WSM Partners on Customized Training for Hospitality, Travel, Tourism Industries

By Cynthia Grissom

“Under customized job training programs, businesses are treated as clients, with training designed to meet the specifications of each individual firm. According to the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy’s review of literature, research suggests that these programs are 10-25 times more cost-effective in creating jobs than traditional tax incentives. The most cost-effective customized job training programs cover the costs of training, but not salaries, and require firms to share some of the training costs to ensure the training is useful from the firm’s perspective.”

– From Sage Report, re: State of North Carolina Customized Training Program

WorkSource Montgomery (WSM) has firmly embraced the use of customized training programs, along with other job development strategies. A prime example is its recent partnership with the career development and training company, WorkReady360, which offers a variety of such programs related to the hospitality, travel and tourism industry.

According to Andrew Appleton, CEO of WorkReady360, “In the past 10 years, the travel industry has seen a significant level of growth based on innovation, both in industry technology and user-facing online and mobile booking platforms.” However, he notes: “The myth that the travel agent is a dying job is based on the growth of online technology and self-serve travel sites. But for every online site, there are thousands of virtual agents providing customer support, accounting, marketing, and management services.”

Customized training presents a chance for WIOA-eligible and suitable job seekers with an expressed interest in a vocation from the “High Priority Occupations” list – as determined by the Montgomery County Workforce Development Board (WDB) – to learn the particulars of a job while actually working for an employer in the field of interest.

The basic purpose of customized training is to encourage public, private non-profit or private employers to hire an individual, who would not otherwise qualify for the job and to teach the skills requisite to perform the job. The activity is based upon a contractual exchange between the employer and WSM. WSM shares in the cost of the documented training with the employer during the agreed upon training period, and the employer commits to hiring the individual. The participants’ training is customized to meet the needs of the specific employer or group of employers.

Customized training is generally utilized for new employees and not for retraining existing long-term employees. Generally, there are state incentives for incumbent worker training, depending on the size of the organization. With customized training, the employer pays a more significant portion of the cost of training. Customized training should be most strongly considered when available training programs or curricula do not meet the specific training requirements of employers.

Customized training can also lead to industry-recognized credential attainment or preparation and passing of exams validated by industry or trade/professional associations.

“I believe in the local workforce center (American Job Center) and their ability to offer unique and viable services to their clients, but also realize they are challenged with keeping up with the rising demand for their services,” said Appleton of WorkReady360.  “Our partnership with WorkSource Montgomery demonstrates the ability to introduce job seekers to a customized training program that can fast-track them to the workforce and avoid the pitfall of a job-to-job cycle.”

WorkReady360 can customize a 30-, 45-, or 90-day program focusing on the specific needs of the workforce, and as a result, provide participating candidates with the opportunity to earn stackable certificates related to a variety of occupations. “We see an increase in confidence in our students once they realize the reality of being able to find a career in the hospitality industry versus a job that simply pays the bills,” he adds. “Montgomery County has a huge opportunity to embrace the growth in hospitality, but more importantly to engage with local employers in educating them in the programs available and how the impact can lower training costs and lead to the immediately hire of a qualified candidate.”

Appleton said WorkReady360’s customized training is a proactive response to an aging travel agent population, which had left a significant talent gap in an underemployed industry. “The so-called street corner travel agent is disappearing, but the need for well-trained agents is in big demand,” said Appleton. He noted that there are over 348 occupations related to the hospitality industry, such as retail sales, customer support, marketing, and a wide-range of hotel employment opportunities.

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