Interns with disabilities complete training at UD hotel
Max, left, works with Juan, a supervising houseman.
Housekeeping supervisor Clarinda Jones, left, works with Doug.


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9:34 a.m., Jan. 28, 2010----The Swank Employment Initiative, a program managed by the Center for Disabilities Studies in the College of Education and Public Policy at the University of Delaware, has teamed up with the Marriott Courtyard Newark-University of Delaware hotel to provide professional training to aspiring hotel workers with disabilities.

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Most recently, two interns, Doug and Max, completed a 90-day program in which they were paired up with Marriott employees and trained to become certified in hotel management skills. This is the same program that the hotel, a Marriott Training Facility, uses to train UD's Department of Hotel, Restaurant and Institutional Management students.

“They make a big difference,” said Tracy Holmes, director of operations at the hotel. “These are two guys who have said 'we want to be hotel workers and we want to make hotels our career.' My staff accepted them right away when they started and said 'OK, we're going to help you be hotel leaders,' and it was amazing to me that they were so eager to help them do that.”

Deanna Pedicone, an employment and placement specialist at the Center for Disabilities Studies, said the interns' on-staff mentors provided daily training and mentoring, as well as feedback on their progress. Doug was paired with Clarinda Jones, a supervisor in housekeeping, as he aspires to become a trainer with the Marriott Corporation and teach others what it takes to be a successful Marriott employee, while Max was paired with Juan, a supervising houseman who has taught him the skills needed to be a houseman.

Doug and Max attend the New Castle County Vocational-Technical School District, where students can be eligible for special education services until age 21, Pedicone said.

The program designed for 18-21 year olds focuses on preparing students for their transition to the adult world. Their curriculum includes career exploration, interpersonal communication skills, money management and setting long-term goals.

Holmes said the interns were given opportunities to earn up to three certificates in laundry, houseman and concierge, and housekeeping. At the beginning of the internship, the objectives and skills necessary for each department were explained to the interns, and they decided which certificates to pursue.

The certification gives interns a better chance of finding a job in the hotel industry after the program, Holmes said, because it shows that the interns have had first-hand experience working in the field.

When the interns reach the end of their training, they are tested on their skills and then presented with their certificates. Holmes said the hotel's partners will be told of their interns' successes and hotel staff will try to help them ease into the job world and get placed at a hotel.

Pedicone said Marriott's involvement with the Swank program has been very beneficial.

“Marriott has offered individuals in the program top-rate training that is not only geared towards their own operations, but also towards other hotels' minimum requirements for hire,” she said. “This allows our individuals who successfully graduate from this program to be attractive candidates for employment at any hotel in the area.”

Pedicone said Marriott's training program allows interns to learn skills that, while they are not required in UD's specific hotel, will give the interns an edge while finding a job in the hotel industry. Pedicone explained that Marriott housemen are not required to strip beds in the hotel rooms, but Marriott includes stripping beds in their training program for housemen, so they would have that skill if they chose to apply to another hotel whose housemen must strip beds.

Holmes said partnering with the Swank Employment Initiative has been a great experience, and that working with people with disabilities is no different than working with people who do not have disabilities, as everybody has a learning curve.

“It's been a big eye-opener for us, and being able to reach out to the community and help has been very rewarding for us,” she said. “Everybody has a learning curve, and my staff has been excellent in learning how to monitor and adjust to learning curves. Doug and Max brought great, never-say-no attitudes, and they confidently talk to the customers. They have set a great example for my team.”

Article by Jon Bleiweis
Photos courtesy Marriott Courtyard Newark-University of Delaware