SACEOS publishes internship guide to improve talent acquisition prospects for Singapore MICE companies

  • Guidelines address areas of concerns among institutes and interns
  • Good internship outcomes require commitment by both companies and interns
  • Look beyond internship programmes as a channel for talent acquisition and retention

Business events companies in Singapore are urged to develop more fruitful internship and training programmes to overcome ongoing talent acquisition and retention hurdles.

To help business events companies in this effort, the Singapore Association of Convention & Exhibition Organisers & Suppliers (SACEOS) has written a guide on best practices for internships in the business events industry.

Business event firms, institutes and students discuss the value of internship at the MICE Talent Dialogue

Developed in consultation with institutes of higher learning and industry players in Singapore, such as National University of Singapore, Singapore Polytechnic and Institute of Technical Education, the guide provides a set of best practices for businesses and schools to reference when designing or embarking on internship programmes.

It covers key areas such as objectives of the internship, a mentorship framework, recommended working hours, leave benefits, allowance, workplace safety and wellbeing as well as early job offers.

Richard Ireland, president, SACEOS, told TTGmice that these were identified as areas for improvement through communications with institutes and their students since last year.

“We wanted to make these key areas very transparent so that conversations could happen between the institutes and companies, between students and the institutes, and between students and companies,” he said, adding that clarity around these key areas would give students the ability to discuss expectations, and to know what their internship programme will deliver for their learning journey.

While SACEOS is not able to enforce the application of the guide among companies, Ireland believes that companies will find that offering a quality internship programme will only benefit themselves.

“It is important to have transparency on what a good internship programme looks like. If I want to attract interns as an employer, this has to be my base. If I want to go to an institute and say I want recommended students, this has to be my base. The institutes are going to place students with companies that are ready to abide by these guidelines. And the best companies are going to get the best students,” he elaborated.

SACEOS will distribute the guide to all institutes, which will likely introduce these best practices to companies keen on engaging interns.

When asked by TTGmice if there were enough internship openings in Singapore to allow institutes the freedom to weed out companies with poor internship programmes, Ireland said: “Absolutely. But the real question is, are there enough companies using internship as an entry point for talents? Our industry employed 34,000 people pre-Covid, and up to 10,000 exited during the pandemic. While there are only about 1,000 graduates each year from MICE courses in Singapore, they are a good source of talents for companies in our industry.”

Consolidated data from SACEOS states that the various courses related to hospitality, tourism and events offered by seven institutes of higher learning in Singapore generate some 930 graduates each year.

Pipeline for talents
During the MICE Talent Dialogue on April 18, held alongside the introduction of the guide on best practices for internships, speaker Lioba Mauch, regional HR manager at Koelnmesse in Singapore, said internship programmes have contributed to her company’s talent acquisition through the years, with at least 10 interns successfully converted to full-time hires and eight are still in the team.

But for internship programmes to be successful, Mauch said both the potential employer and the intern have to do their part. Potential employers will need to design a programme that allows interns to rotate through various roles to maximise their learning opportunities, offer mentorship, and treat interns like a team member and “not cheap labour”. Interns will need to contribute to the team, and should they hope to be converted to a full-time staff, express that intention and remain in contact should a job offer not be possible immediately.

At Clarion Events Asia, where Ireland is managing director, a number of interns have been absorbed into the full-time workforce over the years.

For those that have moved on to join other companies, Ireland said it was a “pay it forward” for the industry.

“(It is more important that) interns stay on in our industry. However, it is not just about whether they stay put, but also about their impression of this profession, the company and the career opportunities in our industry that they share with other students or graduates,” he added.

Look beyond internships
Ireland told TTGmice that he is confident that the talent crunch could be managed “by hard work” on the part of employers to provide structured training opportunities for promising talents.

He also believes that internship should not be the only channel deployed by companies to attract talents.

Clarion Events Asia recently started a management trainee programme in Singapore that attracted 125 applicants from across institutes and fields of study. Of these, 30 were selected and invited to the office to participate in various individual and group work as well as interviews and interaction with different staff. The company eventually hired five into the programme, which will run for nine to 12 months and rotate trainees through different roles every three months.

Trainees are given the opportunity to take on sales, operations and content roles in different project teams and under different mentors. They will then be assessed on the best function or team for them at the end of the programme.

“We are six months into this, and the outcomes are quite optimistic. We find that role rotation is absolutely critical, as that gives the trainee the opportunity to try new things. That contributes to higher talent retention too, as young people want options and avenues to gain fresh experiences,” Ireland reflected.

“The great thing about our industry is the diversity of roles, projects and sector. You could be a conference manager for a project in the health sector, and what you experience would be very different from if you were handling sales for a gaming conference, or in an operations role for a consumer event. I don’t think we, as an industry, is selling that diversity of roles enough to potential hires. Furthermore, this is a profession with opportunities to travel,” he added.

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