Hotel brands are working with an organization called The Arc to give people with intellectual and developmental disabilities jobs on-property that play to their strengths and to incorporate a sense of community at their hotels.
REPORT FROM THE U.S.—Hotel companies like Marriott International and Wyndham Hotel Group are working with a nonprofit organization to provide job opportunities to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, which in some cases has given a more neighborly feel to their properties.
In the United States, approximately 85% of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities are unemployed, said Jonathan Lucus, managing director of The Arc@Work, a program that works with companies to employ people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
The Arc works with companies in all industries, and recently ventured into its first partnership with a hotel brand, Wyndham Hotel Group’s Baymont Inn & Suites.
“Baymont is sort of our kickoff within the hotel industry from a national perspective,” he said. “We don’t currently work with any other hotels, (but) we do have a chapter in Indiana that had a training facility based out of a brand new (Marriott) … near Ball State, and that has been a great program for them. … They’ve trained numerous people to go into the hotel industry.”
He added that the goal of The Arc@Work program is to help out the employers.
“Our goal is to focus on supporting employer needs, so we connect with employers who have openings they’re trying to fill, who need training on the disability hiring space,” he said. “We’re fortunate to have over 650 chapters around the United States that can support local hiring initiatives based on what hotels, or whatever industry we’re working with, need to fill jobs.”
The training hotel at The Courtyard by Marriott Muncie at the Horizon Convention Center in Muncie, Indiana, is run by a local chapter of The Arc, Lucus said. Kristine Weston, corporate director of human resources at the General Hotels Corporation, oversees the human resources department at the Courtyard Muncie. She said the hotel does not operate the training program, but does hire some of the trainees once they’ve completed the program.
Hiring out of the training program helps the hotel put people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in positions that play to their strengths, she said.
Some of trainees go on to work at other hotels after completing the program, and The Courtyard by Marriott Muncie also hires people with disabilities outside of the program, she said. Weston added that 20% of employees at the Courtyard Muncie have some type of disability.
Providing a sense of community
At Baymont Inn & Suites properties, people with intellectual and developmental disabilities are being hired to work as breakfast attendants through a program called Hometown Host in coordination with The Arc, according to Lisa Checchio, VP of brand marketing and insights at Wyndham Hotel Group.
She said the program was introduced at a Baymont property in Celebration, Florida, on 3 December, which is the International Day of Persons with Disabilities.
“We have a gentleman by the name of Billy Jake in Celebration, Florida, who has been on the job now for several (months,) and we’re already getting great feedback from our owners and the partners at the hotel, as well as our guests,” she said. “We have a number of hotels that are in conversations with The Arc right now about bringing these associates to their hotels.”
She said Baymont is seen as being a neighborly brand, which is why Wyndham decided to implement the program.
“When we look at Baymont and we think about breakfast, we saw an opportunity to really redefine what breakfast means …. Breakfast is really about the people that you eat it with and the people who serve you,” she said. “And so we introduced a new program in December for Baymont called Hometown Host, and what that means is it’s our breakfast attendant who champions good service and is there when you arrive in the morning to say, ‘good morning,’ and to make sure you have a great breakfast.”