Starwood Joins White House’s UpSkill America Program

STAMFORD, Conn.—Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide has announced its participation in UpSkill America, a public-private initiative led by the U.S. Department of Education to identify front-line employees and give them the training needed to advance their careers. Starwood joined labor leaders, non-profits, educators, technology innovators, and other employers for the White House Upskill Summit in Washington, D.C., on April 24 to share best practices.

As part of its commitment to UpSkill America, Starwood will expand and enhance its existing Associate Development Program (ADP) that has already graduated more than 800 associates within the last five years from owned and managed North American properties.

“At Starwood, we are dedicated to the professional development of our associates in North America and in all of our 1,200 properties around the world,” said Kelly Frank, senior vice president of corporate human resource services and Americas human resources at Starwood. “The Associate Development Program gives our people hands-on, real-world learning experiences that they can apply immediately. It also structures the learning in an accessible way for hotels to prepare the next generation of managers and leaders. The UpSkill America initiative invites us to learn from other industry-leading companies and challenges us to make an already successful program even better.”

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Starwood’s program, initially launched in 2003 as a pilot in Arizona and New York and later expanded throughout Canada and the United States, selects high-potential associates to undergo approximately six months of training that could include cross-functional learning, exposure to senior leaders, mentoring or coaching and presentations and projects related to the skills they learn in the program.

Taylor Spotleson, who started at Starwood working in food and beverage in Scottsdale at The Westin Kierland Resort and Spa in 2007, followed her passion to human resources at The Phoenician in 2010, and after completing the Associate Development Program in 2011 she assisted with the opening of The Westin Snowmass Resort in Colorado. She continued to advance her career as the human resources manager for the Aloft Tucson University in 2012 and then accepted a role supporting regional human resources in late 2013.

“ADP has opened many doors by providing me new experiences and creating a network of wonderful mentors and business partners to help me navigate my career and reach my potential,” Spotleson said. “The program has given me on-property and regional opportunities as well as wide industry experience by working at a Five Diamond resort, opening and transitioning hotels, and providing regional support to our hotels.”

Through UpSkill America, Starwood commits to enhancing its Associate Development Program through greater exposure and training for job growth opportunities, graduating 100 ADP participants in 2015, and rolling out the expanded program to its entire North America portfolio of more than 500 owned, managed, and franchise properties. As part of the expanded program, Starwood will track hotel participation, graduation rates, and career progression of participants following graduation.

“ADP will not only prepare front-line associates for critical job advancement opportunities, but it also will contribute to increased retention among high-potential associates and foster collaboration among departments within a property,” said Erica Reidy, director of learning and development for the Americas at Starwood. “We’re excited by the opportunity to participate in UpSkill America, and I’m looking forward to sharing our best practices and learning from other company leaders.”