Washington DispatchAHLAEmployees Can Learn While They Earn: Making Education More Accessible

Employees Can Learn While They Earn: Making Education More Accessible

While this time of year is traditionally associated with back-to-school season, skyrocketing costs have pushed higher education out of reach for many. Now, hotel employees have the opportunity to make their dream of earning a college degree a reality for many through the American Hotel & Lodging Educational Foundation’s (AHLEF) Debt-Free College program in partnership with Pearson Education, the world’s largest education company.

Last year, AHLEF launched this groundbreaking program to offer hotel industry employees at more than 2,000 hotel properties nationwide a chance to earn a college degree at no cost and with no debt to them. The program is happening thanks to a combination of federal Pell Grant funding, employer tuition subsidy programs, and scholarships.

The hospitality business is about taking care of people—both our guests and our workforce. Employees who pursue and complete post-secondary education pathways by taking advantage of employer tuition assistance benefits tend to earn more money over the span of their careers, are more qualified for promotion, are effective at driving customer satisfaction, and stay at companies longer. Just eighteen months since the debt-free college program launched, we are already seeing how it is helping employees—and we can’t wait for more employers to encourage their employees to consider this life-changing program.

“This was an opportunity that I couldn’t let pass by me. I can go to school and take care of my family while still working and gaining job experience.”  – Crystal Holmes, Assistant Reservations Manager, Tradewinds Island Resort

Once an employee enrolls in the program through an easy-to-use online application, Pearson helps students every step of the way. Employees can self-pace their course load, choosing how many classes to take based on home and work responsibilities. Once a student is enrolled in a class, Pearson pre-orders the books and sends them directly to the student.

Program participant Crystal Holmes, an assistant reservations manager at Tradewinds Island Resort, said that the process was “very straightforward” and Pearson took the “stress out of the process,” making the whole process something that “she couldn’t let pass by her.”

Key Benefits for Helping Your Employees Invest in Education

• Employee retention

90 percent of employees say they would stay at a company longer if the employer invested in helping them learn.

• Improved engagement

Highly engaged businesses see a 41 percent reduction in absenteeism and a 17 percent increase in productivity.

• Brilliant results

$2.29 return on investment for every dollar spent on education benefits.

Glenn Willocks, vice president of human resources at Tradewinds Island Resort, said Tradewinds’ goal is to be “the best possible workplace we can be, and we can’t do it alone. By partnering with Pearson and AHLEF, Tradewinds can offer more opportunities to its employees.”

“Several of our program recipients would have never considered going back to school if it wasn’t for this program,” Willocks added.

Helping people to achieve their educational dreams is also a good business decision. LinkedIn’s 2019 Workforce Learning Report found that nearly 90 percent of employees said that they would stay at a company longer if their employer invested in helping them learn.

The hotel and lodging industry has a long legacy of investing in the next generation of hoteliers, and the Debt-Free College program is yet another tool to help hospitality associates climb the ladder of success and build life-long careers in our industry.

Not everyone wants or needs a college degree, and you don’t need one to create a fulfilling life-long career in the hospitality industry. But, for those who do want to pursue additional education—and many do—we want to make it easier for them to succeed, and give them more flexibility and choices to advance in our industry.

Rosanna Maietta
Rosanna Maietta
Rosanna Maietta is executive vice president of communications & public relations at AHLA and is president of AHLEF.