By Elizabeth Kirwin
Education empowers, stimulates and elevates an individual. Mission of Love Charities has workforce development classes in a wide array of topics that help participants gain entry to new professions or brush up on skills for resume building. Some classes include the Event and Meeting Planning Course, Life Skills for obtaining a job, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Construction and General Industry Training, Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) Certification and Water Technician Training. Most courses offer professional certification.
Recently, an individual who participated in the Event and Meeting Planning course was able to change into a new, desirable profession after taking the class. Participants who complete the work readiness course receive a certificate in Meeting and Event Planning. Victoria Richardson lives in Virginia Beach and took the course remotely. Qualified teachers who specialize in specific professions teach Mission of Love’s workforce readiness courses remotely.
Before becoming a Meeting and Event Planner in late May of 2022, Victoria (Vicky) Richardson was an English Middle School teacher in Virginia Beach City Schools for 20 years. After two decades in the teaching profession, she was ready for a change. She learned about the Mission of Love Charities via a colleague, and went to the website. Richardson read the information about the Event and Meeting Planning class and was intrigued. “I like planning and organizing,” said Richardson, “I was attracted to the set-up and glamour of the profession,” she added.
Many Event and Meeting Planners travel from location to location to set up events properly. After taking the class, Richardson learned there are so many other details to the Meeting and Event Planning profession. The behind the scenes work is detail oriented and requires excellent communication skills. In her new position, located in Ohio, “We talk to vendors, instructors, sponsors, other conference coordinators and platform personnel who teach us how to use technology tools” said Richardson. Learning included: being able to research the beverage laws and other applicable codes in a city or town, catering and understanding menu planning, creating schedules and itineraries, making reservations and understanding the hotel industry.
The meeting planning class is taught by an experienced professional Meetings and Events Planner, Ingrid Shumate. Richardson says Shumate was an excellent teacher because, “she was informative and knowledgeable and obviously loves what she does.” Her teacher was helpful, patient and kind. “I like the idea of traveling and getting paid for it,” said Richardson. “Plus coordinating an event from beginning to end – there is so much satisfaction derived from it,” she observed.
Transitioning from teaching English to Meeting and Events Planning was smooth – though not easy. Many of the same skills are used in the teaching profession as they are in Meeting and Planning. Some skills needed are: public speaking, learning database technology and using remote communication tools every day. Richardson touches base with her new Director during remote meetings daily. She learned to utilize remote teaching tools during COVID-19. Richardson uses similar technology in the Meeting and Planning profession.
Richardson’s employment history assisted her in standing out amongst the rest, in a competitive job field. Having experience with remote tools was an advantage she had when applying for the Meeting and Events Planning job. Richardson’s decades of experience as a teacher also helped land that job. Teaching demands excellent communication and planning skills and also involves working on special events for student groups and clubs.
Advance planning skills are critical to success. Many events are planned one, two or three years out. Richardson says they are currently looking at events four to five years from now and beginning the process of planning well in advance.
During the Meeting and Planning course, many guest speakers presented. “I learned from professionals in hospitality, restaurants and tourism how involved Meeting Planning can be,” noted Richardson. “During class, we were also introduced to other Meeting Planners who taught us remotely,” said Richardson. One woman broadcast her presentation from Jamaica. “She was home for a time working and then would travel to make preparations for an event,” said Richardson. “She helped many communities and provided a service at the same time,” she observed.
The rich tapestry of professionals presented in the Meeting and Planning class kept Richardson’s interest piqued. All had a different perspective to share. She learned there is a great deal of sales work involved in Meeting Planning, because one represents a company. “You are the backbone for that conference or meeting – the go-to person for everything,” said Richardson. “The meetings generate revenue and the Meeting Planner is important for this reason,” added Richardson.
Richardson acknowledges keeping an open line of communication is needed from the start of planning until the last day of the event. For example, sometimes there are transportation issues in getting from the airport to the hotel or conference. “If transportation was guaranteed we have to create a way,” said Richardson. In the Meeting and Planning profession, a person must be able to take action on requests quickly and field all inquiries.
Thanks to the free course she took at Mission of Love Charities, Victoria Richardson was able to make a transition from teaching Middle School to Meeting and Event Planning. “I visited Baltimore, Maryland recently and was able to meet many people who work for Mission of Love Charities and even met some board members. I have met a lot of great people, including the CEO, Deborah Martinez, who is quite amazing,” said Victoria. She states, “Ms. Martinez continues to fight for the Mission of Love Charities to continue in the path of workforce development and training to be able to be sustainable citizens.” MOLC depends on donations and partnerships which is how Victoria was allowed to attend free.
As of today, Richardson is just five or six weeks into her new profession and she is busy planning a large conference that is just five months away. Richardson is an excellent example of a motivated student who benefitted from workforce development and soared into a new profession.