Cultivating future talents

CVBs and private sector players in South-east Asia are rolling out their own career development opportunities to overcome a shortage of specialised MICE academic courses

Orachorn Wongpan-ngam

With events management degrees and diplomas being scant in South-east Asia – often just a module in hospitality and tourism courses – planning and collective action by the industry may help address the talent crunch.

The MICE Capabilities Department of Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau (TCEB) collaborates with industry partners and academia. “The MICE Academy Pillar focuses on university students and faculty to build the groundwork of excellence and capabilities of future MICE leaders,” explained Orachorn Wongpan-ngam, the department’s director.

Orachorn Wongpan-ngam

The MICE curriculum is offered in 117 Thai educational institutions. Its international focus features all four areas plus events, and discusses global trends and best practices.

“MICE Student Chapters enable students to work with leading MICE companies, get training, obtain a scholarship or join a Youth Challenge, which is an opportunity to develop outstanding ideas for the industry,” Orachorn added.

Many participants join the industry upon graduation. TCEB isn’t perturbed if they don’t, or only stay a while. “Our investment isn’t lost since they could use their knowledge to evince multiplier effects within different sectors, which will return to MICE and the country as a whole,” opined Orachorn.

IMPACT Exhibition Management runs a certificate course with three Thai universities. Each year, some 40 to 60 students do two-month stints in operations, exhibition projects, sales, F&B or corporate communications at the convention and exhibition centre.

Thamita Chongswatvorakul, IMPACT’s director of human resources, said: “We make sure students get the best possible experience while completing their internship. They participate in various projects, supervised by senior executives and managers, and acquire valuable, real-world experience.

“Interns gain significant advantages that help them outshine other job candidates. After their learning-by-doing experience, we hope to welcome them to the fold upon graduation.”

Over the years, Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre has fostered collaboration with various institutions of higher learning to help nurture new talent. General manager Alan Pryor said these partnerships have evolved from participating in career talks and job fairs to developing an internship programme aimed at familiarising students with the business events industry and different career opportunities available.

“We also focus on talent retention through our Ambassador Programme, which provides part-time opportunities to young students and lets them earn additional income while expanding their skill set through comprehensive, in-house training initiatives. On-the-job experience can also lead to full-time employment at the Centre,” he added.

In labour-scarce Singapore, SkillsFuture Study Awards encourage Singaporeans to develop new skills and competencies, regardless of age. The Singapore Association of Convention & Exhibition Organisers & Suppliers (SACEOS) runs four subsidised certification and professional courses. It also organises the annual Singapore MICE Challenge for tertiary institutions.

Pico Group takes in interns but also gives employees varied opportunities to grow and learn, such as stints at the World Expo and job rotations from six to 24 months.

“The annual Talent Acceleration Programme brings together high-potential employees from our global network for two-week training. There are also local internship opportunities to get a flavour of the MICE industry. Several interns have become permanent staff,” said Pamela Dua, director, human resource, Pico Art International.

But for MICE companies, recruiting and retaining fresh graduates remains a challenge.
Andrew Chan, founder & CEO of ACI HR Solutions, said Deloitte’s 2017 millennial survey showed development and work/life balance outdid financial reward. “Personal learning and development are the first-choice benefit for millennials. Flexible working hours comes second, followed by cash bonuses.”

But ‘flexible working hours’ seems incongruent with the demands of running business events and keeping customers happy.

While Chan acknowledged the constraint, he said the industry could do better in personal learning and development. “This sector can actually offer that to millennial workers, provided business leaders take the time to communicate more effectively with their younger workers and adopt a mentorship approach to management, which they prefer.”

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