More than 2,000 people have applied to a job training program that aims to prepare 600 workers for positions at the Washington Marriott Marquis hotel that is to open in the District in 2014.
Goodwill of Greater Washington, which is overseeing the training program, has held 14 events in September and October to help would-be participants fill out applications and to have them take reading and math assessments.
The applicants come from a variety of backgrounds: Some were recently laid off; others are already employed but looking for a second job to help make ends meet. Faith Tennent, a project director with Goodwill, said she has seen homeless people come in to apply, as well as ex-offenders looking for their first job in years.
Many also have already worked in the hospitality industry or have other relevant work experience.
“The candidates we’re getting are fabulous,” Tennent said.
The most recent session, held on Friday at the University of the District of Columbia’s facility on Livingston Road SE was the best-attended event so far.
“The thing about recruitment and marketing, it takes a couple of weeks for word to really penetrate in the community,” said Colleen Palletta, Goodwill’s vice president of workforce development.
Lisa Everett is one District resident who came to the Oct. 18 session at UDC’s Shadd facility.
While she currently has a job working as a guard, “I think Marriott has more [job] security,” Everett said. “I wanted something stable.”
Everett hopes to land a front desk position because she said she likes the idea of being “the smiling face” that greets guests when they arrive.
Brendan Hurley, Goodwill’s chief marketing officer, said that one of the biggest barriers to entry has been that many people are not coming to the events with two valid forms of identification. (The program stipulates that participants must be District residents, so this is an important step in verifying that.)
Tennent said it has also been challenging to drive home the message that people need to apply for training now, because the Marriott Marquis’s scheduled May opening feels far away.
Two application sessions are remaining, with the final one scheduled for Oct. 25. Applicants can also fill out the paperwork online. Goodwill said that it may add additional sessions.
“That’s not necessarily because we’re concerned that we’re not going to hit our goal, but more because we want to make sure we’re effectively touching every ward in the District,” Hurley said.
Goodwill will then conduct in-depth interviews with applicants, the last step before it makes its final selections. Some people will be considered direct referrals, meaning Goodwill believes they don’t need additional training to be a good candidate for a position at the Marriott Marquis. Others will be admitted to a program for partial training, which means they already have some of the skills they need, but must brush up on others. A third group will receive full training for jobs at Marriott.
The program is set to get underway in December. There will be both daytime and evening sessions, and classes will be held at various locations across the city.
To those who are not accepted, Goodwill will provide a list of other organizations in the District that offer training or employment assistance .