With the unemployment rate gradually decreasing, initiatives such as the Workforce Alliance HOST program are contributing to boost the local economy.
The Workforce Alliance’s Hospitality Occupation Service Training gives 18- to 21-year-olds the opportunity to follow a nine-week classroom training curriculum designed by industry professionals from the American Hotel & Lodging Educational Institute.
Students also participate in field trips, industry tours, guest speaking seminars and a 12-week professional internship. This gives the students a hands-on approach to become well-prepared to work in the hospitality and service industry.
On Wednesday, May 2, program participants toured the Binks Forest Golf Club in Wellington, learning firsthand the day-to-day operations of the business. Several people from the program have also interned at the golf club.
Binks Forest General Manager Greg Schroeder decided to have the golf club be part of the program after meeting with representatives from the Workforce Alliance at a Palm Beach County Business Development Board meeting. “They were looking for a place to train people with on-the-job experience,” he recalled. “From there they developed this training program, which has evolved into the HOST program.”
The program was developed to mitigate an underlying employment problem in Palm Beach County’s hospitality and service industry. Many jobs have traditionally gone to people from outside of the state because of the lack of skilled workers in the county.
According to Bob Still, the golf club’s marketing and membership director, the program began two and a half years ago to get local people well-trained for the many hospitality and service jobs available. He believes that so far, the program has been successful.
“People not only get country club experience, but they can work at a restaurant and in hotels,” Still said. “It has been great for us personally because we have hired people full-time from the program.”
Binks Forest treated the group of nine students to a tour of the facility. They learned about the different areas from the kitchen to the golf course grounds. It was the group’s last day in the program, and they were awarded their graduation certificates.
Still explained to the group how beneficial their experience and training would be for them. “You guys have the experience on doing everything in the industry,” he said.
Although the program consists of generalized training, students are able to pick a concentration in the industry and do an internship in their desired choice. “They can kind of focus on what they like,” Still said. “They can intern and specialize in anything that is required to work in the hotel service industry.”
Schroeder believes the program is beneficial to the students in a multitude of ways. “They are able to maintain relationships with people in the industry, and we are able to have them as our employees,” he said. “Some who have started as part-time employees or interns have now become full-time.”
The program opens many doors. “Many of the graduates of the program have gone on to work at high-profile clubs like Mar-a-Lago or Trump International,” Still said. “It’s a great industry for people to get into, and this program helps them get their start.”
Still has seen significant changes in the behavior and personalities of the students who have gone through the program.
“I see confidence in these young people,” he said. “They feel encouraged because they know they can get a job somewhere else and are confident that they can succeed.”
He has also seen the commitment and willingness to succeed among the students. “We have one young man who rides the bus every day for two to three hours to get to his internship,” he said. “This is the type of commitment many of these young people have that can’t be put into words.”
For more about the program, visit www.pbcalliance.com.