• Mon. May 20th, 2024

How a New Partnership Set Up ‘Training Camp’ for Hospitality Staff


Apr 20, 2023
Graduate Hotels and Saira Hospitality partnered with The LeBron James Family Foundation at House Three Thirty in Akron, Ohio, for a nine-week program that develops students' hospitality skills, including in food and beverage. (Graduate Hotels)


Graduate Hotels and Saira Hospitality aren’t letting a challenging labor market become the standard in some communities.

The two companies this month teamed up with the LeBron James Family Foundation, based in Akron, Ohio, to bring foundational hospitality and general professional development skills at House Three Thirty and beyond. House Three Thirty is a hub for hands-on job training for skilled yet underrepresented workers in the Akron community.

Speaking with Hotel News Now about the launch of Training Camp at House Three Thirty, Graduate President Kevin Osterhaus said 80% of hotels in the U.S. are reporting staffing shortages.

Osterhaus said Graduate’s hotel portfolio growth “has forced us into creative ways of continuing to meet those needs” for labor.

Along with that, he said there’s been demand for continued education within the hospitality industry to fill open jobs as the industry recovers.

Graduate and Saira joined forces for this program with the LeBron James Family Foundation because of their aligned visions on generational change through education, he said.

Kevin Osterhaus is president of Graduate Hotels. (Graduate Hotels)

“Our mantra as a company is. ‘We are all students.’ It felt like the perfect opportunity to bring Saira in to focus on the parts of that education that they do extremely well. It gives us an opportunity to provide education in an industry that we are passionate about,” he said.

Graduate Hotels, owned by AJ Capital Partners, is a collection of 31 hotels across the U.S. and two in the U.K. that are set in towns anchored by universities. An additional three hotels are set to open by the end of 2024. Saira Hospitality is a nonprofit that creates pop-up hospitality schools around the world.

In this Q&A, Graduate President Kevin Osterhaus shares more about the inaugural program.

It equips students with both tactical hospitality skills and general professional development life skills. I believe that the curriculum is best in class. It combines skills such as emotional intelligence, communication, leadership and personal brand building with experiential hands-on learning focused on anything from food and beverage, hospitality service, guest services and operational best practices across the board. It runs the spectrum of skills that we can help people with in this industry.

The short answer is yes. Our mission here was to support the LeBron James Family Foundation in that [Akron] community, but we’re huge believers in lifelong learning and working with like-minded partners to provide educational resources and opportunities within the hospitality space … [for students] to pursue their passion for working in hotels, restaurants and beyond.

I Promise is the foundational program of the LeBron James Family Foundation. It’s groundbreaking I Promise School in Akron, Ohio, created a new model for urban public education. Following a conversation between LeBron and our CEO Ben Weprin on how Graduate could support the LJFF mission, we renovated and donated a historic building close to the I Promise School during COVID to create transitional housing for struggling families in Akron.

It’s got 20 units total and houses families on an as-needed basis. It’s an effort to help I Promise students and families to have a safe place to sleep each night, a mission that remains very close to our heart.

We had an inaugural class here. With the partnership, we had over 32 Training Camp students finish this initial curriculum. It was a nine-week program.

The responsiveness to the training camp, the students’ excitement about working through this curriculum … it was truly inspirational to see these students in action.

A key learning that we took away is that we can more quickly get people to their area of interest by continuing to modify the curriculum, get them where they’re passionate about providing hospitality. We’re working through our learnings from the first nine-week program, possibly shortening the program in the future to continue to meet the needs of House Three Thirty.

Just like anything we do in regards to labor, we’ll continue to evolve. It’s been educational all the way around.

By way of continued collaboration, I’d be excited any time we have an opportunity to work with the LeBron James Family Foundation, that’s been an inspirational partnership for us. I feel the same about Saira. If it makes sense for us to continue to work with them in the future, I’d love to continue to partner. Their brand of hospitality education in harder to reach communities has been completely refreshing for us.

Continuing to see how this evolves … to be creative in this aspect of hospitality, who knows where it could lead? This is something we’d be extremely excited about bringing to different communities in the future as things progress.

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