ICCAUni bridges gap between classroom and industry

Anju Gomes

“ICCAUni can empower students in the Middle East to pursue their interests and career goals within the events industry, enhancing engagement, motivation, and satisfaction among the next generation of meetings and events professionals, and contributing to their overall success and professional development,” says Anju Gomes, Middle East Regional Director of ICCA, in an interview with TTN Middle East.

It does this through mentorship and scholarship opportunities. “ICCAUni was created with the goal of providing three foundational learning avenues for participants: data sharing, mentorship and education, and networking and collaboration,” she adds.



Those professionals who find themselves with a scholarship can count on being able to attend the annual ICCA Congress, which gives young people unparalleled access to networking opportunities, mentorships, and connecting with established professionals in the field. They will also get access to the ICCA database, which contains information and resources including white papers and reports only available to ICCA members.

“Participation in this programme is a unique opportunity to access information not available to the general population and connect with seasoned professionals who are able to communicate extraordinary value and provide insight into the meetings and events industry career path,” says Gomes.



The events space in the Middle East is an evolving beast, driven by a blend of technological innovation, sustainability priorities, and creative design approaches.

“There’s a growing emphasis on sustainability, exemplified by initiatives at venues like Dubai World Trade Centre, Oman Convention & Exhibition Centre, Qatar National Convention Centre, Exhibitions World Bahrain and Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre. These efforts include waste reduction, renewable energy usage, and promoting local sourcing for event materials,” explains Gomes.

There’s also a move towards digitisation. Gomes underscores that the Middle East events space is currently focusing on leveraging digital tools and platforms for event management and marketing. “Regional destinations have adopted virtual event platforms and digital marketing strategies to reach wider audiences and enhance event engagement,” she explains.

By prioritizing inclusion and diversity, ICCAUni contributes to creating a more representative and equitable events industry workforce reflective of the cultural richness of the region
– Anju Gomes

Also, there is a burgeoning movement towards injecting events with local experience and authentic experiences. “Venues such as Expo 2020 Dubai, Louvre Abu Dhabi, Royal Opera house Muscat, Qatar Museum of Islamic Art, and last but not the least AlUla’s Hegra Archaeological Site, the first to be designated as a Saudi World Heritage Site by UNESCO, have been showcasing traditional arts, cuisine, and customs, providing attendees with an immersive cultural experience while attending events in the region,” says Gomes offering examples of the direction the events industry is taking.

By taking these trends into account and weaving them into the narrative of ICCAUni, the project promotes a new generation of talent that is well versed with the happenings of the industry. And it injects into the segment a workforce that is competent, driven and innovative – all things needed to grow the space. “We want to facilitate the growth and development of the meetings and events industry by helping to develop the careers and skillsets of young professionals just entering the job market by connecting them with more experienced members of the community,” says Gomes.

This meeting of minds also bridges the generational gap between professionals already in the workforce and those getting ready to join it. It is an answer to the chasm the ICCA’s Future Leaders Council identified between the younger generation of meetings and events professionals and the established community. “They noted that there was a perception of the industry as antiquated, barriers to entry due to cost, and simple lack of awareness were some of the main pain points for students and young people. It can be difficult for the younger generation to access key industry events like the ICCA Congress, where so many valuable conversations and connections are held.

“Information gleaned from Sharing Hub breakout sessions during ICCA’s 62nd Congress revealed further insights, including that many first internship experiences often reinforce negative perceptions, and that younger generations have evolving expectations for work-life balance that might not align with current trends. That’s where ICCAUni comes in,” explains Gomes.



ICCA Uni also promotes inclusion and diversity within the events industry by offering accessible and inclusive educational opportunities tailored to the cultural diversity of the Middle East. “By prioritizing inclusion and diversity, ICCAUni contributes to creating a more representative and equitable events industry workforce reflective of the cultural richness of the region,” she adds.

On the surface, ICCAUni seems like a branch off from ICCASkills, an educational programme being dispensed by ICCA. However, there is a key difference, explains Gomes. “ICCASkills is geared toward events professionals at different levels on their career paths who are interested in gaining certification to enhance their professional skillset. ICCASkills benefits meetings-services professionals at any stage of their career.

The two different certification tracks offer tailored learning paths and advanced course content specially designed by industry experts to deliver globally recognised certification for suppliers in every sector of the meetings industry, including junior level (CICS) and executives (CICE).

Thus, where ICCASkills is directed toward established professionals seeking additional training, ICCAUni is geared toward attracting and engaging students, young professionals, and emerging talent interested in building their careers in the meetings and events industry.

ICCA CEO Senthil Gopinath explains the programme as one that will attract a new generation of leaders: “Finding exciting new talent is the lifeblood of our industry. ICCAUni will showcase the incredible scope of what our industry offers – from marketing and hospitality, to logistics and advocacy – and by doing so, will attract a whole new generation of leaders. By bringing education establishments into this unique membership programme, academia will be able to point to our industry and tell their students that this is where opportunity lies. And we will get to enjoy the industry-wide benefit of fresh perspective, and boundless enthusiasm,” he says.