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Mind the skills gap: EIB Talent Taskforce highlights shortages

Survey results released by the UK Events Industry Board Talent Taskforce reveal that 61% of events industry employers are experiencing skills shortages within their businesses.

More than 275 employers responded to the survey, with a collective workforce of 34,000 staff, producing a total revenue of c. £6bn. In addition to providing data on recruitment, training and HR processes, they submitted details of events-specific skills shortages.

Event organisers - including exhibition and event owners, in-house corporate organisers, associations and charities – comprised 35% of the respondents. Of those who reported skills shortages 70% identified the biggest problem areas to be in sales and business development roles.

Agencies comprised 17% of the survey respondents. Their services spanned conferences, exhibitions, roadshows, incentive travel, corporate hospitality and sponsorship activation. The 59% of agencies experiencing events-specific skills shortages reported particular gaps in sales and business development roles (cited by 69% of them). Project management was the second highest area of concern (48%). 

The supplier sector, represented by 17% of respondents, was the largest group to be experiencing skills shortages, with 78% stating this was an issue. The weakest areas were project management (55%), technical (also 55%) and sales and business development (37%). Drilling down, a broad range of technical skills were missing - topped by exhibition design and build (30%) and temporary infrastructure (25%).

Venues (20% of the respondent universe), cited a broad sweep of skills gaps – from logistics through to client handling, but the greatest single area of need was for technical skills – identified by 52% of venues. Of these, rigging was the most frequently cited (by 64%) followed by sound and lighting, (54% each) and crewing and AV (43% each).

Only agencies reported significant management and leadership skills gaps.  Venues and agencies both experienced a shortage of staff with good client-handling abilities.

Of the total universe of respondents, 54% reported that the skills gaps were greatest in mid-levels of seniority.

Laura Kelly, client development director at Live Recruitment said: “These figures bear out our own experience, that the recruitment market has become tighter in recent years.  Current employers within the events sector, who previously could have expected to have a very detailed and precise brief met, are much less likely in the current climate to see candidates with a profile that matches exactly.” 

“Some employers are prepared to wait until the ideal candidate comes along and in the interim they may employ freelancers.  Ironically, often many of those freelancers were formerly employees of theirs who have opted to work independently.”

The survey revealed that on average 23% of the workforce is classed as freelance or temporary at any one time.

Chair of the EIB Talent Taskforce, Sarah Wright said: “The industry is expanding and there are more companies chasing the same talent pool.  Upskilling staff is clearly going to be a priority for employers in the years ahead, since the availability of ready-made candidates is diminishing”.

The survey forms part of a programme of research undertaken by the Events Industry Board Talent Taskforce to discover how the sector attracts, develops and retains its talent. A final report will be delivered to the Events Industry Board in March 2019 and will also include input from a broader range of bodies including the Business Visits and Events Partnership (BVEP), Visit Britain and the Tourism Industry Council.