Wide World of Work
As manager of hotel operations, Alex Brooks runs day-to-day operations at one of Lake Tahoe’s largest resorts.
From leading the managers’ meeting to responding to customer complaints, hers is a day filled with activity. Prior to coming to Embassy Suites Resort, Brooks worked as a baby-sitter and spent some time delivering newspapers. Her job experience stops there. And her career at Embassy ends today.
Brooks is among 45 South Tahoe Middle School students working at Embassy Suites, filling positions from manager to prep cook. They’re learning vital lessons through on-the-job experience, but the most significant training came long before they donned their classiest clothes and reported for work Monday morning.
“When the students finish the program they’ll have a good idea how to fill out paperwork and submit it, and they’ll have job interview techniques,” said counselor Marilyn Pawling.
Involved in the program since its inception in 1992, Pawling has watched Wide World of Work evolve into a job training program where the real emphasis is on locating and getting a job.
“When this program began, students were turning in applications. Now, they apply for the jobs, then write cover letters and resumes, and they go through the whole interview process as well,” Pawling said.
“Working here is the prize. They learn more in the preparation,” said Embassy Suites’ Hotel Manager Jeff Gouge.
The student-employees are eighth-graders, and before walking in the door for their first day of work, each was put through rigorous “job training.” Instructors walked them through the business world and used special lesson plans that incorporated math for tax figuring, writing for resume skills, and professionalism. Students were selected based on those skills, plus a number of others.
“The scoring was off the resumes, cover letters and applications. It used to be that the program was more (driven by grade point average). Now, the goal is motivation, layout of resume and cover letter, spelling and clarity,” Gouge said. “GPA is very important, but it’s not everything. There are other things that make people successful.”
The program began eight years ago, one year after Embassy Suites became a player in the tourism industry. The general manager at that time presented his idea of incorporating work and school to a neighbor, Lake Tahoe Unified School District Superintendent Rich Alexander. A principal at the time, Alexander was instrumental in getting the program off the ground.
“The program has expanded over the years to include more students, and Embassy’s involvement in the program has continued,” Alexander said.
Most of Embassy Suites’ managers are familiar with the program. Now involved in the screening of applications and reading of resumes, the resort’s involvement goes beyond simply opening the doors for a two-day adventure.
“It’s a cool experience. I was nervous (in the interview) but the person who interviewed me was cool,” said Assistant Facilities Manager for a day Michelle Harvey.
Despite the program’s eight years in existence, it’s too early to really track how well students have fared from the experience. Former students have offered feedback, saying the hands-on work gave them an idea of what the real world would be like, Pawling said. But it wasn’t until about two years ago that job search and hirability became the focus.
Brooks, who’s sharing her management job with Nichole White, spent Monday in training. The two helped locate a wayward trash can – it was in an elevator – and will continue at Embassy Suites today typing memos, going over room and property inspections and planning this month’s managers’ meeting. Brooks and White will create the agenda, which will include financial performance reports, problem-solving techniques and a business forecast. And they say they have a lot to offer.
“We’re like customers almost,” White said. ” We know what we’d like to see, and what our parents would like to see.”
On-site job training will continue later in the school year when Heavenly Experience, a similar job training program at Heavenly Ski Resort, kicks off. Students who weren’t hired at Embassy are gearing up for the application process now.
“This is something they’ll use later in life,” Pawling said. “The resume can be used for college entrance, and if they keep updating it, it will always be right there for them.”
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