The best advice Jim Osceola III received propelled him into a career with Seminole Gaming, where as a member of the Tribal Career Development (TCD) program he was recently promoted to director of Hospitality.
“Back in 1979, Chairman James Billie told me when I get my degree, don’t come back here,” Osceola said. “He said, ‘Go somewhere, learn something. When you have something to teach us, come back.’ I took it literally and worked all over the world.”
A graduate of Johnson and Wales University with a Bachelor of Science in culinary arts, Osceola has worked in 15 countries. Knowledge and experience in hand, he returned eight years ago and joined TCD. He said the highlight of the program is gaining in-depth knowledge of the gaming industry.
“I’ve seen it grow and all the legal battles,” Osceola said. “It’s really satisfying sitting on top of the pile as king of the hill, not just in Indian gaming but in gaming in the U.S.”
TCD aims to train Tribal members to manage the Gaming business. Paid trainees work their way through each Gaming department, receive mentoring from supervisors and learn from on-the-job training.
Departments include Table Games, Slots, Cash Operations, Poker, Marketing, Food and Beverage, Hard Rock Live, Hotel Operations and Hard Rock Cafe. The program began in 2003 as a two-phase program but now has five phases. Trainees work with more senior members of the Seminole Gaming team as they complete each phase.
The program is open to all Tribal members ages 18 and older who have at least a high school diploma or GED. Not everyone who enters the program graduates, but some continue to work in Gaming without continuing in the program, said Ervina Capricien, TCD director.
“We have 18 in the program and would like to have 25 by the end of the year,” said Capricien, a graduate of the program. “To garner more interest in the program, I tell everyone I meet that even if they don’t want a career in Gaming, they should know the business of the Tribe. Come into the program just to learn about the gaming business.”
Osceola and Karissa Tommie are the first to graduate to the third phase.
Tommie said she joined TCD four years ago to make something of herself. With her promotion into phase three, Tommie was named Revenue Audit assistant manager at the Hard Rock Tampa. She has worked in every department except Audio/Video and IT.
“Graduating to phase three means a lot because now I know how each department works with one another and how the casino flows,” said Tommie, originally from Fort Pierce Reservation. “It’s almost like going to college, finishing your degree and having a career out of it. It’s a big accomplishment for me.”
Tommie is also working toward a bachelor’s degree in finance.
“I just love numbers; I’m so passionate for it,” she said. “They just make sense to me.”
Tommie wants to work her way up in the Finance Department to become manager and director. The program motivates her, she said.
“I never know where I’ll find myself years down the line, but I’ll be prepared for whatever comes my way,” she said. “It makes me want to push myself further. I’m still young and have a lot more to gain and I’m willing to do it.”
Eight trainees have graduated from TCD. Current trainees are younger than ever, with the average age in the late 20s. When Capricien joined the program in 2005, ages averaged in the mid-30s.
“It excites me because they grew up with distributions and are still interested in the program” Capricien said. “Some college kids have picked certain degrees, so they can come back and work for Gaming, which is awesome.”
Osceola’s responsibilities as director of Hospitality include orientation instructor to help new hires understand the casino atmosphere.
“I’m the first person team members hear from; during orientation I’m the first speaker,” he said. “I shake them up, wake them up and get them rocking and rolling.”
Osceola also helps recruit employees, cultivates relationships with universities, and helps Capricien find and retain TCD participants.
“We encourage people to finish the program,” Osceola said. “If they find a department they excel in or enjoy, they can usually wind up working there. The program helps people find their niche in Gaming. There are a lot of careers in Gaming, not just on the casino floor.”
Tommie has learned a lot about the gaming business and about herself through TCD, she said.
“We have to do something for ourselves to grow,” she said. “Whatever we do, we have to do it to the best of our abilities and at the highest level. You have to work hard for what you want.”
Capricien hopes more hard working Tribal members will join the program.
“It’s rewarding when they are here, want to learn about our business and go out into the community and tell other people why they should join the program,” Capricien said. “Gaming is a major part of our Tribal business; it’s how we get most of the money. More Tribal members should know more about the business.”
For more information about the Tribal Career Development program, contact Ervina Capricien at Ervina.Capricien@seminolehardrock.com.