There are people among us who ignite potential in others, make them believe in that potential and help them reach it to its depths. You may call them leaders, mentors or role models. At Hospitality Workers Training Centre [HWTC], we call them trainers.
Our trainers are a key component of our ‘way’ of training, which is non-traditional and unexpected for many in its approach. In addition to being hands-on in either a simulated or a real, consumer facing environment, our training principles are deeply entrenched in the belief that one cannot be productive if he/she is not happy. Whereas we do not take responsibility for our participants’ happiness, our trainers ensure that our participants not only learn the skills that will help them build careers, but also overcome the battle of the mind – of self-doubt, lack of confidence, fatigue and disappointments. The relationship developed during the training evolves and continues as our new entrants are connected for job placements and begin their new careers.
We sat down with two of our trainers, Jasmine and Imesia, who train new entrants for Housekeeping, Banquet Servers, Guest Service and Front of House courses at HWTC.
Q: How is your work here different?
J: The way we train is not detached or impersonal. We work together not just as a team but also as a small family unit. I really believe in what I am doing because at HWTC everyone deserves a chance and has the potential to be successful. And lets not forget that success can mean different things for different people. It is not as one-dimensional as finding a well-paying job. It may mean being able to feed your child, saving up for a vacation, being accepted by your peers at the workplace, growth and advancement and so many other things.
I: For me, a major part of the training is imparting life skills and behavioural guidance that leads to positive and sustainable change in people’s lives. Teaching someone how to positively give feedback or express his/her emotions in a healthy way are key elements that enables them to perform with the technical skills they gain with us. We help people find their best selves before they embark on their career journeys.
Q: How do you separate your emotions from your daily trainee interactions at the end of the day?
J: I can’t separate my emotions as the training and trainees become important pieces of my life. In fact I feel it is my strength as a trainer.
I: I do feel that my work consumes my whole being – emotionally, mentally and physically. The only way I can de-stress when I end my workday is by trusting that the participants are whole; believing that they will achieve what they are meant to.
Q: What do you feel is your biggest challenge as a trainer?
J: The most challenging part of what I do is when I see someone with so much potential but he/she is unable to see or acknowledge it. We work with our participants very closely, providing professional counselling and guidance to wraparound supports. It is a long and challenging process.
I: For me the most rewarding part of the training is also the most challenging one. Once the training is over and our participants are up for placements, it is exciting to see our babies grow up and be ready for the real world, but it is challenging to manage expectations of what happens after. As an organization based on the sector-based workforce approach, we have to work with many other partners to ensure that our trainees find fair jobs in the hospitality industry. There still are barriers we have to face and help our graduates overcome them.
Q: What is the most fun part of training?
J: Being around our participants is the most enjoyable part. They teach me crazy new things – songs, dance moves, what is trending amongst the young, there is never a dull moment.
I: When I witness the little changes during my daily interactions – changes that reflect behaviour shifts that we had talked about. When I see the knowledge that has been transferred, I feel really happy.
Q: Do you have some proud moments to share?
J: Some of my proudest moments are the achievements of my trainees. One of such stories is George’s. From being a shy young man in his early 20’s, evading eye contact and direct conversations, and never having worked before due to his development disabilities, George has come such a long way in less than a year.
His induction into the HWTC program started with his mother speaking on his behalf, as he was not comfortable expressing himself. He took the Kitchen Helper course followed by Front of House training at Hawthorne Food & Drink, the social enterprise, training restaurant managed by HWTC. During his time at the restaurant, George got an opportunity to not only develop his technical/functional skills but also build up his social skills. Upon finishing the two courses and his training placement at Hawthorne, he was hired on a temporary assignment at Toronto Don Valley Hotels & Suites (TDV) to manage one of the elevators during repairs. His confidence, quality of work and superior customer service soon landed him a full time job at TDV as a Greeter, a position especially created for him by the hotel management.
It was George’s dream to be accepted by his peers. Today he is not only accepted but also celebrated by his team and the hotel’s customers, who have given him several positive named online reviews already. His newfound financial independence has enabled him to stop relying on government supports. It has also helped him to believe in himself and his potential much more than he did just one year ago.
I: Recently two trainees who had developed a conflict were able to work it out themselves without any intervention from us. Such moments make me proud and they happen often.