Refining the Standards

What's next in the effort to better define meeting professionals within the Department of Labor? Benchmarking knowledge and skills with roles and responsibilities.

Thanks to advocates from within the meetings industry, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) now recognizes “meeting, convention, and event planners” as a standalone business sector, separate from lodging and tourism. Before 2015, meeting planners had appeared in the same sub-sector as lodging managers, restaurateurs, and dishwashers.

It’s a good start, according to Janet Sperstad, CMP, program director for the meeting and event management degree program at Madison Area Technical College in Madison, Wisconsin, who, along with Marsha Flanagan, vice president of learning experiences for the International Association of Exhibitions and Events (IAEE), spearheaded the initiative and, with others, consulted with the DOL on the changes.

One result has been that planners have used the new model to renegotiate their roles, resulting in reclassification and promotions with their human-resources departments. But Sperstad and Flanagan are setting their sights on adding even more clarity and definition of job roles to the model. “It’s still muddied,” Sperstad said. Part of the challenge is that meeting professionals work in very diverse contexts — everything from trade shows to incentives — and are distributed throughout almost every industry.

“The next best step is for us to really define the career hierarchy, creating benchmarks of job roles and responsibilities,” Sperstad said. “We really need to be able to tell a story, both within our profession and in the marketplace, about career opportunities and career-pathing,” with job titles linked to levels of job competencies and salaries.

Flanagan and Sperstad are embarking on a second stage of the initiative. They plan to use IAEE to illustrate how an industry organization can use the DOL model, officially titled the “Workforce Competency Model — Events Sector,” to help their members select professional-development opportunities and connect with employers and recruiters. And, as part of the initiative, industry practitioner data will be collected and used to benchmark knowledge, skill, and ability levels, linking them to job responsibilities and pay.

Barbara Palmer

Barbara Palmer is senior editor and director of digital content.