With the MGM Springfield casino a little more than two years away from opening its doors, programs are being set up to train the local workforce in western Massachusetts to fill the thousands of new jobs at the resort casino.
MGM is investing in a new hospitality management and culinary arts center that Holyoke Community College is building in a former factory building in downtown Holyoke. Another collaboration involving Springfield Technical Community College will establish a so-called “dealers school” in downtown Springfield.
HCC President William Messner said the new facility, which will open next year, will double the school’s capacity in its hospitality and culinary programs.
" The hospitality-culinary area is one of the three top employers for folks in the region and we need to satisfy that demand," said Messner. " MGM coming to town is just going to compound the need for graduates."
The new center will be called the MGM Resorts HCC Center for Hospitality and Culinary Arts at Holyoke.
MGM executives, elected officials, and representatives from the college gathered Monday to announce the creation of the new training program at the future site of the center in the former Cubit Building on Race Street in the city’s burgeoning Canal District.
As part of a three-way agreement, MGM will make a $500,000 advance on previously negotiated payments to the city of Holyoke to allow HCC to finish constructing the new training center. The college will offer free tuition to 50 Holyoke residents annually to enroll for classes at the center, according to Jaffrey Hayden, vice president of Business and Community Services for the college.
" Fifty Holyokers a year who are either unemployed, underemployed, and with low levels of education will be trained to get a job, but also a career," he said.
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.
"This is more than just about MGM, it is training a workforce for businesses here in Holyoke and beyond," said Morse.
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.
Officials said the MGM Springfield casino will have up to 900 jobs in the hospitality and culinary fields.
MGM is also planning to establish a center that will be located in Springfield to train people to run the various gambling games that will be offered at the casino. MGM Springfield President Mike Mathis said for that they plan to use a template established in Maryland where MGM is getting set open the National Harbor casino later this year.
MGM has committed to hire a total of 3,000 people at the $950 million casino.