AIMS International plans first ever virtual safety seminar for 2021

ATPam Sherborne

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Doubts about being able to present the 2021 AIMS International Safety Seminar in person began last spring among AIMS board members and executive staff. The global health pandemic seemed to be settling in around the world. Those doubts only grew throughout the summer. 

The writing was on the wall and by August the decision was made. The in-person seminar was canceled and AIMS announced the organization’s first ever AIMS Virtual Safety Seminar, set to run January 11-15, 2021. 

Mary Jane Brewer, AIMS executive director, said, although it is a given that a virtual seminar could never duplicate the in-person event, they still have set the bar high to create and deliver a high-quality and easily-accessible virtual educational program. 

They all hit the road running. By mid-October, there was a tentative time schedule with proposals to run between 120-160 hours of content for the week. There was a keynote speaker announced, Harold Hudson. He will speak during the lunchtime hour the first day of the virtual seminar. The AIMS board awards will be announced right afterward. 

There were even two new features announced. Those include Ellis and Associates delivering the seminar’s aquatics curriculum and 20 hours of inspection and maintenance education delivered entirely in Spanish by Loyola Hugo, Fantasilandia, Santiago, Chile.

Board members also hired O’Design, a virtual event production company that will fully produce and provide the video player and platform for a “simu-live” seminar. 

“I went online and started searching companies to present this for us and getting recommendations,” Brewer said. “We wanted to make sure that the platform used would give our members the opportunity to talk to each other.”

The way the schedule has been created offers five educational tracks with each having 20 hours of content. Aside from the aquatics and Spanish tracks, there will be operations, maintenance and inspection.

Emails were sent out to class instructors asking them if they wanted to teach again. 

“If they do, we asked them to submit their class proposals electronically,” Brewer said. 

The AIMS Curriculum Committee members, led by Rick Achard, were taking the electronic proposals, going through them and selecting the topics to ensure all core curriculum requirements are met. 

Brewer said she felt they would have the schedule complete by the end of this month. 

Class sessions will be pre-recorded and the session will be available on demand for 30 days to those who weren’t able to take the time off during the week in January. 

“We are asking all instructors to keep their sessions to between 30 to 45 minutes to allow for live interaction time periods to take place between the instructor and students,” Brewer said. “We also will have networking opportunities at the beginning and at the end of each day.”

Brewer said they are very excited about having the Spanish track this year. 

 “We really feel having classes being taught all in Spanish will allow more people to participate,” Brewer said. 

Joe Stefanyak, Ellis and Associates, said that his company and AIMS have talked and gathered tentative topics. They are now reaching out to instructors to coordinate the aquatics portion. 

“We have had some solicitations for topics as well,” Stefanyak said. “We already do some of our training virtually. We are happy to do this. We have worked with AIMS on other projects.”

Matt Heller, Performance Optimist Consulting, is another regular AIMS volunteer. Heller will teach one class during the virtual seminar and will be involved in the CEO Speaks panel discussion.

“Doing business virtually has been easier than we thought it would be,” Heller said. “But this will never take the place of the in-person experience. People need the human contact.”

Heller feels that when the pandemic is over and people feel safe getting together that a new normal might be some blended seminars and training sessions, both virtual and in-person. 

“Things we do in the amusement industry are so hands-on,” he said. “We can do some initial training virtually, but you can’t teach someone to operate a ride that way.”

Heller is pleased that AIMS decided on the virtual seminar instead of canceling altogether. 

“It is like someone said to me once,” he said. “Of course, you always want a 10, but if you can’t have that, wouldn’t it better to have a six or seven instead of a zero?”

When and how the certification exams will be given have not been finalized. Brewer expects that AIMS will set up exam opportunities in different areas across the country, possibly up to five different locations.

 Brewer said they will all be glad to be back together in 2022. And the AIMS seminar will be back at the Galveston Island Convention Center, Galveston, Texas. 

“We really didn’t expect to be back there after 2021,” Brewer said. “But we were under contract through 2021. If we had canceled completely, there would have been a cancellation fee. So, we negotiated with them.”

The negotiations resulted in AIMS going back in 2022 and 2023.

This article appears in the 
NOVEMBER 2020 Pre-IAAPA issue
of Amusement Today.
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