The 2008 Be Constructive® Careers Expo was held at Robina Town Centre, on the Gold Coast, in September 2008. The Expo was set up to expose school students and their families to the various trades available in the construction industry. It had been held on the Gold Coast for five years but was becoming tired and risked losing exhibitors, sponsors and attendees.
In 2008 its management was taken over by Construction Skills Queensland (CSQ) who employed PPR to help give the event a major new format.
PPR helped attract enough sponsorship and exhibitor fees to fund more than half of the total cost of the Expo and subsidise a public relations campaign that would help attract record numbers. Over $15,000 in pro bono support was also secured.
To provide new interest amongst the target audience, and recreate the real experience of working in the industry, the 2008 Expo of 35 exhibits wrapped around an actual construction site, with guided bus tours through the construction area. It was the first time in Australia that a trade Expo had been held on a construction site.
Twenty-two schools attended the event. Over 2,000 school students and members of the general public attended the event – over 500 more than the previous year.
The Be Constructive® Careers Expo was set up to promote careers in the construction industry to school students. It also targeted workers looking to up-skill or change trades and those looking to change careers.
The Gold Coast Expo had been held for five years but it was becoming tired and risked losing exhibitors, sponsors and attendees without being perceived as offering or showing something new. Past sponsors were questioning value and whether the marketing could ensure good attendance.
Although the Expo was becoming tired, the need for tradespeople remained strong. A recent HIA-Austral Bricks Trades Report was showing 9 of the 13 trades researched had decreasing apprentice availability in the quarter prior to the Expo planning.
In 2008, the organisation of the Be Constructive® Careers Expo was passed to Construction Skills Queensland (CSQ) whose role is to promote careers in the building and construction industry.
With a limited budget, advertising was not going to be an option. Also of concern was the growing number of skills trade events being held and the need for this event to offer something different to attract its target audience.
An opportunity existed to inject new life into the event, maximising school participation and therefore student attendance.
Research of past event feedback showed the Expo had taken a fairly traditional format – information booths offering consultation, with some hands on exhibits. PPR and CSQ set about making 2008 more interactive.
Communication with past sponsors raised concerns that the Expo wasn’t offering value and could reach more people, offering better insight into the construction industry. They felt the Expo should be bigger, showcasing more careers to attract more students. This information was vital in developing the sponsorship offering.
PPR attended branch meetings of past Expo organisers, Gold Coast Construction Training Queensland (CTQ). This helped obtain an understanding of past operations and what could be improved. It also provided access to databases of past sponsors and attending schools, although these were out of date and would be updated before use.
Speaking with local schools inspired CSQ to provide something different the students would want to visit, and show a career in construction as fun.
A review of other Gold Coast based career events showed most highlighted the offerings of a University or training group rather than an industry. The Be Constructive® Expo would capture existing interest in the industry and bring students closer to an apprenticeship rather than simply providing ideas. This research also showed most expos were free and students and schools would not be expecting to pay. CSQ used this information to design free entry AND free transport.
Discussion with CSQ school liaison staff showed:
- School students were a key target for careers in the construction industry, particularly Year 10 students starting to think about senior subject choices
- Vocational school students were more likely to consider a construction career if they felt it was ‘cool’ or fun
- Reaching school students alone was not enough – their influencers, including parents and teachers, also needed to be communicated with
This research would lead to a more interactive event accessible to wider audiences.
Potential exhibitors and sponsors whose fees would help fund the Expo and whose presence would provide value to attendees
- Training organisations including technical colleges, TAFEs and other State Government departments responsible for training programs
- Apprentice organisations
- Construction industry bodies
- Civil Training organisations
Potential attendees vital to generate the future employees for the industry
- Gold Coast schools offering :
o Grades 10-12
o Vocational education or TAFE courses
o Manual arts subjects
- Gold Coast students aged 15-17 and their teachers
The general public including the families of high school student
- Families of students aged 15-17 years
- Residents thinking of a career change
Media who provided the potential to generate awareness of the Expo amongst the above target audiences
- Gold Coast media
- Trade and construction publications
As CSQ is funded by a state construction industry levy, target audiences were all Queensland based.
PPR worked with CSQ to strategise a new Expo format that would be engaging and interactive for school students as the research identified would be needed. The format would also include increased emphasis on attractions and activities for students that allowed them to experience the trades rather than simply hear someone speak about it. This strategy led to the event being held on a real construction site for the first time.
The campaign involved a more professional approach to sponsorship and exhibitor attraction. This developed confidence in the event generating record support.
The strategies were designed to each help deliver the success of the other
– with sponsorship the Expo could be run in a more exciting and professional manner. More excitement and professionalism meant sponsors would be keen.
