In December, the unemployment rate for new veterans spiked to 13.1 percent, up from 11.1 percent in November. These numbers continue to trend higher than the national average. With veterans still struggling to find work, MGM Resorts and the Nevada Red Cross have teamed up to help former military members thrive in hotel positions through a 10-week Boots to Business program.
Last September nine veterans graduated from the inaugural program and began careers with the Nevada-based hospitality company. At the end of this month, MGM and the Red Cross will welcome 15 to 20 qualified veterans to the second incarnation of the training program.
“Veterans were saying that their skills in the military weren’t transferable,” says Michelle DiTondo, senior vice president of human resources for MGM Resorts. “The idea was to find people with the right attitude, the right leadership skills, and the right discipline and train them to be managers in hospitality.”
The program, which consists of paid on-the-job training, classroom learning, and transition workshops with the Red Cross, targets assistant manager level positions. DiTondo, who also sits on the board of the Southern Nevada Red Cross, explains that it is often difficult to find qualified candidates at that level with strong leadership skills.
During the course of the training, participants are also paired up with high-level MGM veteran employees who serve as mentors and provide assistance with transitioning into a business environment. During the first course, MGM had so many company volunteers who wanted to be involved that each of the prospective employees had two mentors to assist them.
“All participants go through orientation where they learn about the values of the company and our core leadership training,” says DiTondo. “Once they finish that introductory period, they start on-the-job training to learn a specific role. One day a week, the class also comes together for a leadership class where they share experiences and participate in transition workshops with the Red Cross.”
DiTondo expects to see an influx of applicants for this year’s course, due to the success of the inaugural program. The Red Cross will screen applicants and forward the best matches for the program along to MGM Resorts. Participating veterans have to be at least 21 years old and need to be out of the military no longer than four years.
MGM is currently in talks with other chapters of the Red Cross and is looking to expand the program into other cities and states. DiTondo also believes that the program could eventually be adapted to serve other hotel companies with hiring veterans in the near future.
“The vision of MGM and the Red Cross is that we would be able to make this program much broader,” she says. “We’re in discussions to provide funding to launch the program in Detroit, Biloxi, Miss., Maryland, and Massachusetts where we have development interest as well as current properties.”