Western Mass. Community College Consortium Signs Deal with Prospective Casino Developers

The casino developers vying for a single license in Western Massachusetts have signed an agreement with a statewide consortium of community colleges to develop casino career training programs.

Holyoke Community College, or HCC and Springfield Technical Community College are leading the Western Massachusetts branch of a new training institute. HCC president Bill Messner says it will restructure some existing casino-related programs — like IT, culinary and business degrees. As for actual “gaming jobs,” like slot machine attendants, he says they’ll use the curriculum from a training program in New Jersey.

Messner says establishing a relationship with all of the applicants this early means by the time the Gaming Commission selects one applicant, it will be clearer how many kinds of positions need filling. He says the agreement doesn’t actually commit developers to hiring any specific number of workers trained locally. But he thinks it will be the most efficient option.

“They don’t have to go scouring literally across the countryside to find new employees. They don’t have to be answering 23 knocks on the door from various training organizations. What we’re providing for them is in a sense a ‘one-stop-shop.’”

Messner says the training program will also feed four-year schools, like the Hospitality and Tourism Management program at UMass Amherst. Haemoon Oh is the head of that program. He says once workers get experience on the casino floor, UMass’ online certificate in Casino Management offers yet another career option in the field.

“Down the road — three, four, years later, they will face some promotional opportunity but that’s where they need some more managerial skill, people skills, organizational skills, and that’s where we can fill the gap as a four year institution.”

Messner says the first training programs should be open for enrollment in 2015.