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Editorial Features

Skills shortages real concern for UK events businesses

Published: 21 Dec 2018

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 £6billion. In addition to providing data on recruitment, training and HR processes, they submitted details of events-specific skills shortages.

Venues comprised 20% of the respondents. They 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).

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%). 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%).

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.

Chair of the EIB Talent Taskforce, Sarah Wright said: “The industry is expanding and there are more companies chasing the same talent pool.  Up-skilling 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.

By Mike Fletcher

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