There is an underlying issue which is directly related to B-BBEE, and particularly to the Categories of Ownership and Management Control. The questions that needs to be asked (and addressed) are why are there so few non-white middle and senior managers in our industry – particularly among the organisers and service companies? Why does our industry not reflect the country’s demographics? Why cannot the industry retain skills and appeal as a career?

We all know about the very long hours worked throughout the sector; it has long been recognised that work in the sector regularly involves late night, early morning and extensive week-end schedules. How many of our potential managers and business owners move out of the sector, often to the Government sector, where employment offers long-term job security, regular hours, reasonable salaries etc.

Why after millions, if not billions of Rands having been invested in facilitating training and skills development by companies and through SDL levies, and after so many years (10 – 20) do we still have very significant skills and managerial shortages throughout our industry?

It cannot be denied that training and skills development is an area that requires focus. There is often no-time for training, which is inevitably then undertaken “on-the-job” and “on-the-go”. It is also possibly true that Small and Medium companies pay the SDL levy as if it is a tax, with little regard to what return on investment in training could be achieved. An attitude that perhaps has been reinforced with the very recent reduction in the Mandatory Grant refund being decreased from 50% to ‘only’ 20%. Training and Managerial Development does not involve a couple of days off work – the development is intensive, time consuming and expensive. Can Small (EME) and Medium (QSE’s) afford both the time and expense?

As an aside the 49.5% Discretionary grant, and the opportunity to claim back 100% on training through the Pivotal Training scheme need to be recognised [ based upon the Services SETA], and potentially applaud as a mechanism of assisting business and employees. The ‘proof of the pudding’, will be in how this will be implemented, and maybe more importantly how it is communicated to SDL payers. So far I have not received any communication from Services SETA in regard to this (nominated for the 2014 industry’s best kept secret?)

EXSA commenced with its own, albeit low level intervention, early in 2013 organising regular ‘management’ seminars and ‘Employee’ Health and Safety Workshops. Individuals in particular, Joy Donovan, Janet Landey and Helen Brewer CMP, have invested significant time and resources on behalf of the industry. When will ‘governmental’ structures realise that the production of reports, the formation of committees, the organising of workshops, engagement conferences are not ‘real’ outputs.

On the horizon, this year, the industry will possibly see the introduction of Professional Designations. This will be a major milestone deliverable, but it is happening despite governmental / SETA interventions.

Another indication of progress in the right direction is the joint intention by a number of industry Associations lead by SAACI, EXSA and IFEA, with TPSA, together forming CEP (Africa) [Council of Events Professionals Africa] as the envisaged Professional Body for the Events Industry to manage Professional Designations, and CPD (Continuing Professional Development). The industry must drive this initiative, not sit back and wait for ‘someone’ to do ‘something’.

NOTE: The views expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of SA Conference.