People in need of a job in Holyoke, one of the poorest cities in Massachusetts, are being urged to enroll in a free training program .
The free education for a potential career in the culinary arts and hospitality industry is the result of a collaboration involving the city of Holyoke, Holyoke Community College, and MGM, which needs to train a local workforce to fill thousands of jobs in the casino that is scheduled to open in Springfield in two years.
The program was announced earlier this summer. A recent posting on the city website advertises “Free training opportunity for unemployed individuals. Get the skills and certifications you need to build a winning resume.” The classes begin in October.
Holyoke was the only community that does not abut Springfield that negotiated a mitigation agreement with MGM. Mayor Alex Morse said by agreeing to turn over a large portion of the $1.28 million the city is to receive from MGM to HCC, he hopes to spread the economic benefits of the casino beyond Springfield.
"The people who will be trained here won't just go on to work at MGM, they will work at other venues throughout the valley," said Morse. " Workforce development with our unemployment rate is incredibly important to make sure there is an impact on people's lives."
The funding from MGM, through the city, will allow up to 50 Holyoke residents to enroll annually at HCC for hospitality industry training, according to Jeffrey Hayden, vice president of Business and Community Services for the college.
The school is planning to open a new facility next year in a renovated former factory building in downtown Holyoke. HCC President William Messner said it will double the capacity in the hospitality and culinary programs.
" Hospitality and culinary area is one of three top employers in the region and we need to satisfy that demand. MGM is just going to compound the need for graduates," said Messner.
The new center will be called the MGM Resorts HCC Center for Hospitality and Culinary Arts at Holyoke. MGM put up $500,000 to complete the construction. HCC received about $3 million in state and federal funding for the project.
MGM will have input into the hospitality and culinary training at the new center. Anton Nikodemus, Regional Chief Operations Officer for MGM Resorts International, said the company learned as it built new casinos the importance of developing a local workforce that can provide the same level of service found at its Las Vegas casinos.
"It is critical for our long term success," said Nikodemus.
Officials said the MGM Springfield casino will have up to 900 jobs in the hospitality and culinary fields.