Raising the next generation

Few schools in Asia are moving to ease the talent crunch in the region’s business events industry by providing specialised courses, but ongoing public and private sector involvement in next-gen education is encouraging

Despite the business events industry boom across Asia and the growing need for talented individuals to join the workforce, few schools in the region offer dedicated degrees or diplomas in business events management.

This, coupled with the vast study choices in non-hospitality/tourism track available in universities and colleges across the region, has made the talent crunch in the business events industry even more pronounced.

Here in Asia, the Hong Kong Polytechnic University is one of the more proactive educational institutes in offering specialist courses in business events. Its School of Hotel and Tourism Management (SHTM) offers a Bachelor of Science (Honours) degree in Tourism and Events Management and even a Master’s degree in International Tourism and Convention Management.

Kaye Chon, SHTM’s dean, said the School works closely with the industry to develop relevant programmes to groom the next generation of convention and event managers.

“We are mindful of Hong Kong’s push to strengthen its leading position in the market. With the spread of convention and event management as a specialist field, SHTM is committed to nurturing passionate and pioneering professionals to satisfy industry demand.”

Undergraduates apply what they have learnt from the classroom in a real-life work environment. They spend two semesters organising an international conference and complete internships with tourism/events organisations, such as the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre.

The SHTM Event Society, founded by students, has a mentorship programme in cooperation with various event associations, where mentors help participants gain insight into and experience in business events. Networking with event industry leaders introduces contacts for their future careers.

At the postgraduate level, students learn industry best practices, management skills and research, taking them from theory to practice for a competitive advantage. The flexible delivery and modes of study allow students to complete their studies in just one year to fast-track their careers. The programme also caters to people already in the field who wish to advance their knowledge without giving up their jobs.

Over in Malaysia and Singapore, the respective associations of convention and exhibition organisers and suppliers – MACEOS and SACEOS, respectively – collaborate with tertiary institutes offering event management courses and liaise with industry members to provide internship opportunities to students.

“SACEOS has established arrangements and forged partnerships with several local and privately-run institutes and universities on business event certification and development to grow the pool of business event talent and develop relevant, future-ready competencies of industry professionals,” said its executive director, Bita Seow.

At the School of Hospitality in Republic Polytechnic Singapore, the Diploma in Integrated Events Management (DIEM) focuses on learning by doing.

DIEM programme chair, Lynn Yue, said: “Our Industry Immersion Programme (IIP) provides students opportunities to intern with established local and international hospitality providers and pick up valuable work experience over a 24-month period. Some students even get internships overseas.

“The IIP responds directly to employers’ needs for capable hospitality employees by improving the talent pool in advance. Organisations can hire seasoned individuals who will be able to jump straight into a career (from graduation).”

Sample data from the annual Singapore Ministry of Education graduate employment survey shows that about 65 per cent of DIEM graduates move on to pursue a degree programme, some after a few years of work.

As well, the government-supported SkillsFuture study awards encourage continuing education. Events students can pursue an Earn and Learn Programme conducted by Singapore’s Temasek Polytechnic.

However, with fewer than 25 industry vacancies per year in the city-state for some 700 potential graduates from qualifying institutes, this suggests that the majority will have to seek employment in the wider hospitality sector or head overseas.

Yue estimated that about 30 per cent of DIEM graduates stay on in Singapore’s hospitality industry, though not all may be employed in business event companies.  “The local MICE sectors rely more on freelance project managers and contractors,” she explained.

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