Chris Berrisford, director and co-founder of Insite Graphics, discusses what employers should prize in a prospective hire.
Youth is always attractive. We have been conditioned over the years to value it, even prize it above all else. I think that it’s entirely proper that the industry pursues its association with universities and apprenticeship programmes.
After all, they deliver the next generation of creative talent, the ones that will take a fresh look at things, the people to keep our industry moving forward, and that’s fine.
However, youth is not usually accompanied by knowledge and having performed a number of roles all wrapped together as experience. I know that we have had our politicians encouraging us to eschew experts because they are unnecessary and add complexity.
They do, but they also add an awareness of what is required to get the job done, how to overcome obstacles and think on their feet, experts become experts by utilising knowledge and experience. And, nowhere does the complexity of our industry require expertise than in health and safety during build-up and breakdown.
Short tenancies mean tight build and break times for all of us working in the halls. Which, in turn, means procedures and methodologies need to be planned and executed calmly and efficiently if we are all to get our jobs done safely, to the required standard and in time for the show to open. It is the need for methodical minds that do not become flustered under pressure that was front of mind when we looked for our next recruit. Here’s a clue: we were not looking at recent graduates for this role.
Nothing prepares you for the frenetic atmosphere in a hall during build up, everyone is on deadline, everyone’s tasks are the most important and when the needs of the job shift beneath your feet for reasons not of your making, you still need to deliver the goods. The only thing that gets you through a situation like this is a cool head and clear thinking and that can only come with a bit of life’s seasoning, out there is the glare of the real world.
It is into this environment that we were going to place our next recruit. I have heard build up and breakdown referred to variously as “conflict area”, “a battlefield” and “a war zone”. It made me wonder if the obvious was starting to stare us in the face.
So, we appointed an ex regimental sergeant major from the 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards with 26 years experience and tours of every major conflict zone in recent times. Joining at just over 16 years of age as a junior leader, the Army has provided him with the skills, both physical and mental, that allow him to be resourceful and adaptable in every situation he has been thrown into.
NCOs are used to procedures, and developing and executing a tactical plan, who better for the hectic world of build up and break down? He left the Guards to join an events company and, 12 years on, he has joined Insite to bring his process and methodical mind to our event delivery and breakdown. We’ll be making use of the skills he already has, and sending him back to bootcamp for an intensive course in event-specific safety training.
So why does this matter? Anyone capable of doing their sums will have worked out that his years of experience put him at just over 50. An age when many people are starting to think of an exit to their career, but here is just one of many ex Servicemen who have a raft of skills and knowledge who are keen to use their drive and determination after their military career is over, a significant pool of expertise that we can harness within our industry.
Our armed forces have a selection process, training programme and development route that would make many large corporates blush. I’m not saying that this approach would work for every business, nor every ex serviceperson but there’s a raft of talent we are not tapping into.
There is also an added twist to the talent pool in front of us. Many of them have left the forces after serving to a pensionable age so may not be seeking a full time role, they may want limited hours or just a few days per week. What other recruitment channel would provide you with someone who has life skills, experience, knowledge and who is happy to work a flexible pattern to suit both parties.
None of my peers are getting any younger, we are all in awe of the bright young things but we should not forget how valuable experience can be. So, as well as the 30 under 30, what about the exhibition industry celebrating 50 over 50, to recognise the people that have worked tirelessly behind the scenes, often without public recognition, but without whom the industry would grind to a halt. Who knows, we may even enter our own Regimental Sergeant Major.