There are many reasons for individuals to seek employment in the hospitality industry, highest of which are job availability and advancement opportunity. Tourism generates 176,500 jobs for Tennesseans and produces $1.7 billion in state and local tax revenue according to the TN Department of Tourist Development. There are roughly 357 hotels in the metropolitan Nashville area, and 117 new hotels in production, as reported by a 2018 Tennessean article. The jobs are available and employers are seeking qualified employees as is illustrated with their involvement in the Hospitality Training Program.
Ivan Monterroza, Director of Housekeeping at Hutton Hotel, stated it takes $3,300-$3,500 to bring on a new employee into the hospitality workforce and there is approximately a 26% turnover in the industry. That is an incredible expense that can be reduced by investing with non-profits and other hotel partners in training. Thanks to the training that Catholic Charities of Tennessee in Nashville (CCTN) is providing at no cost, employers can invest a day’s time leading a training session and result in someone ready to commit to a hospitality position who needs less on-boarding time and effort.
CCTN leads the Hospitality Training Program for newly arrived refugees and community members who have an interest in the hospitality industry. The Hospitality Training Program is done in partnership with 11 hotels in the Nashville area, the Refugee and Immigrant Services Department of CCTN, and McGruder Family Resource Center. Through the partnership of these entities, volunteer time, and donated space CCTN is able to provide well trained staff for the hospitality workforce, reducing the expense on employers in employee turnover, and preparing individuals for their chosen industry.
The Hospitality Training Program is a five day experience – starting with classroom information on personal grooming, harassment rules, and safety training; physical training on housekeeping in a staged hotel room, shadowing a housekeeper in a partner hotel; and ending with a test and a meeting about placement in a partner hotel. Each training day is led by a different hotel partner (2-3 partners a week). The training takes place once a month and is limited to 10 participants each round to allot for quality training for each participant. Participants come to the training through CCTN’s Refugee Employment Department and referrals from community partners: Loaves and Fishes, courts, and community. Registration is on a rolling basis. CCTN provides transportation or bus passes to the refugee clients to ensure they have access to the training. The training is provided with interpretation when necessary.
This training is an opportunity for the hotel partners not only to prepare their workforce, but also to recruit willing and capable employees. This training gives the participants the tools and the agency to decide their work environment. The participants in the Hospitality Training are not bound to housekeeping, if after the week-long training they decide not to go into the hospitality industry, Catholic Charities helps to evaluate and place them in a different job. “If not housekeeping, we try to push something else. Sometimes they may choose something at Tyson. That’s fine; we saved our partners $3,500.” Anthony Agosti commented.
How did the Hospitality Training Program start?
In 2016 Teresa Najar, then at Sheraton, noted that refugee clients were quitting or taking a long time getting trained and communicated her concerns with Anthony Agosti of Catholic Charities of Tennessee in Nashville (CCTN). In November of that year CCTN started the Hospitality Training Program with Sheraton. It was a three day training at that time, consisting of a presentation day, job-shadowing, and testing. Sheraton was the only partner at that time. CCTN had an interest in promoting the hospitality work force due to the many options available for limited English speakers. For example, in the production industry an employee may be employed at the hourly rate ceiling and have limited opportunity for growth. However, in hospitality if you are a good worker you will be promoted, even if you don’t speak English remarked Anthony Agosti.
After a few months the trainers decided to incorporate speed into the training as many hotels offer incentives for prompt task accomplishment. Another major development occurred when Alisha Haddock of the McGruder Family Resource Center offered an open room for use. Anthony stated that it took a while to acquire the furniture for the room. They were able to use the Tennessee Office for Refugees Targeted assistance Grant funding to purchase the furniture from a liquidator who had sets from Opryland Hotel in the summer of 2017. The project leads, Anthony Agosti and Alisha Haddock, then approached a variety hotel partners to be training instructors. They knew the growing tourism industry in Tennessee needed a workforce, and they just had to connect their training participants to employers.
What does the future look like for CCTN’s Hospitality Training Program?
The team is adding a certification to the training from American Lodging Hotel Education Institute. The certification is something employers will know and recognize. Anthony also commented that he sees the future of the hospitality training moving into the culinary field with the addition of culinary arts training.