The cultural and events industry was affected and changed in various ways by the Covid-19 pandemic. During the current recovery phase of the events market, scheduled and backlogged events are starting up again on a widespread basis, making 2022 a successful year in terms of ticket sales. However, the live events that are now returning are only revealing how permanently the industry has been affected. The much-described shortage of event technology professionals in the process is described by event companies as particularly problematic. The impact of the pandemic has made staff shortages a key challenge across all sectors, from cultural events to trade fairs and business events.
To get to the bottom of the problem in more detail, it is important to consider that the shortage of skilled workers was already a problem before the pandemic. The staff shortage is essentially fed by a lack of trainees and the simultaneous migration of existing technical staff to other sectors. These were already caused before the pandemic, especially by dissatisfaction with employment conditions. The effects of the pandemic are therefore not the cause, but rather acted as a catalyst for the current challenges.
In general, event technology includes the technical planning and implementation of events in the live entertainment sector (e.g. concerts, festivals, trade fairs) as well as TV recordings or streaming transmissions. Since the live entertainment industry is particularly affected by the lack of skilled workers, it is the focus of the following analysis.
Demographic change exacerbates staff shortages
The number of skilled workers in technical areas such as theatre stage technology, lighting, stage, carpentry, etc. is decreasing; while in 2019 there were still just under 200 unfilled positions in theatre technology alone, this number will continue to rise to a need for over 2,500 positions by 2030 (FAZ, 2019; Deutschlandfunk, 2020). The DTHG forecasts a long-term need for over 2,500 jobs in event technology by 2030. However, not only theatres, but also concert, festival and other live event organisers are noting a glaring shortage of staff (Event Partner, 2022). A survey conducted by the EITW in 2021 revealed that over 70% of event centres are currently looking for technical specialists (EITW, 2022).
In addition to the already existing shortage of skilled workers, many qualified, experienced event technicians will retire in the coming years. This means that the industry will lose a base that cannot be replaced so quickly. Almost 50% of event technicians with a master's degree will leave their jobs in the next few years (Deutschlandfunk, 2019). This bottleneck is further exacerbated by the declining number of new trainees (Event Partner, 2022). The impact of a lack of event technical masters on the event market is particularly evident here, as certain events may not legally be held without the presence of technical staff with a master's degree according to VStVO (IHK Bonn, 2019).
The causes of the shortage of skilled workers are only partly pandemic-related
When searching for the causes of the shortage of event technology specialists, different factors can be identified: The lack of trainees as well as migration to neighbouring to non-industry sectors - reinforced by the consequences of the pandemic.
First of all, the lack of trainees, which has already been mentioned, is a basis for the fact that the employment density in the event industry is decreasing. The Federal Employment Agency has recorded a 16.5% decline in applicants for the apprenticeship occupation "event technology specialist" in 2021 compared to the previous year (Prolight + Sound, 2022). According to the BMBF, the number of newly concluded training contracts in the event occupations (event technology specialist and event management assistant) has also decreased by 36.7% since 2019 (BMBF, 2021).
Another factor in the shortage of skilled workers in the live event industry is the high rate of migration out of the industry. This was already a problem before the pandemic. This is largely caused by the employment and working conditions: Especially in the (music) theatre and concert/festival industry, many employees complain about the working conditions and the low pay of professional staff compared to competing industries. In addition, severely limited career opportunities, a lack of social security and insecure contracts with self-employed workers are reasons for a high decline in professional staff. In addition, the facilities of theatres, opera houses and concert halls, some of which are in need of renovation, make it difficult to retain and recruit staff.
The exodus of technical staff resulting from these reasons is subdivided into neighbouring sectors such as the entertainment media or, for example, the construction industry. While on the one hand the pay is sometimes more attractive, new fields of employment such as the construction industry offer technical staff significantly better employment conditions. Former event technicians are offered, among other things, free weekends, better pay, faster promotion opportunities and long-term contracts. (FAZ, 2019; Event Partner, 2015)
The migration effects have been exacerbated by the corona pandemic. In particular, workers without long-term employment contracts have increasingly left the sector during this period. Mini-jobbers, students and employees in part-time and on-call employment have repositioned themselves, as they were not able to claim loss-of-job subsidies or short-time allowances during the pandemic.
First solutions lie in the development of new working time models and stronger promotion of young workers
In a public letter, almost 50 event companies and festival organisers warn of the consequences of the staff shortage in the live industry, which has been exacerbated by the pandemic; they present possible measures from the employer's point of view to reactivate old staff, retain existing staff and recruit new ones (Deutschlandfunk, 2019). The DTHG also initiated a working group on the shortage of skilled workers in the theatre industry to develop counterstrategies and measures (FAZ, 2019). A recent survey of event organisers shows that the most important starting points for solving the staff shortage are seen in the development of new working time models (approx. 80%) as well as in a stronger promotion of young talent (approx. 60%) (EITW, 2022).
As an experienced partner, actori supports event companies in the development of customised solution strategies for the personnel shortage situation described. For example, in our joint project with Tourismus & Events Ludwigsburg, in the evaluation of the business model for event technology, we worked on finding an economic and long-term sustainable solution for staff shortages in the technical sector.
A contribution from Joshua Neumann, alumnus.