by Linda Gaunt, chief executive officer Meetings and Events Australia

Penny Lion from Tourism Australian recently reported that Australia’s business events industry is going from strength to strength, with infrastructure development across the country, new and developing convention centres, and hotel inventory leading the charge. Penny added that Australia’s growing global reputation in key industry sectors including creative services, the digital economy, medical and scientific research and education ensured that the Australian industry has a positive outlook.

Sounds fabulous and it is all very true. Australia has such a positive outlook in the events industry. So what is keeping me, Linda Gaunt, awake at night?

Simply, I hear, see and believe all of this positivity and as a proud member of the events industry I could not wish for more, except, and here is the million dollar question, how do we propose to service all of this business?

My five year on-going rant has been and will continue to be that I believe that the events industry is in a skills shortage.

At MEA we believe this to be very true and have come to this conclusion as a result of ongoing feedback from our members and many relevant industry examples.

As any practitioner within the industry will attest we work in a busy and dynamic industry. There is no such thing as a nine to five job and we all have to put in to the highest level to ensure the top end results that we require.

Am I stating the obvious? Yes I am, however the rest is not so obvious. In an industry that is 24/7 and demands so much of all employees, we fall short of the mark in regard to the service we provide. Sadly many believe that because when they recruit and they receive hundreds of applications this means we are not in a skills shortage.

In actual fact this is not the case. Yes we do get lots of applications, however in dissecting them we do find that there are not many qualified applications at all. This means we are in fact not in a labour shortage but in a skills shortage.

If we can convince the industry to understand this we will make inroads. Currently there are many training providers in Australia offering relevant training to the industry. They try hard to capture people at entry level and on another sphere they also try to capture people working within the industry who have little or no qualifications. As an industry with no barriers to entry this is often the case.

The problem is there is a reticence from industry to invest in training and education. The reasons for this vary from not enough time, non-traditional hours, no budget to the sad reason being “if I support my staff member in training I will lose them to a competitor”.

This in itself attests that we are in a skills shortage. I continually plead to our industry to think hard and invest in training and education as we need passionate and educated people in our industry in order to thrive. beg the question to our hard working Convention and Visitor Bureaux across the country. “No matter how hard you work, nor the degree of success you achieve, please don’t expect repeat business if our once off visitors don’t receive the standard of service they expect”.

At MEA we ask that you give this consideration and act accordingly.

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