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Learn how a national hospitality group is using apprenticeships to prop up a new class of leaders in their company.
Apprenticeship programs are one of the easiest and most effective ways to advance diversity, equity, access, and inclusivity initiatives (DEAI) in the workplace. Not only do they open up entry-level jobs to a broader range of candidates, but they also aid in advancing the careers of existing employees who lack access to post-secondary education.
Learn how Apprentix's client SSA Group is propping up a new class of leaders with apprenticeships.
SSA Group is a Denver-based hospitality company that provides retail, dining, and admissions services to museums, zoos, aquariums, and other cultural attractions throughout the country. Since its founding in 1971, SSA Group has naturally attracted a diverse group of employees. 59% of their 9,000 staff members are ethnically diverse, and more than 60% are woman-identified.
"SSA Group was doing DEAI organically before it became popular in 2020," says Yontae Johnson, DEAI Manager.
SSA's most recent initiatives include opening up their supply chain partnerships and launching new mental health and wellness services for their employees. These fall under their thrive(3) strategic plan, a company-wide structure focused on sustainability, digital innovation, and diversity.
For SSA Group, being ahead of the curve isn't enough. They're constantly looking for new ways to improve employee experience and opportunities with programs and committees specifically designed to move the needle on DEAI.
"We wanted to take our organically diverse culture and eliminate barriers to leadership," says Yontae. "The goal is to groom our existing employees for management positions."'
SSA Group already had a mentorship program in place, but they found that it wasn't reaching the youth who showed commitment to the company. Thus, they decided to implement apprenticeship programs into their organizational structure.
Work on the apprenticeship program began about a year ago. SSA Group currently has eight employees in the program and plans to have twelve by October. They'll more than double that number to 30 apprentices by next year and intend to grow over time.
Apprenticeship positions include General Manager (responsible for overseeing entire business units of a zoo, aquarium, or other cultural attraction), Assistant General Manager, Food Operations Manager (responsible for food programs at various locations), Retail Operations Manager (for gift shops), and District Chefs.
Because apprenticeship positions are being deployed all across the country, SSA Group needed a software partner to help manage and track their employees' progress and performance evaluations.
"Our mentors also aren't always in the same state as their apprentices. Apprentix has been a great communication tool to keep them connected," says Yontae.
SSA Group plans to register its programs with the Department of Labor, which is a complex and frustrating process that sucks up valuable time. Apprentix allows users like SSA Group to fill out registration forms in plain English (think Turbo Tax), which are then input into the government's registration form. Then, SSA Group simply has to submit the form to their state's apprenticeship office.
Federally registering their program will allow eligibility for grants (anywhere from $5-$15k per person) to offset training costs, which can accelerate the expansion of the program. SSA Group's goal is to keep growing until at least 10% of the organization is involved in apprenticeships.
"Apprenticeships are so incredible because they allow people to have a tangible realization of what they're doing – a charted path to their future," says Yontae.
Caption: SSA Group chefs
Now that SSA Group is using Apprentix, they have one more tool in their toolbox to track the long-term success of their apprenticeship programs. Because employees are entering their demographic data, leadership will be able to use Apprentix to examine where they started and how the program is growing.
"It'll give us a clear picture of our apprenticeship program's evolution," says Yontae. "We'll be able to identify what's working well and how we can improve."
So far, there's been a lot of excitement from hourly employees about the program. Yontae says current apprentices have expressed a sense of pride in being able to see a future at SSA.
"This is us saying, 'hey, we can meet you where you are and train and lead you,'" says Yontae. "Having that charted path knocks the glass out of that glass ceiling – this is the access part of DEAI."
To learn more about how you can train apprentices within your organization, get in touch with one of our apprenticeship experts.