Henrik von Arnold

Get serious about Education!

Henrik von Arnold

Just a couple of days ago I started my 11th year as teacher at the MODUL Private University in Vienna, Austria. Modul is a university owned by the Vienna Chamber of Commerce and Industry. The students are coming from all over Europe (quite many from the Eastern parts), China & Hong Kong China, and now and then someone from Middle East and United States.

They offer both Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees at the university. The focus for the Bachelor studies is Hotel Management & Hospitality, Event Management, Tourism Management, and Entrepreneurship. The Master’s covers the above areas plus Sustainable Development, Management and Policy, as well as some other subjects. It is quite costly to get an education at MODUL, and the number of students today are around 700.

I started teaching at an enrichment course, while team-leading the Stockholm Convention Bureau, in promotion for destinations with the purpose to attract international association business events (i.e. congresses, etc.). Now this course is incorporated in the full two (three)-years programme of Event Management, and I am doing the introduction course consisting of about 30 hours with me as teacher, and another 70 hours of self-studying and group assignments (bidding for an international association business event) for the students.

I really like to do this as a part of my “daily” life, and the students are mostly well motivated and are pretty active in discussions.

What strikes me when introducing the subject is the lack of even the slightest knowledge about the association and corporate business event world. Students/people grasp sporting events, cultural events, society events (open city festivals, religious events…) without hesitation, and can relate to them quite easily. Of course, it is even easier to grasp what a tourism and/or hotel management education can lead to.

About 30% of the 22 students I have are exchange students from other universities, and it seems they also miss the basic knowledge of this part of Event Management.

If we are such an important industry facilitating knowledge sharing and knowledge building, as well as political and cultural understanding, why don’t students know about this as a possible way for their future career?

It is not their fault. It is a responsibility of ours to start talking to educational entities around the world, to convince them that this is an important topic for education and an important task for the future development of a destination, a country or perhaps for “the world”. I know this subject has been raised before, for instance within the European Cities Marketing organisation, and yes, here and there universities and colleges integrate some kind of enrichment course into the tourism, hospitality & hotel management courses. More or less to be polite.

But the needs of our industries are not clear. What kind of knowledge do we need in the future? What skills should future event professionals have? Do we actually know ourselves? And again, I do not blame universities. This is a task for us. We must become better in “marketing” our needs and be ready to take our vulnerable time to educate and inform the younger generations. How else should they know about us, and how else can we influence them to take this path?

Or maybe this is not the way to go? Maybe we do not need young people, with partly another mind-set, having a basic understanding of our issues and our work? Maybe we are happy to just advertise for young staff, and then we take care of the education within the industry. Basic training and vocational training – delivered on a silver plate?

But do we really have the theoretical knowledge to do this? How can we make sure students actually continue after their Bachelor studies and Master’s Degrees, possibly become PhD students and start researching on human behaviour, finance, organisation structures, sustainability, marketing, etc.?

OK, organizing an event might not need an academic exam. Promoting a destination or managing a venue might be executed by trial and error (I did). But studying and getting an overview of the industry, the role-play between stakeholders, the effect of digitalization, how to manage human and financial resources in this context, sounds like a good idea, in my view.

Is it time to create task forces in countries or regions which think approximately five to ten years ahead, make an inventory of our needs, and then approach educational entities on different levels. Business event professionals could, for example, support these educational institutions in setting up the structure of the academic programmes and/or take their time to educate students – while getting paid for it – on the lovely world of business events.

Some days ago, Irina Graf (@themiceblog) raised her voice on Instagram with similar “worries” and ideas. Apparently there is an international conference in Bern, Switzerland in August next year to address current industry topics. Very interesting.

Is this a task for JMIC? Or ICCA? Or someone else? Could something happen after the gathering in Bern? But it is seldom the organisations who change the world. It is individuals with a drive and creative abilities who are behind changes.

Maybe I am breaking down an already unlocked door? I do know there are educational programmes in some countries. But is it enough, and are these educational programmes up to date, meeting our needs? And at the right level?

I’m very much open for further discussions on the topic, and I would be happy to be a part of a competent & committed task force. It is too important of a subject to be done just on the side.