Grant to Help Recruit and Train Chicago Youth for Hospitality Jobs

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CHICAGO–The American Hotel & Lodging Educational Foundation (AHLEF), the foundation arm of the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA), will provide a $75,000 grant to help Chicago community-based organizations recruit and train “Opportunity Youth” to fill local job openings in the hospitality industry.

Nationwide, about 6 million youth between the ages of 16 and 24 are out of school and work. AHLEF says that these young people possess the drive and resilience to succeed in the workplace and can help fill the more than 600,000 job vacancies in the hospitality industry. The foundation has committed to providing grants to community-based organizations to recruit and develop these “Opportunity Youth” in high-demand markets, including Washington D.C., Los Angeles, Chicago, and Baltimore.

During an event announcing the grant on Mon., March 19, representatives of the Illinois Hotel & Lodging Association, Hyatt, Grads of Life, and LeadersUp join leaders from AHLEF. The announcement is part of AHLA’s Dreams Happen Here campaign, a national awareness effort to showcase career advancement opportunities, community commitment, and the economic importance of hotel and lodging businesses to every city and state across America.


“The hotel industry supports more than eight million jobs across the United States and this grant in Chicago is another step in our continued commitment to creating opportunity and economic mobility by investing in our workforce,” Shelly Weir, AHLA senior vice president of career development, says. “By partnering with Grads of Life, we are taking a meaningful step to close that jobs gap and provide our nation’s youth with the skills to launch long, prosperous careers in the hotel industry.”

“At Grads of Life, we work each day to match employers in need of talent with innovative solutions that also provide Opportunity Youth with the skills and access necessary for meaningful career pathways,” Erika Cospy, director of Grads of Life, says. “AHLA’s grant commitments will help advance our mission to close the opportunity divide and aid countless young people looking to gain stable employment in the hotel industry.”

“The demand for exceptional talent in our industry is greater than ever, and we know we must continue working hard to meet the anticipated growth,” Marc Gordon, president and CEO of the Illinois Hotel & Lodging Association, says. “Our Chicago hotels are proud to partner with community-based organizations like LeadersUp to develop and train the next generation of hospitality leaders. We believe that this grant contribution will make a big difference in the lives of many local youth who are ready to join this industry.”

“Opportunity Youth in Chicago and throughout the state of Illinois represent a vastly talented and multicultural population that we cannot afford to ignore,” Jeffrey Wallace, CEO of LeadersUp, says. “Connecting these young people to career pathways is an economic and moral responsibility that supports the future growth of businesses and communities. LeadersUp is proud to be working with AHLA and Grads of Life in helping to expose and prepare young adults for opportunities they might not have known were possible in the hotel and lodging industry.”

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