When the National MICE competition was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Associate Professor Eunice Yoo decided to organise an ‘SIT edition’ of the competition for her then Year 2 students in the Hospitality Business (HB) programme. Although it was a class assignment, the competition was no walk in the park.
At the invitation of A/Prof Eunice Yoo, the Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA) agreed to participate as an industry collaborator in an ‘SIT edition’ of the MICE competition by incorporating the event planning of PCMA’s prospective flagship event – Convening APAC 2022. PCMA was previously involved in ‘Professors for a Day’ and therefore familiar with SIT’s efforts to involve industry in classroom teaching.
Sink or Swim
The students were excited about the opportunity, but also felt intimidated about being assessed by industry professionals, especially a well-known organisation like PCMA. After getting the brief directly from their ‘client’, they immediately hit the ground running. Their assignment? To create an event from scratch.
A Chaotic Start
While the teams were not short on ideas, they faced challenges turning their creative ideas into executable plans.
Now in Year 3, HB student Cecilia Lim said, “Our brainstorming was quite haphazard because we had to figure out the approach we wanted. It was only after we decided on the theme that we could focus on detailed planning and using a systematic approach to develop our ideas.”
Another team started out with extensive research on past PCMA events.
Team member Dillon Hon said, “We spent a lot of time studying concepts, schedules, and itineraries. Then, we went around in circles brainstorming on how to create an eye-catching and informative event. It was only when we worked backwards – by nailing down the items, equipment, and mini-events we wanted – that we could decide on making ours a technology-based event.”
Similarly, Mervin Ho’s team focused on the end goal. “Our strategy was to look at successful online models such as social networks and gaming, where they are often able to nurture very active communities,” he said.
Training for the Real World
While A/Prof Yoo gave the teams guidance along the way, students were largely expected to work out the details on their own. After all, that is how it works in the real world. Fortunately, the students proved their mettle by rising to the occasion.
Student Benson Tan said, “I used the ‘healthy pressure’ to boost my confidence when I pitched our ideas to the ‘client’. Ultimately, it was a great opportunity to showcase our creativity and helped us understand the expectations of industry professionals.”
Meanwhile, team member Kellyn Ng saw how having a cohesive group contributes to success. “Competitions like this is a great platform for students to apply their creativity and classroom knowledge,” she said.
Proud moment for the top team in the competition.
A Surprising Offer
Midway through the project, PCMA contacted A/Prof Yoo with a generous offer. The organisation’s representatives were so impressed by the students’ efforts that they decided to sponsor scholarship prizes worth approximately $15,000 to the top teams.
The competition also helped SIT cement a closer partnership with PCMA. After the competition, PCMA took in its first SIT student for Integrated Work Study Programme (IWSP) in 2021. Furthermore, the organisation also committed to be part of SIT’s Industry Attachment in 2022 and are accepting students for their IWSP this year.
Ms Florence Chua, Managing Director, APAC, PCMA said, “PCMA is committed to building the talent pool for the business events sector by providing complimentary membership for students, and a reduced rate for next-gen members. We actively support and collaborate with institutions such as SIT to deepen students’ interest and understanding of the industry and profession. The pandemic has accelerated digitalisation in the business events sector, and we have seen younger talents rise to the challenges and opportunities brought by the pandemic and created much stronger value proposition for themselves in their organisations. Because of the ongoing volatility and changes, students need to embrace a growth mindset to keep up in knowledge areas like digital skills, audience engagement, risk planning and business innovation. Besides hard skills, the soft skills of critical thinking, adaptability, and learning are key assets for their professional development.”
A/Prof Yoo and PCMA representatives with the winning teams.
It is not the first time that SIT students' ability and willingness to adapt has made them industry-ready even before they graduate
The Importance of Mindset Training
A/Prof Yoo explained, “Students tend to have a change of mindset and become more focused when industry is involved. It becomes less of a school assignment and feels much more like a scenario that they would encounter in a work environment.”
To her, the SITizen-DNA ‘Able to learn, unlearn and relearn’ is not just a catchphrase. It is a practical mindset to cultivate in students. When they enter the workforce, they will encounter work scenarios that require them to adapt quickly. It is important for students to adopt this mindset early, so that it becomes second nature by the time they are ready to graduate.
A/Prof Yoo said, “I don’t spoon feed my students. In my classes, they must learn to decipher the brief points I give them. Students must plough through industry reports and figure out what they need to know as a future professional, and more importantly, what they need to do to fill the knowledge gaps.”
For example, this competition made the students realise that they need to work on understanding the financial aspects of planning an event.
Realities in a Post-pandemic World
“When graduates start out, there are many aspects of a job that they must figure out on their own. They must be streetwise, learn to think on their feet, figure out what information is important, learn where to get it from, identify the people who can help, use interpersonal skills to gather information, and so on,” A/Prof Yoo said.
As future professionals, students must learn to be nimble in a fast-changing landscape. The industry has had to transform because of the pandemic. Students must be familiar with the digital aspects of event delivery, hybrid events, video production, and so on. More importantly, they must learn to be resilient as they will face different setbacks and challenges.
A/Prof Yoo offers this advice, “When you have a growth mindset, it is easier to treat risk-taking as learning opportunities.”
For student Dillon Hon, the HB programme has changed the way he sees the industry. He said, “This programme creates a dynamic student experience from start to finish. I would recommend this course to budding hospitality professionals looking to challenge themselves at every turn while having fun in the process!”
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