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Community colleges agree to train casino employees

  • Holyoke Community College President William Messner speaks Monday at TD Bank in Springfield during a meeting held to announce that the Massachusetts Casino Careers Training Institute and their regional partners have established an agreement with the state Gaming Commission and interested casino developers to create curriculum. <br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Holyoke Community College President William Messner speaks Monday at TD Bank in Springfield during a meeting held to announce that the Massachusetts Casino Careers Training Institute and their regional partners have established an agreement with the state Gaming Commission and interested casino developers to create curriculum.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Holyoke Community College President William Messner, front, signs agreements with interested casino developers during a meeting Monday at TD Bank in Springfield. Looking on in the background are Sydney Levin-Epstein, left, representing A.L. Cignoli Company; Peter Picknelly, center, a partner with Penn National Gaming, and Jeffrey Hayden, vice president of business and community services at HCC.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Holyoke Community College President William Messner, front, signs agreements with interested casino developers during a meeting Monday at TD Bank in Springfield. Looking on in the background are Sydney Levin-Epstein, left, representing A.L. Cignoli Company; Peter Picknelly, center, a partner with Penn National Gaming, and Jeffrey Hayden, vice president of business and community services at HCC.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Holyoke Community College President William Messner, right, shakes hands with Sydney Levin-Epstein, who is representing A.L. Cignoli Company, during a meeting with interested casino developers Monday at TD Bank in Springfield. Looking on are, from left: Brian Bass, representing MGM Springfield; Don Trella, vice president of human resources for Mohegan Sun; Gene Clark, senior vice president for Penn National Gaming; and Peter Picknelly,a partner with Penn National Gaming.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Holyoke Community College President William Messner, right, shakes hands with Sydney Levin-Epstein, who is representing A.L. Cignoli Company, during a meeting with interested casino developers Monday at TD Bank in Springfield. Looking on are, from left: Brian Bass, representing MGM Springfield; Don Trella, vice president of human resources for Mohegan Sun; Gene Clark, senior vice president for Penn National Gaming; and Peter Picknelly,a partner with Penn National Gaming.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Hampden County Regional Employment Board President William Ward speaks Monday at TD Bank in Springfield during a meeting held to announce that the Massachusetts Casino Careers Training Institute and their regional partners have established an agreement with the state Gaming Commission and interested casino developers to create curriculum. <br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Hampden County Regional Employment Board President William Ward speaks Monday at TD Bank in Springfield during a meeting held to announce that the Massachusetts Casino Careers Training Institute and their regional partners have established an agreement with the state Gaming Commission and interested casino developers to create curriculum.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Ira Rubenzahl, president of Springfield Technical Community College, speaks Monday at TD Bank in Springfield during a meeting with interested casino developers.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Ira Rubenzahl, president of Springfield Technical Community College, speaks Monday at TD Bank in Springfield during a meeting with interested casino developers.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Holyoke Community College President William Messner speaks Monday at TD Bank in Springfield during a meeting held to announce that the Massachusetts Casino Careers Training Institute and their regional partners have established an agreement with the state Gaming Commission and interested casino developers to create curriculum. <br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Holyoke Community College President William Messner, front, signs agreements with interested casino developers during a meeting Monday at TD Bank in Springfield. Looking on in the background are Sydney Levin-Epstein, left, representing A.L. Cignoli Company; Peter Picknelly, center, a partner with Penn National Gaming, and Jeffrey Hayden, vice president of business and community services at HCC.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Holyoke Community College President William Messner, right, shakes hands with Sydney Levin-Epstein, who is representing A.L. Cignoli Company, during a meeting with interested casino developers Monday at TD Bank in Springfield. Looking on are, from left: Brian Bass, representing MGM Springfield; Don Trella, vice president of human resources for Mohegan Sun; Gene Clark, senior vice president for Penn National Gaming; and Peter Picknelly,a partner with Penn National Gaming.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Hampden County Regional Employment Board President William Ward speaks Monday at TD Bank in Springfield during a meeting held to announce that the Massachusetts Casino Careers Training Institute and their regional partners have established an agreement with the state Gaming Commission and interested casino developers to create curriculum. <br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Ira Rubenzahl, president of Springfield Technical Community College, speaks Monday at TD Bank in Springfield during a meeting with interested casino developers.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

The agreements state that the casino developers will work with the Massachusetts Casino Careers Training Institute — made up of the state’s 15 community colleges and work-force development agencies — on everything from creating an inventory of positions and establishing qualifications to recruiting, screening, training and job placement.

