Many sectors of the meetings and hospitality industries are facing a disconcerting labor shortage that could slow a successful recovery. It's now more important than ever to recruit the next generation. The following programs and partnerships are doing just that by showing students the variety of career opportunities the events industry has to offer.
Daring to Dream About Sporting Events
Launched in 1998, the annual TEAMS Conference and Expo — Travel, Events And Management in Sports — brings together leaders from the sports-event industry, including sports commissions, event managers and CEOs of sports organizations. The event isn't just for professionals, though. The TEAMS Conference Ambassador Program introduces dozens of university students across the country to the sports-event industry. A part of the TEAMS Conference since its inception, the program, which is administered by Professor Lisa Delpy Neirotti of The George Washington University, shows students that one needn't be an athlete to have a career in sports.
"The reality is the vast majority of opportunities in the sports industry have nothing to do with being a high-level competitor — they have to do with the jobs behind the scenes," says Timothy Schneider, founder and chair of the Sports Division of Northstar Meetings Group.
In addition to the ambassador program, this year's TEAMS Conference will also feature the Dare to Dream Experience. Created by Diane McGraw in 2004, Dare to Dream allows high school and college students to explore career paths in sports, hospitality and entertainment. While the TEAMS Conference Ambassador Program brings in students from around the country, Dare to Dream is recruiting students that are local to Atlantic City, where TEAMS is taking place in September.
Dare to Dream is recruiting 200 local high school and college students for the event, and a few dozen additional college students will attend as part of the TEAMS Ambassador Program.
"The exciting part for us is being able to reach young people who we know have a built-in interest in being in sports, but who may not have the tools or the understanding they need to see that there are a multitude of career opportunities related to sports," Schneider explains.
Connecting Students With Industry Pros
The TEAMS partnership is just one component of The Dare to Dream Experience. Diane McGraw's team also puts on an annual event called Dare to Dream Live. Formerly hosted on college campuses, the next Dare to Dream Live will be held virtually in January 2022, to make it more accessible to attendees. Since its inaugural event in 2004, 3,000 students have participated in the program. Panelists at the next Dare to Dream Live include professionals from ESPN, Caesars Entertainment, Hulu and Saturday Night Live.
"We're trying to give high school kids the information of what jobs are out there, and what programs are offered at what schools," says Dare to Dream founder McGraw. "For the college students, we're introducing them to the industry for internships and jobs." McGraw, currently president of McGraw Productions, knows the industry better than most: She was formerly president of the Los Angeles Sports and Entertainment Commission, president of the Orlando Sports Commission, president of Louisville Sports Commission and executive director of the Philadelphia Sports Congress.
Many meetings-industry professional organizations have their own programs for students — though primarily at the university level. The Professional Convention Management Association, for instance, has student chapters and offers free student memberships. These chapters receive scholarships and mentorship opportunities, as well as access to PCMA’s membership directory, webinars and career center.
Putting Events on the Curriculum
Fortunately, opportunities to gain real-world experience are also on the rise on university syllabi. "In the time that we’ve been organizing TEAMS," notes Schneider, "there’s been a real proliferation of college programs, both undergraduate and graduate, focusing on sports marketing and management."
Storied programs such as the Jonathan M. Tisch Center of Hospitality at New York University also have intensified the focus on general events experience. Undergraduate degrees in event management, hospitality management, and travel and tourism management have been offered there for more than two decades, but a master's degree in event management was introduced in 2019. Master's students must work in the industry as part of that curriculum.
"It's very much focused on getting our students face time with professionals and not just learning from a textbook," explains Dr. Lynn Minnaert, academic director and clinical associate professor at NYU's Tisch Center of Hospitality.
Such opportunities became scarce during the pandemic but they are making a comeback. "Now we might have more internship offers than we have students," says Minnaert. "It's incredible the way the industry is roaring back here."