New Castle County Chamber of Commerce member, The Westin Hotel, is being seen by a local non-profit organization as having taken centerstage in proving just how beneficial the hospitality industry can be in assisting Delaware high school students with disabilities transition from school to the work world.
The Westin has partnered with the ServiceSource Delaware (SSDE) Pre-Employment Transition Program to provide 4-week, work-based learning experiences for in-school youth with disabilities and diploma track students, ages 16-21. According to Westin General Manager, Bill Silva, “I think it’s vitally important that we work with everyone in the community and that everyone in the community has the same opportunity to work. The payback is tenfold on the employer and supervisors who get to work with people with disabilities and have an opportunity to learn how to train and develop people differently. It makes us stronger in whatever role we have at a hotel. We’re able to reach out and work with someone and develop them into someone that’s a viable part of our organization.”
In the program, students are assigned a Westin worksite mentor and rotate through a full array of hospitality assignments under the direction of hotel staff in coordination with an SSDE employment consultant. In addition to the paid work experience, students receive work readiness and soft skills training. Financial coaching with benefits counseling also is embedded in the program, which is funded by the Delaware Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR). Four students completed the most recent program in August 2017. The next internship class is scheduled for the upcoming summer.
Westin staff, ServiceSource Delaware staff, and the student interns at the August 2017 graduation ceremony
SSDE has been a vital source of vocational training and employment support for thousands of Delaware citizens with disabilities dating back to its inception in 1957 as Opportunity Center Inc. (OCI). Enduring partnerships made over the years with local businesses (many of which are New Castle County Chamber members), government agencies, and foundations have assisted its efforts to make our community more inclusive and accepting of the similarities, rather than the differences, people with disabilities display.
For more information about ServiceSource Delaware programs visit its website at https://www.servicesource.org/our-offices/delaware/ or contact Cindy Sterling, Director of Employment Services at 302-765-1232.