retraining people for different industries such as cybersecurity. This is to invest in re-skilling staff so that they can be retained in their existing industries to meet growing demand for new ways of working, interacting and engaging, as well as a more secure future.

“It applies not only to the whole of the £84bn events industry which is united as #OneIndustryOneVoice, but also to many other sectors including the theatre and music industries where production staff and venues have also been retraining and re-equipped to run digital concerts and shows.

“The CBI recently stated that nine in ten workers will need to learn new skills or be retrained over the next decade because the changing nature of the economy is transforming the skills required for many jobs.  That is already apparent in the events industry so let us receive the funding now to keep our experienced people and support them in becoming futurefit.”

The HBAA is one of 24 organisations involved in the Business Visits and Events Partnership (BVEP).

Caroline Jackson, BVEP vice chair, who leads the industry’s Skills, Talent, Diversity & Inclusion working group, said: “The decimated events industry needs targeted Government support that includes specialist training and equipment. The people whose work has been halted because of the pandemic restrictions recognise the primacy to protect people’s health. 

“With little or no income, training and equipment to move online and prepare for a return to live and hybrid event recovery would be productive and motivating. 

“Current government schemes are geared towards large employers and those at the outset of their careers. Venues, agencies and freelancers need funding to develop the ‘re-skilling’ opportunities the government talks about. We need action now, please.”

Price also said that the Re-Skill and Re-Equip Fund should additionally support every industry by training more people in the workplace to be Mental Health First Aiders (MHFA).

She said: “Almost one in five adults (19.2%) were likely to be experiencing some form of depression during the Covid-19 pandemic in June 2020; this had almost doubled from around 1 in 10 (9.7%) before the pandemic (July 2019 to March 2020), according to the Office for National Statistics in August.

“Now, following six months of lockdown and restricted living, concerns over job security and the viability of businesses, financial worries and the overarching welfare of family and loved ones have all added to the pandemic’s significant detrimental impact on the mental health of many thousands of people.

“The need is so much greater now. MHFA England recommends that every organisation should be equipped with at least one trained mental health first aider for every 10 employees. The Re-Skill and Re-Equip Fund could support training to ensure that many more people are trained mental health first aiders, able to assist their colleagues in need.”