How CTE Connects to #ewa24 in Las Vegas

What does career & technical education look like given the skilled labor needed to produce trade shows and conventions in Las Vegas – the destination for the 77th EWA National Seminar in May?

Photo credit: Kristan Obeng

What does career & technical education look like given the skilled labor needed to produce trade shows and conventions in Las Vegas – the destination for the 77th EWA National Seminar in May?

To answer this question, EWA’s Kristan Obeng went back to her roots covering the trade show industry, bringing old and new worlds together and creating a digital site visit for EWA members. 

This #ewa24 digital site visit features background and reporting tips from Gayle Wright, president of the Las Vegas chapter of Experiential Designers and Producers Association (EDPA), an international organization representing more than 300 companies across 18 countries.  She discusses CTE in the No. 1 trade show destination and elsewhere.

Are Nevada high schools and colleges producing the skilled workforce needed to keep the Las Vegas trade show industry running?

While Nevada’s high schools and colleges offer hospitality programs and trade schools that touch upon skills relevant to the trade show industry, there is a gap between the supply and demand of skilled workers. 

Students often diverge into broader hospitality and trade sectors. To address this, the EDPA has established the Future Workforce and Future Leaders Program and formed an Academic Partner Development Committee. This committee is actively seeking partnerships with educational institutions that can prepare students for specialized roles within our industry, highlighting the reciprocal benefits for all parties involved. 

Additionally, the Trades Committee is dedicated to raising awareness about the diverse opportunities within the trade show industry to various groups, including veterans and recent high school graduates. The EDPA Las Vegas chapter has prioritized this as a key initiative for 2024, working to forge local partnerships to bolster the workforce.

Are there high school and college pathway programs locally or around the country that help students find skilled jobs in the trade show industry? 

Pathway programs do exist, with Bemidji State University [in Minnesota] and [Fashion Institute of Technology in New York] participating in The EDPA University Affiliation Program. EDPA members, including volunteers from the Board of Directors and member companies, frequently interact with students from these universities and engage with them at industry events like ExhibitorLIVE. This involvement is vital in guiding students toward skilled positions within the trade show industry.

Which is more valued among overall trade show industry employees – getting an apprenticeship or securing a college degree to get the skills needed? Does the workforce see value in earning a college degree these days?

In the trade show industry, both apprenticeships and college degrees hold their value due to the diversity of roles and the need for a variety of skills. There is an undeniable need for skilled trade labor and in-depth industry knowledge, whether it comes through hands-on apprenticeship experience or academic education. Therefore, neither path is singularly more valuable than the other; both avenues contribute significantly to the industry’s talent pool.

What do you believe education reporters should be paying attention to when covering CTE in Nevada and elsewhere?

Education reporters should highlight the dynamic relationship between technical skills development and the evolving needs of the trade show industry. It’s essential to examine how educational programs are adapting to prepare students for the specific demands of the industry and the effectiveness of these programs in bridging the skills gap.

What tips do you have for reporters who want to better cover CTE and how it intersects with the trade show industry?

For education reporters attending the EWA’s annual conference in Las Vegas, it’s crucial to investigate how career and technical education aligns with the trade show industry’s needs. 

Tips include exploring successful local and national educational programs, analyzing the impact of industry partnerships on student readiness, and understanding the balance between traditional academic pathways and vocational training in producing industry-ready professionals.

Want to learn more about CTE and attend in-person site visits? Register for the 2024 National Seminar