Hospitality associations celebrate graduation of youth leaders

LOS ANGELES—The American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) and the American Hotel & Lodging Educational Foundation (AHLEF)—in partnership with the California Hotel & Lodging Association (CHLA), Hotel Association of Los Angeles and Grads of Life, a national nonprofit—recently gathered to celebrate the first graduating class of 27 local youth who received training in a hospitality industry program with local community-based organizations LeadersUp and iFoster.

“Successful hospitality and tourism employees must have effective guest-service skills in today’s competitive market,” said Rosanna Maietta, president of AHLEF.

As part of the training program, each individual has earned the AHLA Certified Guest Service Professional designation, the highest acknowledgment of guest service for employees in the hospitality industry. The graduation comes on the heels of a $75,000 AHLEF grant commitment to Los Angeles community-based organizations to train youth in the hospitality industry.

“To earn the AHLA Certified Guest Service Professional designation certification, participants had to complete the Guest Service Gold Training program and pass an exam of 35 questions,” Maietta said. “Guest Service Gold is a comprehensive program designed to accomplish the goal of creating guest-service-oriented, line-level employees who know how to engage with guests to provide memorable guest service.”

Maietta joined California Hotel and Lodging Association President and CEO Lynn Mohrfeld; Hotel Association of Los Angeles Chair Jonathan Litvack; Grads of Life Director Erika Cosby; and other representatives from the hotel industry at the event.

“Our member companies have been incredibly engaged in this program, as well as our other career-development projects,” Maietta said. “They have volunteered their time and staff to attend job fairs, community events or engage in job-shadowing programs to allow the graduates-in-training to get an inside view into our industry. Their ongoing support and commitment is what makes these programs successful and will allow us to scale up.”

In Los Angeles, nearly 190,000 young adults are looking for employment. Each year, the Los Angeles hotel industry has more than 8,300 job openings, with 400 positions currently listed. Grant funds are helping to connect these youth to employers in the hospitality industry and provide training to help them succeed.

The event was part of AHLA’s Empowering Youth Project, an initiative of the industry’s Dreams Happen Here campaign, a national awareness effort to showcase career advancement opportunities, community commitment, and economic importance of hotel and lodging businesses to every city and state across the United States.

“The Empowering Youth Project was started as a joint project of AHLA and AHLEF to bridge the growing jobs gap and train Opportunity Youth for jobs in the hospitality industry,” Maietta said. “Together, we have partnered with Grads of Life and committed $500,000 in grants for local community organizations to train 1,000 young people over the next two years.”

Ranging in age from 18-24 years old, graduates in the Los Angeles Program join others in Chicago, Baltimore and Washington, DC, who’ve successfully completed the program. “We believe this age range is representative of the six million Opportunity Youth who are out of school and work but possess the drive and resilience to succeed in the workplace,” Maietta said. “AHLEF designed these grants to help address a long-term labor shortage within the industry by joining with the community-based organizations to attract Opportunity Youth for careers in the hospitality industry.”

While this graduation marks another milestone for AHLEF, there’s still more work to be done in the young adult community. “While we were pleased to celebrate the first group of graduates, AHLEF is looking forward to continue working with Grads of Life to partner with local community organizations, such as LeadersUp and iFoster, to graduate additional youth in the coming year and help close the gap, while providing young people an opportunity to establish roots in our industry and build a lifelong career,” Maietta said. HB