Acorn Event Structures on training for growth

Acorn Event Structures detail the importance of training.

In all avenues of the live events industry, there has been a notable sea change when it comes to the attitudes towards training incentives. In 2022, TPi spoke to the team at UK Rigging about its Project X scheme, which saw the company bring in and cover the costs of training a batch of aspiring riggers as they worked towards their National Rigging Certificate. In the same year, Acorn Event Structures began to take full advantage of the Event Structures Industry Training Scheme (ESITS) – a brand-new events industry training scheme, which was launched by SIMIAN – a nationally recognised training and consultancy provider.

Developed with significant support from Acorn, the scheme provides specific training and certification in the field of building Temporary Demountable Structures such as Staging, Seating and Media Production Structures for those working in live events space.”

The programme is split into several levels. Starting with the General Events Crew Operative (GECO), or green card as it’s affectionately referred, this one-day course caters for new entrants to the industry, aiming to get them up to speed with the required knowledge to work on-site safely. Once competed, crew can then make their way through the other stages, including the 10-day TDS Trainee Technician Course (the red card), followed by modular TDS Technician Course (the purple card). The scheme also has several further qualifications including the TDS Master Course, the Safe Management of TDS SMTDS and TDS Inspections scheme.

“We started initial discussions with Simian about this training programme back in 2017,” stated Becky Williamson, Acorn’s HR representative. “Prior to this course, there was no specific training available to our industry. The event and construction elements that were available were just not relevant and this highlighted the need for more specific and bespoke areas of training in our industry.”

So far, Acorn has had 92 of its staff pass the green card certificate with 43 obtaining their TDS Trainee Technician certificate and 18 completing the TDS Technician Course. As well as classroom time, the courses also have several on-site assessments and through the summer 2023, numerous Acorn staff were assessed at some of the UK biggest outdoor events and festivals including Arctic Monkeys’ latest stadium tour and Creamfields.

Williamson explained why incentives such as this are so vital for the industry. “Health and safety standards need to be improved and brought up to the standards like other industries and we felt it would be convenient for people to be educated. We have spent £119,000 in the past two years investing in our workforce,” asserted Williamson as an example of how seriously Acorn takes this incentive.

It’s worth noting that Acorn has an alternative model to many other companies in the entertainment sphere – namely due to its preference for full-time employees over freelancers. “The majority of our staff are employed by Acorn directly – even those seasonal workers that are brought in from other countries during the summer.” The goal is that all those working for Acorn will be qualified under the new scheme, creating a standardised level of training among its workforce.

John Watson, an employee of Acorn who recently completed the Green ESITS training, spoke to TPi about his experience on the scheme. “It was a helpful course for those just starting out in the industry to be able to learn the basics of health and safety,” he stated. “I am looking forward to progressing to the Red ESITS level having gained some experience out on the field this season. Another employee of Acorn Craig Morland who is one of the first to complete the purple ESITS course said: “Personally, I have many years’ experiences within the events and construction industry and it’s great to finally have a qualification that proves my competency in both.”