A shortage of skilled labour is a major obstacle for the development of meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions (MICE) business in Hong Kong and Macau. While Macau falls short of junior-level workers for frontline positions, Hong Kong needs new blood and project managers. To sustain long-term growth, continuous learning and education is indispensable. To achieve this, academic institutions in Hong Kong and Macau have come up with versatile syllabuses to meet growing demand. Hong Kong Polytechnic University's school of hotel and tourism management offers four subjects within its full-time bachelor's degree programme which focuses on convention and event management. They are meetings management, convention venue management, exhibition management and events tourism and management. The annual intake is 45 and the course ranges from one year to 18 months or two years. David Jones, the undergraduate programme director and associate professor, said: 'There has been a substantial increase in student demand for this study area at all levels. Our main differentiating factor is the experience of our faculty in the field. We have some of the top academics in the world in both research and teaching in the convention and events management field at this university.' In response to demands from students and the industry, PolyU plans to launch a top-up degree or a new bachelor's degree conversion programme in convention and event management next year. The number of subjects in the field will double. The primary targets are those students taking higher diploma or associate degree programmes at Hong Kong Community College, Hong Kong University Space (HKU SPACE), and other institutions offering convention and event management programmes at the higher diploma or associate degree level. HKU SPACE, a continuing education provider, has an advanced diploma in MICE and event management, which complements the advanced diploma in hospitality management and advanced diploma in tourism management. Course director Stephen Wong Siu-hung said the courses were gaining in popularity, among part-time students. They are mostly attended by working adults, 50 per cent of whom are already engaged in MICE and event management work and want to improve their knowledge. The other 50 per cent aspire to become MICE and event management professionals and want to study in the relevant discipline before they decide whether to change fields. There are three intakes per year - in March, July and October. Besides the eight common subjects within hospitality management and tourism management, students have to do four specialist modules: event entertainment and conventions, the MICE industry, international events and festivals and event operations. Students normally take two years to complete the associate degree and event management course. The 12 modules each cost HK$3,600. Every term there are about 15-20 students, so they expect 50-60 students graduating during the three terms. Since 2004, the HK Travel and Tourism Training Centre (HKTT) has provided four MICE courses: higher diploma in travel and tourism management, certificates in incentive travel and meeting management, convention and exhibition management, certificate in MICE, project assistant course (under the manpower development scheme). Target participants are those who are keen to join the MICE industry. There are two intakes and about 20-30 graduates every year. They hold free seminars, during which they provide market information to the public and travel agents in order to encourage them to study the courses. 'In order to share the practical working experience, our courses are conducted by experienced personnel in the travel and tourism industry,' said the HKTT's general manager and training director, Nerysa Lee Siu-lan. 'MICE is project based and plenty of labour is required for the events, so the employment rate of our graduates varies according to the market needs at the time of graduation.' In Macau, the Institute for Tourism Studies (IFT) leads the way in providing a range of MICE-related courses. Three hundred and 72 students gained degrees and certificates in tourism and MICE studies respectively last year. Its degree in tourism event management was launched in 2005. IFT president Fanny Vong Chuk-kwan said: 'We enrol about 40 students every year. The certificate and diploma can receive about 40 applications each. Every year about 120 students enrol in full-time [courses] or the equivalent to study MICE-related programmes. There are also students enrolled in other short-term professional training courses, such as the one-year certificate in event and tourism operations and two-year diploma in event and tourism management.' It costs 22,000 patacas per year for local students enrolled in bachelor degree programmes as fees are heavily subsidised by the government. For certificate and diploma programmes, they are about 14,000 patacas a year. Elsewhere, the Casino Career Centre, co-managed by the Macau Polytechnic, plans to offer more operational courses in MICE in the near future. There are other private programmes offering short-term MICE-related courses in Macau, such as Macau University of Science and Technology. Trade associations in the sector also offer professional training courses.