In 2011, the District of Columbia welcomed nearly 18 million visitors who generated $6.3 billion in spending. Every 235 visitors create one new job in the city, according to Destination DC. The most recent adult graduates of HOPE (Hospitality Outreach Pathways to Employment) now have the skills to land one of those jobs.
Friday’s graduation ceremony was the culmination of a 10-week program funded by the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE). The graduates received instruction in a nationally recognized curriculum of Skills, Tasks and Results Training (START) to prepare them for work in the hospitality industry.
“At the end of the day,” said Mayor Vincent Gray, “I think the most important thing we can do is what we call economic development … having a place for people to be able to work in the District of Columbia. Frankly, there is no industry that is more important than the hospitality industry in helping to do that.”
Mayor Gray congratulated the organizers of the HOPE program for their vision and willingness to give people a chance at another career. He also encouraged the graduates to be ambassadors for D.C.
“What an important role you all have in not only being able to take care of yourself [with a new job] … but what you can do for this city,” he told the graduates. “All the things that have to do with hospitality, so much of that is how people are well received, because the hospitality industry often times is the first face that people see.
“How that person is treated at the door of the hotel, how they are treated at the desk, how they are treated when they stay in their room … How you treat the people that come into the city will determine whether we continue to grow or not.”
The District of Columbia averages 1000 new residents per month and ranked second on Forbes list of America’s coolest cities to live – thanks in part to an ever-expanding selection of local eateries and hip neighborhoods like the U Street corridor and the new H Street.
Last year, the District’s unemployment rate was 11.2 percent. At the end of August, the city’s unemployment rate stood at 8.8 percent. More than 3000 new jobs have been added since the Mayor’s One City One Hire program was initiated in 2011 – Gray said he expects the number to be nearly 5000 at the end of the fiscal year.
“We’re going to figure out how to add 22 more to that number,” said Gray, speaking of the graduates.
“What good is training if there is not a job at the end of it,” Gray said to cheers and applause. “We don’t want you to just be trained; we want you to be a trained employee. A trained person who now is earning a salary in the District of Columbia, and who we can point to and say ‘it can be done.’”
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