Green Opportunities Partners with Biltmore Farms Hotels to Showcase Hospitality Industry Career Pathways to GO StudentsBy Gwen Hill In Kitchen Ready, Partners, Training
Students in GO’s 14th training cycle toured the Biltmore DoubleTree Hotel on April 17, 2017 and met with Biltmore Farms staff members to learn about hospitality career pathways.
For more than a year, Biltmore Farms Hotels and Green Opportunities (GO) have been partnering to ensure that GO Kitchen Ready trainees are aware of the career pathways open to them in the local hospitality industry.
When a Kitchen Ready student begins their job search, their first inclination might be to seek out openings with local restaurants. That’s where Robert Foster, director of hotel operations at Biltmore Farms, comes in.
Mr. Foster ensures that GO’s students understand the diversity of career paths their culinary training will open to them, and where an entry-level position with a company like Biltmore Farms Hotels could ultimately lead in a tourism-heavy market like Asheville.
GO’s mission of providing adults from low-wealth neighborhoods with sustained employment opportunities that promote community health is well aligned with Biltmore Farms Hotels’ goal of cultivating healthy sustainable communities and thriving businesses.
GO Build and GO Kitchen Ready students hear directly from employees in the Biltmore DoubleTree’s engineering department.
For the past four training cycles, Biltmore Farms has participated in GO’s Community Pathways program, a weekly educational series that brings community partners, educators, and employers into the classroom to teach our trainees valuable life and employment skills. Mr. Foster understands just how integral the employer exposure and soft skills training instilled through the Community Pathways program is to the future success of GO students.
“As a locally-owned company committed to the Asheville community, we are honored to be a part of Green Opportunities and have an impact on their students and give them insights on career paths in our industry,” shares Foster.
Once each cycle, Mr. Foster joins GO students in the classroom to teach them about hospitality careers at Biltmore Farms Hotels. He provides the class with an overview of each department in the hotel, and communicates how each department plays a vital role in the daily success of their property. He also wants to ensure that Kitchen Ready students know that even if they begin in a small role, the opportunity exists for them to grow into a leadership role over time.
“Robert does an amazing job explaining hospitality and tourism career pathways as defined by Land of Sky, the local workforce development board,” says Aisha Adams, GO’s director of training and support.
According to the Asheville Chamber of Commerce, the Leisure and Hospitality industry is one of the largest employers in the Asheville Metropolitan area—second only to Education and Health Services—with 26,600 people employed in the sector in 2015.
GO Cycle 14 students on the “behind the scenes” tour of the Biltmore DoubleTree Hotel.
In addition to the classroom session with Biltmore Farms staff, GO students participate in a tour at the DoubleTree Biltmore, in Biltmore Village. Students tour guest rooms, meetings and public space areas, and are also taken “behind the scenes” to learn how the back of the house operates. They visit the front desk, housekeeping, engineering, and kitchen areas, ask questions of each department, and interact with team members. The Biltmore Farms staff also share the history of the company and property, which is located on the site of the original Biltmore Dairy Farms bottling plant and Biltmore Dairy Bar, founded by George W. Vanderbilt in 1897.
As stated on the company’s website, Vanderbilt “understood the impact one could have on communities, encouraging and supporting local organizations and businesses, and promoting the overall well-being of Asheville residents and visitors.”
Ms. Adams hopes that the exposure and support provided through this partnership will inspire students to consider applying for entry-level jobs with an employer like Biltmore Farms, where long-term career growth is both possible and encouraged.
Kitchen Ready member Debra Campbell has already experienced the open, supportive work environment at Biltmore Farms.
Ms. Campbell met Mr. Foster last fall shortly after moving to Asheville. He was volunteering on the food serving line at a local church where she was a customer, and they struck up a conversation about her need for a job. Mr. Foster encouraged her to apply for a position with Biltmore Farms. She followed up, and was hired to work as a laundry attendant at the DoubleTree Biltmore in December. Ms. Campbell has continued to work in the DoubleTree laundry department on weekends throughout the Kitchen Ready training cycle.
Reflecting on her chance meeting with Mr. Foster, she shares “It was real refreshing, because his energy was really clean and respectful. He’s a down to earth brother, and [the DoubleTree Biltmore] is a warm and inviting environment for you to learn and grow.”
Kitchen Ready Cycle 14 students preparing lunch in their culinary classroom. From left, Darrell Davis, Debra Campbell, and Jasmine Caldwell. Debra has been working part-time at the Biltmore DoubleTree since December.
Lauren Cooper McDevit, Director of Marketing at Biltmore Farms Hotels, agrees. “The great thing about working in a hotel is that there are a variety of departments and we employ individuals with a wide-range of backgrounds,” says McDevit. “In addition, as a company, we are proud of our ability to develop our team members and promote internally.”
Ms. Campbell recently spoke to Mr. Foster about her desire to move out of housekeeping and into another department with new challenges and room for growth. After discussing her career goals, they agreed to move her to a front desk role, which will allow her to learn the ropes of a new department.
Ultimately, Ms. Campbell has her sights set on an assistant manager position, which will require her to be familiar with each department within the hotel. She’s happy to be employed at a company that is willing to work with her to meet her goals.
The entire Kitchen Ready class will tour Biltmore Farms’ facilities on Monday, April 17, so they can see firsthand the potential career pathways available to them there. The tour is a highlight of GO’s Education and Employment Week, a time focused on ensuring that soon-to-be graduates are prepared to successfully take their next steps into the labor market.
Ms. McDevit emphasizes that Biltmore Farms’ tours “highlight our ‘success stories,’ team members who started with us at an entry-level position and now are a part of our management team. We also share the importance of team work and that everyone is a part of our day-to-day success.”
While the Biltmore Farms Hotels partnership offers GO trainees a valuable glimpse into hospitality career pathways, Mr. Foster is quick to note that the educational value of the relationship is reciprocal.
“Every time I interact with [Green Opportunities] students, either in the classroom or at our DoubleTree, I leave knowing I learned more than they do.”
About Biltmore Farms
Biltmore Farms was founded by George W. Vanderbilt in 1897, and today is operated by his grandson, George H. V. Cecil, and great-grandson, John “Jack” H.A.V. Cecil. For more information, visit www.biltmorefarms.com.
About Green Opportunities
Green Opportunities (GO) is an Asheville-based nonprofit that connects youth and adults from low-wealth neighborhoods to sustained employment opportunities that support families and improve community and environmental health. For more information, visit www.greenopportunities.org.