After a quiet two years on the events, hospitality and tourism fronts, an experience-driven, diversity, equity and inclusion-devoted (DEI) next generation of talent is pouring through open doors, looking for opportunities to break into the industry.

Events, hotels, business travel and tourism are back in action, and industry leaders are creating ways to invest in fresh faces searching for their place in the professional world of hospitality and global tourism.

Tech companies are partnering with universities, and DMOs, global travel organizations and event agencies are onboarding prospective industry professionals to provide resources, skills and opportunities and to train the next generation of hospitality and events.

Events Is Taking Interns

WRG, a division of The Creative Engagement Group, opened applications in February for a 12-month paid internship specifically designed for those wanting to break into events, exhibitions and the world of experiences. Commencing this summer, Year ONE is built to give its students the skills they need to succeed.

In fact, anyone older than 18 can apply—no college or events experience required. When we asked Managing Director Tim Collett to elaborate on the significance of such a choice, he pointed to how the pandemic has left young talent disadvantaged in their careers: “Our industry saw a significant reduction of investment in new talent and coupled with the lack of available work experience opportunities for candidates, we felt it would be inappropriate to have a detailed list of prerequisites.”

Collett continued, “Our responsibility is to ensure we are encouraging and nurturing the talent who want to make this industry their home.” Collett also reports the organization has been receiving no shortage of applications.

Offering positions in both its U.K. offices and U.S. office in Philadelphia, leaders at WRG are searching for new talent that can bring “soft skills” to the table on day one: curiosity, eagerness, communication, organization, energy, confidence to pitch new ideas and an innovative mindset versed in DEI awareness. “Being able to put forward fresh ideas from different perspectives is vital to ensure innovation and inclusion,” said Collett.

Read MoreWhat Meeting Profs Get Wrong About DEI—and How to Start Fixing It

By the end of the internship, WRG wants to leave its students with knowledge of running product launches, public events, conferences, exhibitions, pop-up installations and incentive travel. While it has its specialty teams to train within—environments, events, technical production and delegate experience—WRG interns will get instruction in all of it. “Interns will have a fully rounded view of what it is like to work at an experiential agency,” said Collett.

Academic Access to Events and Hospitality Grows

Educational institutions like NYU and SDSU are leading the charge to bring access, opportunities and confident knowledge to young professionals emerging in hospitality, events and global tourism.

Investing in the Future

In February, New York University’s (NYU) School of Professional Studies Jonathan M. Tisch Center of Hospitality (Tisch Center) opened its Tisch Center Hospitality Innovation Hub (HI Hub), a million-dollar project born out of the desire to create a facility for undergraduate and graduate hospitality students to master the current technologies of the industry.

Lynn Minnaert, academic director and a clinical association professor at Tisch Center, helped develop the hospitality school’s master’s programs, including its MS in Event Management. Since 2019, NYU’s full academic event program has remained virtually unrivaled, with the exception of San Diego State University’s (SDSU) successful and sought-after master’s in meetings and events. NYU’s events program has even surpassed its hospitality program in interest and enrollment numbers, Minnaert reported, but both typically see 40-50 students each semester.

Minnaert shared with Smart Meetings that the events management program is focused on events and leaving students with knowledge “event professionals wish they had known when they started.”

“People don’t realize how vast the industry is…but the industry is vast, and it’s a whole new world—especially now,” Minnaert reflected. “Events touches every industry. It permeates everything—it’s everywhere,” she continued.

What really excites Minnaert is that NYU is “really bringing tech into the classroom with the people who created it,” and that allows students and professors freedom, and to “go beyond the ivory tower,” Minnaert said.

Carl H. Winston, founding director of SDSU’s L. Robert Payne School of Hospitality & Tourism Management, has spent the last 20 years developing resources for hospitality proteges on the SDSU campus and well beyond.

The SDSU Global Campus effort and programming serve to extend global access to hospitality and tourism skills and professional certifications internationally. SDSU’s School of Hospitality & Tourism Management (HTM) offers an HTM bachelor’s degree and four potential emphases within it, including hotel management and meetings and events.

As for its graduate programs, SDSU offers an HTM master’s degree and was the first university in North America to offer a master’s degree in meeting and event management, notes Winston.

Read MoreSmart Chat: Carl H. Winston

Teaching as a Team

Through collaboration with tech companies and global tourism resources, hospitality students at NYU are being offered opportunities unlike almost any other in the country. On March 4, Tisch Center launched a hospitality talent development initiative with RateGain, a travel and hospitality provider of “software as a service” (SaaS) solutions, which is to take full form in its new HI Hub. RateGain is also to become a founding member of the Tisch Center’s HI Hub, according to a company press release.

“Our students have a tremendous creative drive to contemplate, re-imagine and innovate hospitality solutions,” said Director of HI Hub Experiential Learning Lab, Vanja Bogicevic. Bogicevic expressed excitement over the opportunity for NYU’s students to “co-innovate the future of travel and hospitality business intelligence systems with RateGain.” Optima, Demand.AI and other award-winning intelligence tools will make their way into curricula.

Tisch Center has concurrently announced their collaboration with The Sigmund Project, an open-source platform for global travel and tourism. These two entities will work together through shared networks and programs to foster entrepreneurship and creative solutions for the global tourism industry in education.

D.C. Guides New Talent with DEI Standards

Spaces beckoning the next generation to the hospitality industry don’t stop at universities and private companies. The U.S. capital’s DMO, Destination DC (DDC), welcomed 14 fellows and two apprentices through Tourism Diversity Matters’ (TDM) Apprentice Program to the travel bureau’s DEI Business Fellowship program in February.

DDC President and CEO Elliott Ferguson, II, explained in a statement that the organization is committed to focusing on tourism support for small local business, as well as the image of the industry as young people enter it. “As we look at rebuilding the tourism and hospitality industry that has been severely impacted during the pandemic, we need to do so equitably,” said Ferguson.

“It’s a win-win for DDC to teach them about the travel and tourism industry while providing valuable, paid experiences that can help launch their careers.” Ferguson noted that this effort is especially important, as D.C. is currently experiencing a hospitality labor shortage of 21,000 jobs, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

TDM’s Apprenticeship Program designated two of its global tourism and hospitality apprentices to join DDC as their host organization and will learn the ropes of the industry through mentorship. When the apprentices complete the program, TDM helps to secure them with full-time positions in the field.

TDM President and CEO Mike Gamble considered this last aspect a crucial one, because “for this apprenticeship program to truly succeed, there must be career planning, ongoing mentorship, support from our industry partners and job placement at the end.”

Winston, who is also director of the Tourism Diversity Matters Board, found that leaders continue to seek non-industry-based soft skills when choosing from pools of applicants. “What are really required are so-called ‘soft skills’ like handling stress,” Winston commented in an interview with Smart Meetings. He went on to add grit, resilience and emotional intelligence to the list. Interpersonal awareness and a keen understanding of the need to diversify the industry through inclusion are key.

“Groups make better decisions when they’re diverse. I’m comfortable with my thinking; but if it’s just me, I’m going to miss something,” said Winston. “If you only have like-minded thinkers, you don’t get to the same level of discourse and outcome.”

DDC also provides scholarships and professional career experience to local college students through its nonprofit American Experience Foundation. The foundation has awarded 42 scholarships in the last eight years.

Looking to leaders and leading organizations to gauge the incoming generation’s interest in hospitality, it becomes clear that there is no slowing down prospective hospitality professionals, increasingly benefitting by investments the industry is making in rising young talent.