/Chawla Hotels, Coahoma Community College alliance envisions a workforce training center based in the Delta

Chawla Hotels, Coahoma Community College alliance envisions a workforce training center based in the Delta

According to Visit Mississippi’s 2017 tourism impact report, tourism is a “major contributor to the state’s financial affairs” and “a major contributor to its quality of life.” A new partnership between a local community college and the Chawla Hotels (a parent company for 19 Mississippi Delta hotels) will offer workforce training to those who want to work in the hospitality and hotel industry. The Chawla Hotels had been trying for nearly three years to establish a workforce development centre with another community college. However, they found a partner in the Coahoma Community College Workforce Development Center. This was due to their “facilities and manpower” and willingness to work with the Chawlas. Representatives from both sides announced earlier this month that they had reached an agreement after eight months of continuous communication. The first training center for hotel management was established. The Mississippi’s tourism and hospitality industry accounted for nearly 90,000. This is the highest number of jobs the state has seen in 12 years. It also generated $3 billion in labor income, and $398 millions in general fund revenue. 945 of those jobs were located in Coahoma County and contributed $7.4million in state and local taxes. Scott Waller, president and CEO of the Mississippi Economic Council, spoke to Mississippi Today by phone. He said that having a strong workforce development program, which focuses on “giving citizens skills that translate into work” is crucial. “… It doesn’t matter which entity you are in, there is a strong focus on improving our workforce. How can we make sure that those who have been trained are able to find jobs? He said, “We prepare them and then we connect them to the job.” According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, community colleges play an important role in workforce development. According to a 2014 report published on their website, both policymakers and businesses are turning to community colleges to bridge the gap in their workforce and educate their students. Waller echoed the sentiment, saying that community colleges and universities are essential to educating the workforce. Waller also stated that all education levels, from K-12 to four-year universities, have the potential to increase earnings. “Prepare, connect, sustain. Waller stated that if there isn’t a coordinated effort for people to be trained in the workforce, then we don’t serve those we are training.” Waller said that community colleges have made workforce development a key element of making sure that Mississippi has the resources it needs to be a state-wide success. The collaboration between the Chawla Hotels and Coahoma Community College will help prepare students for the workforce. Steven Jossell, Coahoma Community College Workforce Development Center executive director, stated that it is crucial to invest in employees. He said that training that is inclusive, loyalty-promoting, and that is all-inclusive, prepares individuals to succeed at every level of the organization. Jon Levingston is the Clarksdale/Coahoma County Chamber of Commerce executive director. He said that Clarksdale is grateful for their innovative program. The Chawla Hospitality Academy offers a four-week program to individuals who are interested in entry-level or front-line hotel jobs, as well as a career in hotel management. The front-line jobs include housekeepers, quality control inspectors, and front desk agents. Starting pay for entry-level positions is $10 to $12 per hour or approximately $27,000 annually. According to Glassdoor, an online resource for information about salaries and job opportunities, hotel management positions range from $49,000 to $68,000. Classes for the academy will begin on October 22 at 6 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. Candidates must register at their local WIN Job Center. The center will then refer candidates to the CCC’s workforce centre. Suresh Chawla said that the Chawlas will invest anywhere from $30,000 to $40,000 per year in the program. He also stated that they don’t intend to make any money from it. Chawla stated that they didn’t intend to make any money from the academy when it was created. Shelley Cresswell Walker is the Director of Emerging Brands and Innovation at Chawla Hotels. She stated that they want to invest in equipment and labor and came up with the idea in 2015. Chawla said that although the academy will produce workers at the entry-level and in management positions, this is only the beginning. He said that the plan is to eventually train individuals in technical maintenance positions as there is a shortage of limited-service hotels nationwide. He stated that his goal was to establish a community college so that companies can come to the area to train and then have them certified. Walker stated that there are jobs available that pay between $10 and $30 per hour in this industry. To match the opportunities in Mississippi Delta communities Walker believes it is important to have a workforce to ensure that those businesses succeed. Walker said, “For years and decades, we have talked about workforce education and how important is it for the public sector and private sector partners and utilize the skills on both sides. This program is exactly that.” The Mississippi Department of Employment Security reports that Mississippi’s unemployment rate fluctuated over the past 20 years. It remained between five to seven percent most years. However, the state reached its highest point in 2010, when it averaged 10.4 percent. The rate has dropped to 4.7 percent in August 2018, which is 0.8 more than the national average. Although rates have dropped across the state, Coahoma County’s rate is now at 7.1 percent. This is the lowest rate in over 20 years but it remains among the highest in the state. It ranks in the top 10 of the state. Mississippi has 1.2 million employees in four regions. According to August 2018 Mississippi Labor Market Data, the Mississippi Delta has the lowest number of employees and the highest unemployment rate, at 6.7 percent. Suresh and Dinesh Chawla, the brothers who serve as CEO, have been operating businesses in the Delta since the early ’90s. Their father, V.K. died in 2015. There are currently 17 hotels they operate, with two more opening in 2019. According to the New York Times, one of the hotels they are currently building is the Scion West End in Cleveland. This four-star hotel is being branded and marketed by Trump Organization. According to the Mississippi Business Journal, the Chawla brothers will rebrand three of their hotels in Cleveland and Clarksdale under the name American IDEA. In 2019, Tru by Hilton will open a second hotel in Greenville. It is being built with a local family. Only five of the Chawla hotels are managed by African-Americans. That’s a 30% rate, Suresh Chawla said, and is higher than the national average of less that one percent. “Hey, it must be working, but let’s wait a moment. The Mississippi Delta is a predominately African American area. We live there. It is not a good picture of us. He said that it was a poor reflection of the industry. “I want that to change and I’m hoping that working with Coahoma Community College, and the students that visit here, are able work it up and be able reflect those percentages.”