Casinos join welfare-to-jobs program |

Casinos join welfare-to-jobs program

Patrick McCartney

For the first time, Lake Tahoe’s largest employers – the South Shore casinos – have teamed up with the El Dorado Social Service Department to help those on public assistance re-enter the job market.

The county’s Welfare To Work Program replaces the Job Club training classes, and offers welfare recipients three weeks of intensive job training that prepares students for an entry-level job in the gaming industry.

Eleven aid recipients were part of the first class that began last week. Under development for more than six months, the program’s lessons differ significantly from the Job Club it replaces.

“This curriculum is more specific to the hospitality and entertainment industry,” said Margie Verbeley, a county employment trainer.

During the four-hour sessions, students receive training in conflict resolution, listening skills, office interaction, time management, personal budgeting, professional conduct and professional services.

Yvonne Blonski, a pit boss and human resources trainer for Harrah’s Lake Tahoe, is the course instructor.

“She can give the students the hands-on, real expectations the students should have about the industry,” said Victor Uriz, a county employment training supervisor.

At the end of the program, many of the graduates will be offered positions by the participating casinos, Harrah’s Lake Tahoe and Harveys Hotel Resort/Casino. While the jobs will be entry-level, most receive tips that can average from $2 to $10 an hour, casino officials have said.

Yet, the training the graduates receive will not limit them to working in the gaming industry, Uriz said.

“Hopefully, other employers in the community will honor the certificates the students will be awarded, which indicate they’ve learned the job skills necessary to be a good employee,” Uriz said.

While the South Shore’s 500 aid recipients will be first in line for slots in the class, other residents can also enroll as space permits. They should call 573-3273 to inquire about the program.

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