From Jobless to Award-Winning Employee: Goodwill’s Hospitality Training Program

“I was in tears. I was so happy,” said Paul Calhoun, a housekeeping aide at the Holiday Inn – North Beach in Virginia Beach. He did not expect to win “Associate of the Month” in April, an honor bestowed upon him by the hotel’s guests, Calhoun’s peers and supervisors. “I’m a team player and I love working here,” he said.

The Norfolk native started his life’s second act through Goodwill’s Hospitality Credentialing Program. In August 2017, a counselor at Second Chances referred Calhoun to Goodwill. Second Chances is a city-sponsored program in Norfolk that gives individuals the tools needed to transition back into society after incarceration.

Calhoun attended an orientation and met with Anna Tiller, a Goodwill success coach in Hampton Roads. She worked with Calhoun to assess his job skill and interests, build a resume and fill out job applications.

“We help and motivate all participants throughout the training program,” said Tiller. “I explained to Paul that the hospitality program is an investment in himself and his future, and that it wouldn’t cost him anything but time and commitment,” she added.

Goodwill’s success coaches also help job seekers overcome their barriers to employment. In Paul’s case, he lived in Norfolk and needed transportation to the training site in Virginia Beach, so Tiller secured bus tickets for him that were funded through a program grant.

The hospitality credential training program gives job seekers two weeks of education along with job shadowing experience. Program funders include the Hampton Roads Community Foundation, the Gwathmey Memorial Trust, the Wells Fargo Foundation and Goodwill’s partnerships with Virginia Beach hotels. Upon program completion, job seekers earn a nationally recognized certification through the American Hotel and Lodging Education Institute.

“The instructor was great,” said Calhoun, “with helping us with assignments, leading up to the final written test, which everyone passed. I also enjoyed the job shadowing. I worked side-by-side with a housekeeping aide and saw the daily tasks. That on-the-job training makes a huge difference,” he said.

That difference is key to finding successful, long-term employees, according to Kim Keene, director of human resources at Holiday Inn – North Beach.

“Hospitality is more than just working at a hotel property,” she said. “It’s a level of service built on the core value of putting the guest first. I appreciate the way Goodwill trains its job seekers,” said Keene.

Keene said Calhoun’s hospitality training gives him an edge. “I wish I could clone him because he is one of our best employees. I recommend more employers partner with Goodwill because their job seekers are set up for success in the way Goodwill provides its career development services. It’s a win-win,” Keene added.

Through Goodwill’s hospitality credentialing program, Calhoun also earned certification as a guestroom attendant and a restaurant server. “It feels like I’m starting my life over. This is where I plan to retire. Going to Goodwill was the turning point. If you want a second chance, Goodwill is the place to find it,” he said.