Home TopicAssociations It’s time to tackle talent gap says Essa’s Andrew Harrison

It’s time to tackle talent gap says Essa’s Andrew Harrison

by Emily Wallin

As National Apprenticeship Week kicks off, Andrew Harrison, director of the Event Supplier and Services Association (ESSA), discusses why the sector needs to do more to attract the next generation and address the ongoing talent shortage.


Talent, or lack of it, is one of the most talked about issues in the events industry right now. The global pandemic forced many people working in our sector to find alternative employment in other industries, some of whom have chosen not to return, resulting in the loss of highly skilled and experienced talent.

As live events return and we gear up for what looks set to be a busy 2022, the lack of available talent is causing headaches for many businesses across the sector and threatens to hamper our recovery. While staff shortages need to be plugged in the short term, there is only a finite pool of existing talent, which everyone is tussling over. To ensure our sector’s full recovery, we urgently need to widen that talent pool by tackling the issue at grass roots level.

This is not a new problem. Even before the pandemic, it was clear that collectively we were not doing enough to attract new talent into the events industry. That is why, back in 2017, ESSA started working with various educational institutions, became an official partner of Lincoln University, and invested in resources to help our members promote how great and varied the industry is.

A Future Focus Working Group at the ESSA conference, featuring students and lecturers from Lincoln University, identified the need to reach people earlier in education to make them aware that the industry is out there and the breadth of careers it offers. This means we need to start working more closely with schools and offer work placements to students in year 12 and 13 to give them a taster of how rewarding it can be to work in our sector.

With their interest piqued, school leavers keen to pursue a career in events can choose to complete a degree such as the Design for Event, Exhibition and Performance course at Lincoln University, or take a more hands-on route into the industry. It’s important to remember that not everybody wants to go to university or has the resources to do it. In addition, limiting the industry talent pool traditionally to university graduates means that employers are naturally going to lack diversity among their applicants.

This is where apprenticeship schemes are incredibly valuable. Apprenticeships can help you to grow your own talent, reduce staff turnover and address the skills shortage. They can also break down barriers to entry, specifically where experience is required, attracting a new broader pipeline of talent from all backgrounds in addition to the university graduate route. This could in turn help address another industry issue that ESSA is passionate about – lack of diversity.

To avoid further staff shortages, improve diversity, and ensure the future success of our industry, we need to get better at attracting new talent. Let’s use this week-long celebration of apprenticeships to reflect on how we can better promote our exciting industry and the opportunities it presents to the next generation, and take action to grow, develop and invest in our future workforce.

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