THEY’D LIKE TO THANK THE ACADEMY: Local hospitality workers prepare for careers at the Culinary Academy of Las Vegas

On a recent weekday morning, inside a big, rust-colored building in North Las Vegas, about a dozen students are training for one of the most in-demand jobs in the valley.

They make and remake beds, fold towels, vacuum carpets and scrub bathrooms. They meet in “classrooms” designed to look like hotel suites and named for properties, miles away on the glamorous Las Vegas Strip, in which they hope to soon be employed — MGM, Caesars, Tropicana and Bellagio among them.

Landing these jobs shouldn’t be a problem.

“Our students, they come over here and within four days they already have jobs waiting for them,” says Nancy Cor, senior housekeeping instructor for the Culinary Academy of Las Vegas. “We train them to be successful.”

The academy, a labor-management trust that partners with the local Culinary and Bartenders unions and dozens of properties on the Strip, has, since its 1993 founding, trained tens of thousands of workers for jobs in the local hospitality industry. These include jobs as guestroom attendants, cooks, baker’s helpers, food servers, porters and sommeliers.

Training at the academy is free for union members looking to move up in their careers or transition to a new job in hospitality. Students who are not yet union members usually qualify for tuition assistance from the state or local charitable organizations.

That includes most students in the guestroom attendant program. Some are unemployed. Some have never held a job or have been out of the workforce for years. Some come straight out of high school or from a shelter. When it comes to finding work, some aren’t sure where to begin.

“I can show them where to start,” Cor says, “and to have a future in the hotel industry.”

The guestroom attendant program is among the academy’s most successful, in terms of job placement. Many students land a job (with health and retirement benefits) before they graduate from the two-week program. And after six months with the union, they qualify for free classes at the Culinary Academy, where they can quickly train for new, higher-paying positions.

Such perks drew 19-year-old Marco Pilotzi to the academy. After high school, he went to work in a fast-food restaurant, but didn’t see himself doing that long-term. He saw the academy’s guestroom attendant program as his gateway to a better life.

It “felt like it was an opportunity to better myself,” he says during a break from his last day of classes. Best of all, he already has a job lined up at MGM Grand.

“I got hired within my first week” in the program, he says.

His classmate, Jose Rebolledo, also 19, joined the program for similar reasons. An indoor job cleaning hotel rooms, with the opportunity for more training and eventual advancement, seemed like a big step up from his landscaping gig.

He has already accepted a job offer from Park MGM.

“(It’s) basically a better job right now (with) more opportunities,” he says.

Randy Goldberg, vice president of talent acquisition strategy for MGM Resorts International, sees the Culinary Academy partnership as “truly a win-win solution” that benefits both the MGM and the community.

“As a business, we could not do what we do without a strong and talented workforce,” he says in a statement. “We believe education opens doors and creates new possibilities. We are committed to helping provide access to retraining and upskilling opportunities for our employees.”

Students in the guestroom attendant program learn a lot more than how to clean hotel suites. They study industry procedures, how to properly handle cleaning chemicals and carts, job safety and customer service. They repeatedly practice the real-world tasks they’ll need to succeed at their new jobs.

Those tasks include how to impeccably make up a bed in under six minutes, which turns out to be even harder than it sounds.

“You should see them running,” Cor says. But after a couple weeks of practice, “they get it done. And they feel so proud of themselves.”

Cor, who worked in housekeeping on the Strip for years, says seeing her students graduate to better professional lives is the most rewarding part of her job. “I tell them all the time, ‘You’re not going to become a millionaire,’” she says. But “’You’re going to have all types of benefits.’”

For more information about the Culinary Academy of Las Vegas, visit www.theculinaryacademy.org.

To offer feedback on this story or suggestions for future stories on Las Vegas Newswire, contact Managing Editor Steve Bornfeld at SBornfeld@lvcva.com.

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