Lack of people, lack of skills… what’s the solution for the events industry?
The COVID-19 Pandemic impacted everyone’s lives, with certain industries and subsequent jobs being affected greatly, especially for the events industry. Companies which were thriving and growing were hit hard. Prior to the pandemic, the UK events industry composed of approximately one billion people, and was contributing around £70 billion to the UK economy each year (1).
Live Design (2) sent out a survey in July 2020 to businesses to see how the industry had been affected. 76% revealed they had lost over 75% of their business and revenue since March 2020. 78% had to furlough staff or proceed with redundancies. Venues hosting events also suffered; even after the COVID-19 restrictions were eased, many struggled to gain back business and occupy their spaces (3).
Fast-forward to November 2021 and finally some live events are back in action as well as the world of hybrid and virtual flourishing. The question is, are there enough people with the knowledge and experience to deliver them?
Operations Manager at Broadsword, Rob Sansom, commented on the shift he’s observed over the past couple of months:
‘As things get busier, as they have recently in October and November, it has become increasingly difficult to find people with any availability. The events industry isn’t back to pre-pandemic levels, and there’s already a shortage of skills across the board.’
There are notably less people available to work the quantity of events that are being booked in, as well as an increase in the skills gap. Those who worked on events during the pandemic, adapting to online and now hybrid events have gained a different type of experience and way of working compared to those who had to leave the industry and are now making their way back. There is also a gap between young people entering the industry and the experience and skills required.
Our Project Consultant Liam Bremer has also noticed a difference:
‘There have been a few instances when a machine to clone particular people would have been useful!’
A study reported that freelancers such as graphic designers suffered great financial difficulty during the pandemic, meaning they were not able to cover the costs of maintaining their skills or upskilling (4).
With more work flowing in for event companies, the need for more people with the right skills is crucial. One common theme we identified to help solve this issue would be to promote the events industry to young adults and provide them with opportunities to gain work experience.
‘young people coming into the industry will bring ideas with them which can really benefit the industry’
‘we need to actively promote the events industry and show what an exciting field it can be to work in’
And how would the skills gap decrease? By equipping them!
Rob – ‘there is so much wealth of knowledge and experience throughout the supply chain and freelancer pool that’s just waiting to be passed on.’
‘A balance of youth and experience’ is also crucial according to Liam, as the experience of those who remained in the industry can help teach and train those who are newly entering.
Sadly, there will be a large amount of the workforce that will not return, but the future seems promising for young professionals.
What do you think?
Quadrant2Design, 2020, ‘How Many People Work in The Events Industry?’ accessed 08.11.21
Ellen Lampert-Greaux, 2020, Live Design Online,’ The 2020 Pandemic: Impact Of COVID-19 On the Live Events Industry’, accessed 08.11.21
Meetings Industry Association, 2021, ‘Reopening Survey’, accessed 08.11.21
Pulignano, V., Domecka, M., Muszyński, K., Vermeerbergen, L., & Riemann, M. L. (2021). Creative Labour in the Era of Covid-19: The Case of Freelancers. ETUI Research Paper-Working Paper.