Make attendance easy
The plan also aimed to make it easy for attendees to come. This led to the Expo being structured over two days – one school day and one weekend. It also led to buses being used to collect and return students from school.
Keep it cost effective
The media and direct mail would be used as a cost effective way to reach target audiences, obtaining value from limited budgets. Where possible pro bono support, including venue and some facilities, would be negotiated from industry and exhibitors.
Host a ‘live’ Construction Expo
The Gold Coast shopping centre, Robina Town Centre, was undergoing expansion. Centre management and project managers Bovis Lend Lease were approached to hold the Expo in the centre alongside the actual construction work, providing a viewing platform to a ‘live’ construction site. The shopping centre location would also provide opportunity to attract the general public to the Expo.
It was the first time in Australia that a Careers Expo had been held on an actual construction site. A bus was used to tour students through the site guided by a Bovis Project manager.
Thirteen hands-on Try’a Trade® exhibits (Appendix A) kept students engaged. The equipment simulated bricklaying, cabinet making, civil work, landscaping, painting, tiling, plumbing, carpentry, electrical, crane operating, architectural design, steelwork and plastering.
A Be Constructive® Expo Passport (Appendix A) encouraged students to visit each stand to have the passport stamped and qualify for CSQ merchandise.
PPR managed all exhibitors, securing their participation, developing floor plans, briefings and set up (bump ins and bump outs). PPR also managed all invoicing and fee administration.
PPR researched Gold Coast schools with vocational courses (34) and secured students from 22 – the maximum the facility could safely cater for. PPR negotiated staggered bus pickups so that each could student spent a half day at the Expo
(Appendix A). The buses were paid for through the raised sponsorships.
Sponsorship and Exhibitors
Seed funding from previous organisers, Gold Coast CTQ, was not enough to host the bigger event.
PPR sent sponsorship/exhibitor kits (Appendix A) to Gold Coast and Brisbane building and construction businesses and training organisations. Sponsorships were limited to seven to ensure value for money.
Previously sponsorships had been secured by phone calls and simple communications. The 2008 Expo literature would convey more branding and professionalism (Appendix A).
Attracting general public attendance
• The Expo was held over two days – a Friday for ease of school student attendance and a Saturday for families and the general public.
• PPR worked with the Robina Town Centre marketing team to negotiate incentre signage, banners on the Centre website, articles in the Centre enewsletter and an e-flyer to retailers and residents (Appendix A).
• PPR generated coverage in local media, partner websites and community media (Appendix A) including previews in the Weekend Gold Coast Bulletin and Courier Mail and follow up articles in local media and industry magazines.
• A microsite within the CSQ website promoted exhibitors and links to career information.
• Schools were given forms detailing the Expo and asking for parental permission for publicity photos – they doubled as a brief for parents.
The seven available sponsorships were taken up by key trainers and employers (Appendix A).
A further 19 exhibitors included public and private training organisations, employment agencies and industry associations (Appendix A).
Combined, the exhibitors, sponsors and Try’a Trade® displays represented 35 exhibits. Ten were interactive providing hands-on experiences of a career in the construction industry.
The combined funds generated by sponsors and exhibitors attracted $38,555 - funding for more than half of the total budget. Over $15,000 in pro bono support was secured (see Budget).
Twenty-two schools, and 1237 students, were rostered over half day sessions – the most the venue would allow. Publicity was achieved in all key media including Gold Coast Bulletin, The Courier Mail, The Queensland Master Builder and industry newsletters.
Attendance by the public on the second day was over 800 people making the total attendance at the Career Expo over 2,000 – 500 more than 2007.
Commitment was received from all schools and exhibitors for the 2009 event.
- The fees secured paid half the event costs including marketing, allowing it to attract record breaking attendance. Negotiated pro bono support made features like the construction site venue possible.
- 35 paid exhibits displayed – 21 more than 2007
- The event offered information on over 70 construction industry careers
- 21 schools attended at timed intervals – 4 more than 2007. In total 1237 students attended the first day of the Expo. The new format provided value for sponsors and exhibitors; interest for schools, students and families; and news value for media.
- Extending the Expo to a Saturday allowed an extra 800 people to attend from the general public. The shopping centre venue also provided easy access for the general public and helped attract media publicity giving the story relevance to the general public.
- Robina Town Centre reported a 13% increase on shopping centre attendees over the same time last year.
- Through the passport promotions, most students attended all hands-on exhibits.
- Professional material, including exhibitor guide and floor plans guided attendees to all exhibits.
- The microsite allowed attendees to plan their visit making maximum use of their time.