Singapore has an enviable problem. Its MICE market, the largest in Southeast Asia, has grown faster than schools can churn out trained staff. To help stem the tide, the city-state’s largest MICE entities are investing heavily in education and training. CEI Asia speaks to two industry stalwarts driving the charge.

Janet Tan-Collis

Janet Tan-Collis @ SACEOS

A year after Janet Tan-Collis became president in 2013, the Singapore Association of Convention and Exhibition Organisers and Suppliers (SACEOS) achieved a major milestone when it brought professional event courses with international accreditation to Singapore. Today she’s driving new initiatives.

World's largest industrial tech event comes to Asia
World's largest industrial tech event comes to Asia
Brands in action: Diageo China hosts Whisky Summit
Brands in action: Diageo China hosts Whisky Summit
Five golden rules to boost brain power
Five golden rules to boost brain power

What’s the number one challenge recruiters face in Singapore today?

Misconceptions about what our industry is all about. MICE gets mixed up with tourism, which we’re not; we’re a part of the business community.

I recently spoke to 200 students at one of Singapore’s most elite schools for very bright students and I was shocked about how little they knew about events. They were shocked too when I explained how big the industry is in dollar terms.

How are you approaching the problem?

One thing we are doing is engaging students at high school and university with a competition called the MICE Challenge. It challenges them to identify exhibitions and conferences that have not yet been put to market. The winners are taken overseas to convene with industry leaders.

We’ve also created an internship programme that gives students real opportunities to learn what the events industry is about. Every student enrolled in events courses in polytechnics or universities gets an internship at an exhibition centre, agency or DMC. If they don’t like what they’re doing, their school can help them find an alternative part of the industry instead of dropping out.

And these internships can lead to jobs?

Any student who has interned with a company for 18 months is offered a job even before they graduate. As a result, staff retention is much higher compared to students who come into the industry cold.

Singapore Expo Convention and Exhibition Centre

Michael Lim @ SingEx

As the Singapore Expo Convention and Exhibition Centre’s head of HR and IT, Michael Lim was uniquely placed to introduce Learning Journeys, a new technology giving staff the chance to up-skill and study for new qualifications using an app on their smartphones.

Where did the idea come from?

Many companies in industries such as telecommunications and manufacturing have done it. Motorola had its own university, but creating and delivering content was expensive then. Now with digital, we can deliver personalised and high-quality learning interventions that are scalable.

Will staff study during working hours?

Sometimes during office hours, other times on their own time or during ‘Lunch-to-Learn’ sessions. Learning Journeys offers learning on-demand so people can balance learning with their workload. They don’t have to be rushed into it.

Who built your app and who adds the content?

We reached out to vendors who have solutions in this area and stitched a couple of them together for the learning platform. As for the content, we can add our own or buy content from vendors who update and push out their content regularly.

Will there be some sort of help desk?

We won’t just plug them in and leave them. HR will offer guidance about the kind of e-learning they should take.

Why does everything have to be digital?

Digital is the preferred channel of engagement for millennials. But it’s not only for millennials. Digital offers experience and engagement for everyone; it’s pushing a lot of our initiatives right now.