Event apprenticeships: get with the programme!

The government has approved the first Event Management Apprenticeship (EMA) programme, aimed at giving a structured route into the industry and an alternative to the university degrees in Event Management.

The initiative follows work by the government’s Trailblazers organisation in partnership with leading event agencies in the UK, associations and apprenticeship bodies and training providers.

The new programme is positioned at Level 3, broadly equating to A-levels, and is open to UK residents aged 16 and over. It is positioned to be relevant across event management companies, third party agencies, venues, hotels and other businesses within the events supply chain.

The FIRST agency, instrumental in getting the scheme up and running, announced the first apprenticeship employee onto the scheme at its London office in February, while the first training provider for the apprenticeship scheme, Realise, is ready to accept its first intake.

David Preston, who was part of the development team for the apprenticeship standard, runs Realise, together with industry trainer Richard John. He says the team will support event apprentices with an 18-month programme and are ready to receive the first intake. “The syllabus is a combination of structured workplace learning and assessment, supported by a blended learning programme of online development and attending specialist workshops. The material is designed to give a practical grounding for a career in event management that is designed to lead to an ongoing job upon completion,” says Preston.

The Event Assistant apprenticeship programme was 5+ years in the making, Preston notes, but has now been fully approved by government for deployment.

The ‘Standard’ as it is referred to, defines the skills, knowledge and behaviours an apprentice will gain over the 18-month period.

It is a formal learning programme, that gives an alternative route into our industry and is a combination of workplace learning, online learning and face2face workshops, which have all been written by the team at Realise and which can be accessed via their Learning Management System, realiselearning.me.uk

For apprentices, the programme offers the benefit of earning while learning. And, with the government funding the training and development element, it also means avoiding the burden of student loans.

Employers’ opportunity

For employers, there can be no complaint that the training isn’t relevant, as they have been integral in designing the new Standard. And, with companies now paying an Apprenticeship Levy of 0.5% on payrolls that exceed £3m annually, the incentive to take on an event apprentice becomes far more compelling.

The event apprenticeships are, initially, for an entry level events person – Level 3 – with higher level apprentice standards being developed for the future.

“Each apprentice must be registered with a government authorised training provider (such as Realise), where they must execute at least 20% of their employed hours on workplace learning. In other words, a structured learning environment where they ‘earn as they learn’,” Riches explains further.

He continues: “The government’s Trailblazer Apprenticeship Scheme will contribute £9,000 from 1 May to the structured learning mentioned above, and employers can access additional funding for specific situations; such as employing younger people or those from disadvantaged groups.

“The Industry’s Apprenticeship Group which I chair has developed the standard and is in the process of developing an industry website dedicated to all things apprenticeship related – the source of all info and signposting. It will launch in April.

“A new partnership with The Prince’s Trust that will connect young people via the Trust to employers; in other words an apprenticeship recruitment process.”

Use it or lose it

And, on the apprenticeship levy, Riches notes: “If you don’t employ apprentices you will not be able to access this ‘pot’.” Use it or lose would seem to be the message.

“As this apprenticeship is new to our industry, much of the work at present is around awareness across our industry to get organisations interested in taking on an apprentice. So far we have 24 expressions of interest from organisations as diverse as event agencies, associations, hotels and venues. Most are now going through the internal approval process and are looking to take on 33 apprentices in the next few months.”

Riches’ own agency was the first to employ a young woman onto the programme with Dale Parmenter of drp Group, hot on his heels, currently interviewing for an apprentice. Alex Keeling of SWM Partners is also actively interviewing.

Riches’ intention is to get 25 apprentices every quarter running through the programme and says there are already 45 CVs submitted from across the country. The advice must be: check out the Event Assistant Apprenticeship scheme.


Any employer can now take on an Event Management Apprentice, Mark Riches MD of FIRST says, pointing out that salary levels for this person would be:

• Under 18; £4.00ph

• 18-20; £5.55ph

• Over 21; £6.95ph

The recommendation from Riches, however, is that employers in the capital offer the London Living Wage of £9.15ph, although he acknowledges some charity organisations are interested in the ability to employ an entry level apprentice at the lower hourly amounts.

• The apprentice is a full-time employee, not a freelancer

• They must be treated like all other employees and included in performance reviews, team meetings and ultimately client meetings.

• The programme requires 20% of their time to be off the job learning

• The Standard is OFSTED inspected

• The programme has been designed by the events industry, for the events industry.

Paul Colston


Paul Colston

Managing Editor, Conference News & Conference & Meetings World.

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