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Why will designations matter in a post-covid world?

Over the last several years, many of the associations active in the events industry have been working to develop professional designations that recognise the skill and competence of individuals working in their sector.

It's a process that started in 2013 when SACIA developed their designations that recognised the competence of audio-visual technicians and applied for recognition from the South African Qualifications Authority so that individuals holding the designation would be formally recognised. SAQA recognised the Association in February 2015, and since then, more than 100 AV technicians have earned the Certified AV Professional designation based on a process that reviews their education, work experience, and work ethic. Candidates wanting to earn a designation are also required to write an examination and present a portfolio of evidence supporting their claim of competence.

Shortly after, the TPSA was reconstituted as a special interest group within SACIA, and the newly-elected Council set about developing a range of designations that were relevant to a broader range of event technicians, including lighting designers, event riggers, sound engineers, stage managers and project managers. These designations proved popular amongst the freelance community, many of whom lacked any formal qualifications relating to their craft and appreciated the designation's formal recognition.

At the same time, SACIA's Event Safety Council developed several designations for event safety practitioners that specifically addressed the safety needs of the events industry. Until then, the only formal recognition for safety officers had been provided by associations working in the construction industry, but these addressed an altogether different working environment and were not relevant.

Alongside the work being done by SACIA, a partnership between SAACI, EXSA and the International Festival & Events Association (IFEA) had led to the establishment of the Council of Event Professionals Africa (CEPA), which was working to establish designations in event management. After working as a stand-alone body for several years, CEPA was also reconstituted as a special interest group within SACIA. In 2019, new professional designations were registered with SAQA and today, 11 different designations recognise the skill and competence of industry professionals working in the events industry at various levels of competence.

Whilst all of these designations were relevant in previous years, the need for industry professionals to hold a designation in a post-COVID world makes them even more appealing to both employed persons and freelancers working in the sector. A new generation of event companies will certainly spring up as we return to work, and a new generation of freelancers will offer their services. They'll all claim to be expert practitioners who've honed their craft over several years, and indeed, many of them will have done so. But there'll be even more who'll claim a competence they simply don't have.

As the events industry strives to embrace a commitment to professional standards, it simply makes sense to encourage individuals to earn a professional designation that recognises their knowledge and expertise. Designated individuals hold themselves to a higher standard of business, ethics and continuing professional development. These are undoubtedly the people you want to work with as we recover from the devastation of this COVID pandemic.

by Kevan Jones (SACIA) for SA Events Council

Kevan Jones is the Executive Director of SACIA. He holds a MA degree from Regents University London School of Psychology and the CAE designation for proven competence in Association Leadership.

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