Washington, D.C.—On July 19, American Hotel and Lodging Association (AHLA) President and CEO Katherine Lugar and hotel industry employees joined President Donald Trump and representatives from more than a dozen companies and associations at the White House to announce a workforce initiative to provide enhanced apprenticeship and work-based learning programs, focusing on continuing education and on-the-job training.
The Pledge to the American Worker, which was signed by President Trump and representatives from U.S. companies, represents a commitment from a range of industries to invest in current and future employees through training and education. AHLA and its foundation arm, the American Hotel & Lodging Educational Foundation (AHLEF), have committed to enrolling 50,000 apprentices over the next five years, while also certifying 125,000 job seekers and current employees with industry certifications and enrolling 5,000 employees into its Cost-Free College program.
“At its core, the hotel industry is centered on people taking care of people, and we are proud of our long heritage of both serving our guests and providing lifelong careers for our employees,” Lugar explained. “As part of an industry supporting 8 million jobs across the U.S., the growth, empowerment, training, and diversity of our workforce makes our industry stronger, and improves our guests’ experience. AHLA and our Foundation, in addition to our member companies, have developed leading career development programs to help provide funding, training, and new opportunities for our industry’s employees to advance and move up the ladder of opportunity. This is an industry where the American Dream is alive and well and we are continually inspired by our employees and committed to help them achieve exceptional careers in the hospitality industry.”
Johnita McNair, housekeeping manager at Wyndham Orlando International Drive, was highlighted during the event and asked to make remarks. McNair, with 30 years of experience with the hotel, is one of the first industry employees to enroll in the Cost-Free College Program, an initiative launched earlier this year which provides workers at 1,500 hotel properties the opportunity to earn an Associate degree at no cost to the employee. This program is the first of its kind within the hospitality sector.
“Thirty-one years on the hospitality industry has been good to me,” McNair said at the White House. “So my motivation is to be good to the generation that’s following me.”
Other initiatives highlighted during the event include AHLA’s Managerial Apprentice Program, an earn-while-you-learn training program that combines on the job training, classroom education, and industry certification and AHLEF’s Empowering Youth Project, which trains and certifies Opportunity Youth for jobs in the hotel sector, focusing on men and women who are out of school but possess the grit and determination to succeed in the workforce. AHLEF and AHLA partnered with the national nonprofit Grads of Life and committed $500,000 in grants for local community organizations to train 1,000 young people over the next two years.
AHLA says that hotels are unique for offering jobs and career paths that do not require a college degree but do require skills, with many global C-Suite executives and nearly half of all general managers starting their careers in entry-level positions as dishwashers, bellmen, or front desk agents. AHLEF aims to ensure a strong and viable future for the entire lodging industry through scholarships, research, and career development programs that underscore the industry’s stories of opportunity, growth, and success. In 2017, the Foundation awarded a record $851,500 in academic scholarships to 372 promising hospitality management students.