Wednesday, September 12, 2018
Exhibitors at this year’s LiftEx have a duty to promote the industry to the next generation, says Steve Hutin, the managing director of Rope and Sling Specialists Ltd.
Under new stewardship, the Lifting Equipment Engineers Association (LEEA) will experiment with an education-centric second day to its annual LiftEx trade show this year—and I applaud the initiative.
The event, which takes place 14-15 November at Arena MK in Milton Keynes, UK, is always the subject of much debate with regards to its location, duration, demographic, purpose, and more. But using it to promote the industry to young adults and those completing education could give the show more reason than ever before.
LEEA is closely guarding the full details of the concept but industry is abuzz with talk about the possibility of college headteachers, careers advisors, and students walking the aisles on day two, visiting exhibitors and generally soaking up our fascinating sector. The association would have done its groundwork, no doubt, and I would imagine buy-in levels from the education community have been significant in order for them to proceed with the plan.
There’s certainly scope for it. LiftEx organisers have worked hard to better engage the end user community but it has largely remained a get-together for the trade. If the initiative to get buying decision makers into the aisles can ignite alongside a drive to whet the appetite of young people looking to choose science, technology, engineering, and maths (STEM) career paths, the event could be at the dawn of an exciting new era.
Add into the mix that LiftEx, now in its 14th year, aims to reduce risk, sustain, promote, and provide competitive positioning of the lifting industry and its members through networking and sharing knowledge. As LEEA says, It inspires, educates, and unites the industry through complimentary presentations, a packed exhibition floor, and an awards dinner—new this year. Newcomers will be incentivised by the opportunity to join over 1,000 industry professionals from a wide range of vertical markets, including rail; construction; renewable energy; civil engineering; entertainment; road and maritime transport; health and safety; utilities; and manufacturing.
LEEA and its organising partners can only do so much, however. As exhibitors and commercial backers—Rope and Sling is a gold sponsor this year—we’ve got to seize this opportunity to make sure we present the lifting industry as a good place to work, where young professionals are challenged and given the chance to put their skills and youthful exuberance to use. Think of the opportunity we’ll have in Milton Keynes. We’re already thinking of ways our exhibit and exhibition team can appeal to this demographic and other vendors should too.
I’ve blogged before about society’s shortcomings in encouraging young people to pursue practical careers. During the UK’s annual National Apprenticeship Week government, employers, and apprentices come together for five days of visits and events in an attempt to encourage more people to choose apprenticeships as a route to a great career. However, it’s just one week of the year. LiftEx has a chance to inspire the lifting gear sector to make it a focus all year round. Wouldn’t it be great if lecturers, careers advisors, and young people left the show with a plan to come back, not only to the show but to our industry?
We can make sure that happens by being prepared with questions—and answers—for people from the world of education. Cast one’s mind back to what was right and wrong about your first employer. How well equipped were they to nurture young talent? How does the company you work for now compare? Why should a young person consider a career in lifting? What can educators do to help? What information can we as a trade provide that better helps them promote it? What do they think of when we say ‘overhead crane’? Do they know what rigging is? And so on…
Our plans for the show are well advanced; we’ve got a 6m by 4m exhibit at Stand I2. Our commercial package includes strategic logo placement; digital and print advertisements; marketing at the MK Arena over the two days of the show; 2,000 branded water bottles distributed around the expo; and more. Visitors, including the aforementioned folks from the education sector, should look out for our new graphics, which are in the final stages of production even as I write. We’re increasing the number of staff we have at the event too, with four depot managers and the same number of additional members of staff joining Alan Varney, operations director, and I this year.
I always recommend exhibitors take something new to a show. We’ll unveil a 12-page brochure, for example, that outlines the breadth of our services. Nobody, least of all those from education, want to listen to sales pitches or sift through pages of self-serving, commercial literature. But it’s a good idea to have something that people can take away. Perhaps the varied nature of our business—we provide hire, sales, manufacture, testing and inspection, and other services—will appeal to those looking for a diverse, challenging environment in which to work.
It’s the first time I’ve blogged since we welcomed industry veteran Davey Walker as business development director (Scotland). Based at our Grangemouth site, he brings 44 years of experience to the role, most recently from leadership positions at Speedy Lifting and its acquired business Lloyds British Testing.
Davey has already opened dialogue with some high profile customers and I’m excited about the short- and long-term future. He has already proven the importance of people to a business, as do our longstanding members of staff at all six depots across the country every day.
See you in Milton Keynes—if not before.
Rope and Sling Specialists Ltd