Hamilton County launches training program for inmates

Officials in Hamilton County have launched a program aimed at providing a career pathway for individuals in the Hamilton County Jail. The Hospitality Training Program features a 10-week course designed to provide communication, problem-solving and customer-service skills for careers in the hospitality industry.

“In order to enable tourism to thrive as part of our economy and hospitality to thrive as part of our economy, we knew we had to look to some innovative sources of talent,” said Mike Thibideau, CEO of Invest Hamilton County.

Thibideau told Inside INdiana Business the county’s hospitality industry was one of the hardest hit during the pandemic, but was also rebounding significantly.

“We also did a lot of deep diving into the data behind hospitality jobs and really did find that within our economy here in Hamilton County, they are pathways to high-demand, high-paying work,” said Thibideau. “And that means it’s a really viable thing to connect people with as far as opportunity goes.

The program was established through a partnership involving Invest Hamilton County, the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office and Hamilton County Tourism.

It is being funded using dollars from the county’s American Rescue Plan Act allocation.

The initiative uses programming from the American Hotel Lodging and Education Institute to provide a foundation for participants looking to get a foothold in the hospitality industry.

Upon completion, participants will receive the Guest Service Gold and most of the Certified Front Desk Representative credential from the institute.

“We also provide [participants with] a lot of soft-skills training, a lot of background on our local economy and why tourism matters, and why hospitality matters,” Thibideau said. “And then, we also just connect them in general with some recovery, coaching supports and other things that can help them maintain long-term success and get connected with resources post-release.”

Thibideau said beyond just filling open positions, the program is beneficial because it shows that Hamilton County is committed to second chances and making sure those who are disadvantaged have an opportunity for success.

“We also know that within our general economy, there are a lot of customer support and customer-service positions available. And anytime we can provide somebody with a first step towards a career that both meets local labor demand and provides them with economic opportunity, it’s just a great fit.”

To date, two cohorts of seven participants have completed the program with a 100% success rate. Thibideau said the feedback was that they wanted more.

“They would have loved to do more training, have more programs and see more resources. So, we are going to continue exploring in partnership with the county, in the sheriff’s office and tourism [to see] how we can continue to provide more and more opportunity to these gentlemen.”

The program will begin its first women’s cohort on Monday.

Thibideau said the reaction from officials in the hospitality industry has been positive.

“The reception has honestly been a sense of surprise, I guess, or pleasant surprise with just how motivated these gentlemen have been, how much the training has impacted their desire to really pursue this industry as a career, and just the general skill sets that they’re leaving with that are just in really good demand,” he said. “So, we’ve had a really good employer participation … and we are excited to just continue to kind of grow that and diversify.”

The partners say they hope to continue training sessions “into the foreseeable future.”

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