HWTC Training in Action: Camilo in Career Development

Posted 11-10-15 by In Our Graduates,Skills Development

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Camilo Zuniga, a recent graduate of HWTC’s Career Development program, is a living example how this innovative program is impacting young people’s lives. HWTC’s Career Development program, which targets youth from 18-29, was designed around three core objectives:

  1. Give participants hands-on experience in two areas of the Hospitality sector
  2. Provide an overview of the Hospitality industry & the opportunities
  3. Support the development of ‘soft skills’ and build individuals’ confidence

How does it work? Camilo’s experience highlights the Career Development program in action.

Making the Connection:

Camilo has a gift for languages. Born in Colombia, at age 17 Camilo traveled to Shanghai to learn Mandarin and arrived in Canada via Quebec where learned to speak French.

He moved to Toronto to go to York University’s Translation Program. While completing his degree, Camilo was searching for a career path that fit with his love of languages, travel and his passion for helping others.

When HWTC delivered a presentation at an LGBTQ youth group, it suddenly clicked. As Camilo listened to the presentation, he saw how Hospitality aligns with his many skills and passions. Camilo applied and was accepted into the Career Development program.

Hands-on Training in Guest Services.

Camilo kicked off the program with Guest Services training: It was an area he selected because of his love of helping people. He  learned all of the critical aspects of a Guest Services position and applied it to on-site shifts where he shadowed experienced Front Desk agents at  One King West Hotel & Residence and The Toronto Don Valley Hotel & Suites. Camilo says:

“I loved when we worked with HWTC trainers to do role playing. They brought up different situations that can come-up in a hotel. How do you deal with an angry guest? What do you do if the guest asks for medication? The feedback I received was like holding up a mirror: The instructors saw things in me that I couldn’t see in myself. It really accelerated my development.”

One of Camilo’s Front-Desk shadowing shifts took place during Caribana. He loved the ‘buzz’ at the hotel, but he especially thrived when he was in the role of helping others:

“I like to make people smile. When guests are happy, the hotel stands apart. I like being part of all of that.”

Career Development Curriculum: 

After completing Guest Services training, Camilo moved into the week-long Career Development curriculum. Among the many activities that happen in Career Development, Hospitality professionals visit the program to share their career journeys and what they’ve learned along the way:

“Amazing people like Donald, the Executive Chef at the Toronto Don Valley Hotel & Suites, shared how they were able to thrive in their Hospitality career. He shared insights into the mistakes he’d made along the way. I think this really helped all of us all see that everyone struggles in their career, but that these aren’t mistakes–they’re opportunities to learn, move and develop”

Camilo had some profound personal breakthroughs during the Career Development training:

“During one of the feedback sessions, the facilitators asked me: ‘What are we going to do about your negativity?’ I’d honestly never seen that in myself before, but they were right. In the past, I’ve tended to dwell on what didn’t go right about a situation. Hearing that from someone I respect really mattered to me. I was able to shift my approach. I took it on as a challenge for myself. It’s made a huge difference for me–both personally and professionally.

The Career Development curriculum’s primary objective is to help participants build the core skills they need to succeed in–both personally and professionally. The focus is on “soft skills” development.

By working on skills such as shifting one’s outlook or recurring negative behavior patterns, participants like Camilo come away from the program with an ability to communicate with others, cultivate a strong work ethic and become critical thinkers.  This not only benefits temployers but also helps manage the inevitable ‘bumps in the road’ participants will face in their personal lives. 

Hands on Training in Second Hospitality Area:

In the final stage of the program, Camilo trained as a Front of House Server at our social enterprise training restaurant, Hawthorne Food & Drink. The training consisted of instruction and shadowing the restaurant’s experienced servers. “I liked the balance between theory and practice,” raves Camilo.

“There’s much more to serving than just bringing the food. I learned that a server is really a very knowledgeable sales person–you match the right product with the right person. Thats how you make the guest happy and support the restaurant.”

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After his Front of House Server training wound-up, Camilo accepted a paid 3-month contract at Hawthorne Food & Drink. The position works with his University course schedule and helps him apply and strengthen his newly honed server skills.

Ultimately, Camilo sees himself combining his love of languages and travel with his passion for helping people. He’s eager to experience life in other cities and sees a Hospitality career as a great way to see the world.

“Hotels are everywhere. I know the incredible training I’ve had will open doors for me around the world.”

Clearly, the Career Development program has given Camilo wings–to travel the world, to fulfill his ambitions and to enrich his personal development. Now, it’s going to be fun to watch him fly.

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