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chester zoo | recruitment in the attractions industry

Recruitment in the attractions industry – the trends, skills and challenges

Recruitment in the attractions industry covers a diverse range of roles.

But what skills and qualifications are most in demand and what recruitment challenges are most commonly faced?

For many, working in the attractions industry can be a dream come true. Whether it’s designing museums, feeding the tigers at the zoo, or building a theme park empire – there are an array of roles to fill in this diverse sector.

We surveyed a number of recruiters within the attractions industry. They spoke about the roles they try to fill, the skills they’re looking for and the challenges they face.

Roles in the attractions industry

Our survey found that the attractions industry is most often recruiting for:

  • Project managers
  • Engineers
  • Architects
  • Graphic Designers
  • Software developers
  • Sales roles
  • Business development managers
  • Graphics programmers
  • AV technicians
  • VR technicians
  • Data engineers and data scientists

It was noted in the survey that sales and software positions are hard to fill. So too are project manager and engineer jobs. One respondent pointed out that in many technical roles, potential candidates take higher paid jobs that do not offer the same benefits – such as work-life balance.

Skills – Relevant industry experience key

Holovis attractions technology jobs Recruitment in the attractions industry

The skill that came up time and time again was relevant industry experience. It is seen as a desirable skill to have but one of the hardest to find. One respondent said that it is difficult to find sales people with experience because, “there are so many great organisations in the industry and people tend to stay in one place a long time”.

Other desirable skills included strong communication and problem-solving, strong scheduling and organisational skills, flexibility, good attitude and adaptability. Some companies also pointed out the importance of engagement with the company mission and meeting the core values of the company.

“There are so many great organisations in the industry and people tend to stay in one place a long time.”

In addition, it was noted that IT skills are hard to find. Respondents mentioned desirable proficiencies included AutoCAD, Revit, Photoshop, SketchUp and project management software.

We asked respondents what they thought the most important skill will be in the future. Responses included computer engineering, emotional resilience, multitasking and people skills. Furthermore, many  noted the importance of adapting to technological advances, and staying on top of the latest trends in the industry.

Training & Qualifications

Key qualifications were very dependent on the exact role – but for technical roles a relevant Bachelor or Masters degree was desirable, along with 0-5 years of experience. For vocational roles, proven experience was deemed an absolute necessity. Membership to relevant associations, or certification in the relevant field, was also seen as a plus. 

Industry-specific training is also preferred or necessary, depending on the role. Respondents noted IAAPA accreditation, AZA, WWA, AAM, CIPD, CIM, CIMA, IT Cyber Security, Galaxy, C#, C++, Unity and ASTM certifications.

And what about if you’re looking to get additional training? Our respondents suggested looking to develop skills around communication, project management, management, presentation and typing.

Technical skills worth developing included Auto CAD, Rhino software and Adobe Creative Suite.

Recruitment in the attractions industry – opportunities

Respondents to our survey consistently mentioned physical location as a barrier to recruitment. However, one company alleviated the problem with a new work from home policy, and three remote offices around the world.

The other problem that came up was too many applications from unqualified or inappropriate candidates. “We are inundated with applications,” one respondent said, “and are working hard to sift out inappropriate applications so we are left with a viable hard core to select from.”

Attractive development opportunities

Companies are also drawing in applicants with appealing internal training, development and mentoring programmes.

PGAV Destinations, a global leader in the planning and design of unique destinations, recently implemented MOJO, a programme that captures the company’s key value assets and culture, and works to preserve and share those with new staff through mentoring and workshops. Ben Cober, Director of Business Development and Research, said: “PGAV Destinations also leverages PGAV GO!, an annual allotment of $2100 per employee to use in self-directed professional and personal growth, often used for educational travel, certifications, and training.”

“PGAV GO!, an annual allotment of $2100 per employee to use in self-directed professional and personal growth”

Media-based attractions specialists CAVU Designwerks offers all staff regularly scheduled product information workshops, “so all staff can better understand our products and be familiar with the intricacy of our product portfolio”, said Cindy Kwok, Director of Administration.

“We are also developing a series of professional development workshops for our staff,” she added.

The unique benefits of the industry – riding dragons

Emily Burrows Communication Manager at Holovis says that what makes Holovis unique is its ability to see a project as a whole: “Holovis is unique in having media, software and engineering teams all in-house, working together to deliver projects. This allows turnkey delivery, from the initial planning and ideation phases through to installation, support and maintenance. By bringing all these capabilities in-house, we are able to see projects develop as a whole. This means you spot the clever tricks, gags and intricate details that enhance the overall guest experience.”

And Jane Hubbard, Director of HR at Chester Zoo, says that working for a charity can give your career added meaning: “If you can last a day smiling and go home knowing you’ve changed someone’s behaviour (for example, by using products with sustainable palm oil) then you know you’ve made a difference! We’re a conservation and education charity!”

“Did we mention dragons? We have those. Care to ride one?”

Dreamcraft Attractions significantly ups the ante on their website. As well as “an office that makes your inner-child squeal” they also ask “Did we mention dragons? We have those. Care to ride one?”

Recruitment in the attractions industry – flip flops, hoodies and beer in the fridge

Jamie Flaherty, Manager, Business Solutions at Gateway Ticketing, says: “We have an outstanding flexible/work from home policy, beer in the fridge and a unique Computer Purchase Program, which allows you to submit receipts from personal purchases you make on technology (computers, phones, headphones, hard drives, etc) for home use and the company will pay half of it (up to $1,500) every three years.”

Gateway’s career page cites many other benefits including electric car recharging stations, an employee assistance program and a casual dress code: “Every day at Gateway is casual Friday – even flip-flops and hoodies are welcome”.

“an outstanding flexible/work from home policy, beer in the fridge and a unique Computer Purchase Program”

Jamie adds, “I can also say, with complete bias, that I work with the most passionate people in the industry who work extremely hard each and every day to live and breathe our Core Values (Customer Care, Integrity, Passion, Accountability, Teamwork, Communication and Innovation). Many of these people have grown to be some of my best friends. This is what happens when a company bases a large portion of their hiring process on ensuring people meet those core values.”

Header image: Chester Zoo

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