Lauren Arena
Jan 29, 2018

How did your education prepare you for a career in events?

SACEOS and PCMA prove strong engagement initiatives can bridge the gap for students.

Students from Singapore Polytechnic Republic with lecturer Ceclia Ow
Students from Singapore Polytechnic Republic with lecturer Ceclia Ow

Education plays a critical role in engaging young talent, and initiatives like the Singapore MICE Challenge are paying dividends for students in the Lion City, who travelled to Nashville in January to attend PCMA’s Convening Leaders event.

Organised by SACEOS in partnership with the Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA), the Singapore MICE Challenge engages tertiary students majoring in business events, business management and hospitality and tourism to produce and present a competitive event proposal to industry leaders. The winning team is awarded with a sponsored trip to attend PCMA's annual event in North America.

“Since its first edition in 2015, the Singapore MICE Challenge has engaged more than 30 teams of students from more than 11 institutions,” SACEOS president Janet Tan-Collis said. “And this year, thanks to support from the PCMA Education Foundation, we sent not one, but two winning teams to Convening Leaders.”

Students from Singapore’s Institute of Technical Education and Polytechnic Republic presented two event concepts to promote inclusivity and raise awareness of Asia’s ageing populations, as well as the needs of young students with learning difficulties.

Marvin Chew, one of the winning students from the Institute of Technical Education, said the experience has opened his eyes to the world of business events.

“Coming from an institute that really battled against other student teams, we are considered the underdogs of the Singapore MICE Challenge, so the win meant a huge deal for us.

“We sacrificed our entire school holidays to work on this project so walking away as the victor was really wonderful. Opportunities have already opened up for us, like networking with other organisations and PCMA members,” he said.

Janet Tan-Collis speaking at Convening Leaders

At the event, Republic Polytechnic's Hannah Alkaff gave an impassioned presentation about a potential conference on learning difficulties before revealing that she was diagnosed with dyslexia as a child. 

Alkaff admitted she was surprised by the support she and her team received from the audience. "It was really nice to see so many people come and support us. It feels good, people care." 

She added: "We learn about [events] in school, but it's so different when you actually experience it and you understand a lot better. We were also invited to all the social events and encouraged to network. I don't know how to network, it’s not something I usually do, so as students, we’ve gotten a lot out of it."

For Tan-Collis, giving students the opportunity to engage with the industry on a global scale is fundamental in building advocacy.

“In Singapore, and across Asia, the business events industry is still not really understood in its full dynamism. Bringing the students to Convening Leaders to be part of the adult learning experience alongside some 4,500 international delegates will show them how varied and enriching the industry can be—and that it is indeed a highly professional industry.”

She added that SACEOS will continue to work with PCMA to expand its educational programmes. “As an industry we don’t do enough to keep information and awareness correct. It is incumbent on us—be it in universities or schools—to clarify the reality of the industry and the value it brings.

Echoing this, PCMA's newly appointed president and CEO, Sheriff Karamat, said education in the APAC region is a priority for the organisation.

“We understand the APAC region is very big and that we cant ‘boil the ocean’ in one go, but we understand how important education is for the region,” he said. “We’re certainly very, very serious about how address the needs of professional development and networking in Asia-Pacific.”

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