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The Trade Show Industry Focuses on Workforce Development; Organizations Share Their Ongoing Efforts

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CHICAGO — Workforce development, including attracting and retaining professionals, has been an increasingly talked about priority for the trade show industry. As well-established professionals begin to retire, and event attendees and exhibit managers get younger, organizations are looking for ways to attract the next generation of talent to their ranks.

The trade show industry generates more than $1 trillion of economic impact globally each year, and with the industry continuing to grow and help foster businesses, that impact is expected to increase.

Trade Show Executive checked in with leading organizations to find out what they’re doing to attract the next generation of talent to the trade show industry.

International Association of Exhibitions and Events (IAEE)

IAEE has been working on workforce development behind the scenes for more than 12 years, and now it is updating the Hospitality, Tourism and Events competency model based on a post-COVID job analysis project.

The model “identifies the knowledge, skills and abilities that provide a foundation for industry workers, as well as competencies specific to key sectors,” according to the competency model’s website.

As the government now recognizes the organizer-side of the industry as a true profession, it’s important to have updated information that gets filtered down to career counselors.

“As part of the Exhibitions Industry Collective, we will be exhibiting during the SkillsUSA event in June,” said IAEE President and CEO Marsha Flanagan, M.Ed., CEM. “This event is the largest gathering of America’s future skilled workforce, attracting more than 16,000 attendees, including students, instructors, industry partners, government officials, administrators and more. We well create sell sheets and more for the students and have worked with DECA in the past.”

IAEE also has opened its membership and annual Expo! Expo! event for students, and the association created an institutional educational membership and has more than 650 student members. Additionally, all students and faculty can attend Expo! Expo! for free, and IAEE has worked with the Events Industry Council and host cities to bring high school students to increase industry awareness.


The next generation of workers is embracing more progressive work environments, according to Forbes, which includes organizations that embrace diversity, communicate transparently and provide work-life balance.

In line with those demands, RX is focused on fostering its global culture of prioritizing diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging (DEI&B).

Kurt Gamauf, Vice President of HR at RX emphasized the significance of fostering an inclusive culture, stating, “At RX, fostering an inclusive culture is foundational to our mission. We prioritize inclusion, diversity and belonging, understanding their significance to the next generation of talent. Through partnerships with organizations like Women in Exhibitions, myGwork, and the BYP Network, we actively pursue our inclusion goals and cultivate a diverse workplace. These partnerships extend beyond mere collaboration; they provide avenues for us to showcase our commitment to the event industry and attract diverse talent through job listings, newsletters, mentorship programs and events.”

RX knows that the next generation of talent looks for companies that have values that align with their own, with a major one being sustainability. The company prioritizes sustainability and addressing climate change, and its pledge to achieve net zero by 2040 underscores that commitment. RX is also part of the Net Zero Carbon Events initiative.

“Innovation is central to our approach at RX. We continuously seek new ways to enhance the event experience and drive positive change within the industry. Our commitment to being at the forefront of innovation is evident in initiatives like our summer internship program, which offers students hands-on experience in the dynamic world of events,” Gamauf said.

“Additionally, the program provides the ability to engage in a variety of experiences over a short period of time to get a well-rounded view of who we are and what we do at RX. We typically offer this opportunity to 10 students per year, each assigned to different functions, such as sales, marketing, operations, etc., but also working together on a cross-functional group project that they present to our senior leaders at the end of their internship,” Gamauf said. “The program has allowed us to build a strong pipeline of talent and is becoming increasingly important as a source of full-time hires and next generation leaders for our business.”


Emerald is focusing on exposing individuals to the trade show and exhibition industry who may not have discovered it otherwise through its partnerships and initiatives.

The Associate Rotational Program at Emerald annually welcomes new talent to the company with competitive pay. Participants in the program get to experience different roles in the industry, with many landing permanent positions due to the program’s success.

“We are excited to continue Emerald’s partnership with OneTen, an organization dedicated to creating career opportunities for Black individuals without four-year college degrees,” said Ren Akinci, Emerald’s Executive Vice President, People & Culture. “At Emerald, we are deeply committed to building a diverse and inclusive workforce that focuses on skills, passion, and potential rather than just traditional credentials.

“As part of this partnership, Emerald is committed to advancing initiatives that significantly increase the hiring of Black talent into family-sustaining jobs that do not require a college degree. Our goal is not just to meet quotas, but to drive meaningful change and contribute to a more equitable society.”

Related. National Hardware Show Grows Exhibit Space, Offers New Features in 2024

Society of Independent Show Organizers (SISO)

SISO understands the importance of attracting the next generation of industry professionals and leaders for its members.

Macy Fecto, Chief People Officer at Access Intelligence, also suggests that organizers and other organizations in the industry develop partnerships with local schools to raise awareness about the companies and events industry in general.

“Attend career fairs, fund internship programs and promote the industry on social media. Do video testimonials and ‘a day in the life’ excerpts on social media and websites to promote an inside view of what we do. Many SISO member companies are active in this way and promote our industry with these efforts,” Fecto said.

Janice Rogers, Corporate Vice President, Human Resources and ESG at Diversified Communications, explained that the next generation of workers is still interested in hybrid work arrangements.

“Early career professionals in the events industry are looking for growth opportunities, flexibility and companies that give back to their communities. They are particularly interested in how companies are addressing diversity, equity and inclusion, and sustainability in the workplace and in their events. The events industry is well positioned to be able to address all of these areas,” Rogers said.

Exhibition Services and Contractors Association (ESCA)

ESCA is a member of the Exhibitions Industry Collective, and as such will be at SkillsUSA’s National Leadership and Skills Conference, which is the U.S.’ largest showcase of skilled trades.

“The event is a pivotal platform for students preparing for careers in trade, technical and skilled service occupations, drawing thousands from across the nation,” said ESCA Executive Director Julie Kagy, CEM. “The Exhibitions Industry Collective is hosting a Future Workforce booth at the event. The booth is part of our efforts to engage with and inspire the next generation of talent entering our industry.”

Exhibitions and Conferences Alliance

The Exhibitions & Conferences Alliance (ECA) is actively engaged in addressing the skilled workforce shortage in the business events industry, which includes conferences, trade shows and exhibitions,” said Hervé Sedky, Emerald Holding Inc. President and Chief Executive Officer and Chair of the ECA Board of Directors. “This industry plays a vital role in driving economic growth, supporting job creation and empowering small businesses across the United States. However, the industry faced significant challenges during the pandemic, with 2.8 million workers furloughed or laid off, and only 2.5 million returning. To combat this, the ECA is working with Congress to expand skills-based workforce development opportunities.”

Experiential Designers and Producers Association (EDPA)

The EDPA is working on several Future Workforce (FW) initiatives in 2024, which include production of comprehensive engagement kits for chapter and member WF activities, production of additional banner stand resources, development of a system and one-location management for FW resources (management and distribution) and more. EDPA also has engagements planned for 2024 at educational institutions, job fairs, conferences and associations.

The FW landing page is being enhanced, and includes information on the FW group. The group is working to build strong relationships with administrators and faculty to bring more awareness of the events industry through partnerships with high schools, trade schools, colleges and universities, and alumni and veterans’ groups and associations.

The EDPA also identifies bright, young talent in the industry who are leaders in their disciplines in its Future Leaders group. The EDPA provides opportunities to the Future Leaders to grow professionally and get more involved in shaping the industry. The recognition also includes the EDPA’s annual awards, exclusive networking and educational events, and access to more tools and resources, like executive leadership.

Reach Marsha Flanagan at; Hervé Sedky at

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