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Thursday 15 May 2014

Qualifications or experience? Which is more valuable?

Matt Bunday, Associate Lecturer in Events, took part in the International Confex panel to discuss the value of event management degrees to employers.

I recently had the great privilege of sitting on a panel of International Confex, a large event management trade show in London. The purpose of the panel was to discuss what employers deem the value of an event management degree to be within the industry.

The title of the debate was ‘Academia meets industry to address the “real industry” from the ground upwards’. I was asked to sit on this due to my mixture of academic work and running an events business which allowed me to see things from both sides.

During the events conference

I found the panel very stimulating from an academic perspective and also a lot of fun. The makeup of the audience was always going to determine how interactive and exciting the event would be and we were not let down.

The room was packed with students, academics and course heads from around the country, as well as industry leaders in the event world. This led to some very energising discussions.

It was particularly exhilarating to discover that myself and Glenn Bowdin (head of the UK centre for events management at Leeds Met) were really trying to change the minds of some employers who question how well an events degree prepares a graduate for an industry where deadline extensions and simple mistakes can be very costly or aren’t even considered an option.

I tried to take a moment to make note of where I was. I was sitting on a panel with representatives from the best of both worlds who really knew their stuff and were considered industry leaders.

However, I was able to contribute to the debate and was keen to stress how event courses were particularly good opportunities for students to gain practical experience before they enter the industry.

I also addressed how Solent prioritises motivation and professional integrity for our students and how we strive hard to prepare them for an industry where you are only as good as your last job and where your professional reputation is half the battle.

By the end of the conference, it was clear that there is still a question mark over whether employers’ needs and expectations are matched fully by the skills that a graduate has after doing an event management course.

The debate is ongoing and I believe there will continue to be follow-up discussions and further panels. I do feel that some good building blocks may well have been laid that day…

What happens in the next 12 months and at future trade shows could potentially be very interesting as this concept gets explored more. I feel very humble to have been there at this crucial time and to have had the chance to influence this debate.