The next generation of event workers need our assistance more than ever – Peter Jones

Ms Lovett’s and Mr Jones’ appointments fill two vacant positions, following the departures of Marie Jackson and Sandra Anderson from the Trust, who have completed their terms

Melbourne based Peter Jones is Managing Director of Peter Jones Special Events and has been a producer of special events for over 30 years. He has received many industry awards and in 2018 was awarded the AM in the Australia Day honours for his outstanding contribution to tourism, hospitality and specifically the event sector. In other words he knows his stuff. As the event industry takes its first steps into business recovery, Peter explains why we should all consider adopting a student.

“I’ve been in the event game for a long time and, like everyone else, I am finding the current situation extremely challenging and at times confronting.  Whilst those of us in the industry consider our future, spare a thought for the graduates of 2020 in the process of completing their degree and getting ready to enter the workforce in the coming months – especially those who have selected an event management course.  

To put this discussion into perspective, the University of Melbourne recently released a study stating 2021 will be the toughest year on record for students trying to find employment and they can expect to receive lower wages than any other year.  This research was not based around a specific industry, but it will resonate with what I describe as the ‘unintentional consequence’ for students studying events, tourism or hospitality in general.   

Talk about bad timing. Over the past 10 years the event industry has boomed.  New venues have opened all over Australia, clients have had healthy budgets and technology has taken events to a new level.  It has also offered an exciting and rewarding career path to take.  Now, there would be many students questioning their selection for both a tertiary degree and VET diploma.  

I have always been a big supporter of helping someone to get their foot in the door. Why?  Because a man by the name of Bob Moors did this for me over 40 years ago.  Bob was the General Manager of Melbourne’s Moomba Festival, and thanks to him I completed work experience over the school holidays, aged 16.  This opportunity ultimately helped me to get to where I am today, and I have never forgotten it. 

Each year PJSE takes several students from William Angliss Institute; providing an opportunity for them to spend time with our team organising and planning events and then seeing first-hand how we put our events together.  Most importantly the students get the opportunity to attend the event to see the end result.  There are many other organisations that create these same opportunities for students here in Melbourne; including The Melbourne Food and Wine Festival, Queen Victoria Market and the Melbourne Marriott.  

Having spoken to many students recently, I’m even more determined to ensure this opportunity does not change, even though we are not doing any events until at least February 2021 in Melbourne.  Why?  The number one question they all had was ‘Are we going to have a job when the industry has been decimated by COVID-19?”

Right now, this is a hard question to answer as the industry itself is not sure what ‘COVID normal’ looks like.  That’s going to take a while, but rest assured the industry will recover and there will be lots of opportunities.  But the demand for positions will be magnified tenfold in the short term. 

Ashlee from my team graduated from William Angliss Institution with a Bachelor of Event Management at the start of 2019.  In Ashlee’s final year, she volunteered with PJSE.  This is what she said about her experience:

“Volunteering at Peter Jones Special Event in 2018 was, without knowing, my first steps into my event career.  The first event I worked on was the Australian Motor Sports Hall of Fame.  To be honest I was a little overwhelmed and felt out of place as I had never worked on an event before.  I was greeted by the PSJE team with support, and the event producer and event coordinator were extremely friendly and welcomed my many questions.   

I guess you could say the rest is history. Peter offered me a full-time position as an Event Coordinator once I graduated from University and I have been now promoted to an Event Manager.   Without volunteering at PJSE, my career may well have gone in a totally different direction.    

There are many things I learnt from William Angliss, but nothing compares to actual event experience and putting everything you have learnt into action.”

Being totally honest, we won’t see a full recovery until the second half of 2021 and that will be influenced by both the ability to travel and the ability to meet safely in large numbers.  Of course, a vaccine will no doubt be critical but we cannot rely on this for the instant fix.   So, with this in mind I am asking everyone reading this article to help in a way that I know many of you will be in a position to do. 

If you have never helped a student with a real and ongoing event management experience, now is the time to start.  It’s really not that hard and extremely rewarding.   If you have been doing this, please keep going and don’t just say its too hard. 

One of the more interesting facts to come out of COVID-19 has been the increase in pet adoptions.  Let’s take the same principle and apply it to the next generation of event workers who need our assistance now more than ever.  #AdoptAStudent.  And unlike puppies, you don’t have to take them home and feed them – unless you want to of course!

This is something we can all do to help ensure the future of our industry because if we lose the next generation, the impact will be felt from years to come!”