“We’re very excited. It’s terrific that all four casino operators are here and they’ve said they’re willing to work with us,” said Holyoke Community College President William Messner, who also chairs the institute. “Because that’s what it’s going to take, all of us working together.”

Messner signed the documents at a press conference held Monday afternoon at the TD Bank building in downtown Springfield with representatives of potential casino developers MGM Resorts International, Mohegan Sun, Penn National Gaming and Western Mass. Development.

For close to eight months, the groups behind the Casino Careers Training Institute have been working to collaborate with the state’s Gaming Commission and the developers on preparing people for jobs in casinos, from dealers to bookkeepers. Messner said the institute provides a unified front to work with casino companies, who have until Jan. 15 to submit a formal application and a $400,000 fee to be considered by the Gaming Commission.

“As the governor stated when he signed the legislation, one of the driving factors behind this was that the casino industry was going to bring jobs to the state of Massachusetts, and in particular, jobs to those individuals who are most in need of jobs,” Messner told a room of approximately 40 representatives of community colleges, work-force development agencies and developers, and members of the press. “Certainly, here in western Massachusetts, we have many people who are either unemployed or underemployed and who would look to this as a golden opportunity.”

Hampden County Regional Employment Board President William Ward said the institute is focused on providing jobs for the unemployed, as opposed to “poaching” workers currently in the hospitality industry. Casino developers told him to expect to screen about 30,000 people — three times as many people as there are jobs — because only about one-third will qualify to train for the positions.

He said that by working with casino companies, the institute can ensure that people aren’t duped by “charlatans or bogus training institutes” that charge high fees for insufficient training. Last fall, the institute unsuccessfully tried to get the Gaming Commission to give it exclusive training rights in the state.

Springfield Technical Community College President Ira Rubenzahl said the institute would like to start training job seekers one year before the casinos open.

“If those casinos open and people are not ready, they’re not going to get that job,” he said.

Messner said he hopes to have casino training programs up and running by 2015, but it’s hard to say now what they will look like. Area campuses, including STCC, HCC and UMass, as well as nonprofits such as career centers, will all offer some training. The institute has secured the gaming curriculum from Atlantic Cape Community College, which has trained workers for Atlantic City casinos for decades, Messner said.

While the ACCC curriculum can get the colleges started teaching dealing and similar jobs, he said HCC and other community colleges already have hospitality and culinary arts programs that offer useful training for many casino jobs.

“There are probably 30, 40, maybe even more different kinds of jobs in a casino,” he said. “It’s not just one curriculum, it’s a whole host of curriculums.”

Jeff Morris, director of public affairs for Penn National Gaming, said the company is excited to sign the agreement with the training institute because it plans to hire 90 percent of its work force from the local community.

“It’s key for us to partner with community colleges and the regional employment board to work on training people in the best practices and the things we’ve learned,” he said.

Penn National, which has proposed an $807 million casino project in the North End of Springfield’s downtown corridor, has opened three new casinos in the last year, Morris said. For two of the three casinos, both in Ohio, the gaming company worked with local community colleges with great results, he said.

“We partnered with those community colleges to do the same kinds of things,” he said. “When the doors open, people will be trained and ready to go.”

The institute already has an agreement with the Gaming Commission that states that the commission will work with the institute to create an implementation plan and a timeline for the work-force development, as well as establish guidelines for the screening and licensing of potential casino employees.

Rebecca Everett can be reached at reverett@gazettenet.com.

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