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      Indiana Casinos Partner with Workforce Program to Offer Students a Future

      Casino hotels in Rising Sun, Indiana, are partnering with a local career education center to provide hospitality students with an up-close look at the industry, and even better-an opportunity to interview for a job after graduation

      The Education Center of Rising Sun uses the Educational Institute's Skills, Tasks, And Results Training (START) curriculum to prepare students for entry-level jobs in hotels. 2013 marks the third year that the center has offered two classes per year of START, averaging 15 students per class. They range in age from 17 to 70 and share the common goal of needing a job.

      The Education Center of Rising Sun became a reality when the Lilly Endowment Inc. provide $38 million in grants to the Region 9 EcO15 initiative.  Economic Opportunities through Education by 2015 (EcO15) has provided grants which funded educational programs associated with Advanced Manufacturing, Healthcare, and Hospitality/Tourism for 10 counties in Southeastern Indiana.  The goal of EcO15 is to advance people in the Southeast Indiana region by at least one level in their education, training, job placement, and income level.

      According to Sandy Bowlus, who teaches the START program, it made sense to reach out to the three casinos in the area: Rising Star Casino Resort, Belterra Casino, and Hollywood Casino, to ask for their help in enhancing her students' educational experience.

      "All three are American Hotel & Lodging Association (AH&LA) member properties, and they thought it would be a great idea," said Bowlus, who asked if they could provide guest speakers, property tours and field trips, and job shadowing opportunities. Beyond that, all three casinos offer one more thing:  any student who completes the 14-week program and successfully passes the START exam is guaranteed an interview with each of the three properties. "It doesn't mean that they get a job, but they get a chance," she said.

      Tim Conley, PHR, director of human resources for Rising Star Casino Resort, explained how the process works.

      "We talk to the students in the classroom and share things they might not know about the casino.  We also clarify what they need to do to break into these fields, what's expected, how to interview, what employers are looking for-basic job search skills," he said.  "Once the students graduate, Sandy sends us a list. When a department is hiring and receives applications, we check to see if they are on the list of graduates. If they are, they get one interview, an opportunity to try for position. Overall, it has been a positive experience.  We're always looking for good hires. If someone's in the START program, we're willing to give them a shot."

      Because several of the positions for which START trains are related to the food and beverage of hospitality, Gilles Hilliou, Rising Star Casino Resort's director of food and beverage, has a close relationship with the START program and its students.

      "It's important for our future to be involved with the START program," he said. "Even after they get the job, they need a lot of support. We have to guide them through the process, because they often don't have a lot of support in their lives." 

      Hilliou, a 40-year hospitality industry veteran, said that it doesn't take a lot of time to make a difference in the life of a START graduate, but it does mean that managers and supervisors need to be focused on giving these new employees a chance to succeed by understanding that having and keeping a job may be a completely new experience for them.

      "When we hire from the START program, we have to make a commitment to these students," said Hilliou. "Sandy Bowlus works very hard and cares so much about her students. We have to continue the path that she began with them.  We need to help them jump the hurdles and give them the pride of being self-sufficient and earning a paycheck.  Being involved is an attitude, and it can make the difference between an employee who leaves and one who makes it."

      To learn more about the Rising Sun Education Center START program, visit www.educationcenterofrisingsun.  

      About the American Hotel & Lodging Educational Institute
      Established in 1953 as a nonprofit educational foundation of the American Hotel & Lodging Association, the Educational Institute’s mission is to continue being the preferred provider to the lodging industry, hospitality schools, and related hospitality industries by developing and providing quality resources to train, educate, and certify hospitality professionals worldwide.