HOLLYWOOD — Families and friends gathered Dec. 7 at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino to celebrate Andrew Henry and Sheree Sneed graduating from phase one of the Tribal Career Development program.
The TCD program was created to get more Tribal members work experience and obtain positions with Seminole casinos. Divided into five phases, TCD aims toward securing executive leadership positions for participants. In phase one – which can take up to three years depending on prior experience – participants spend up to 12 weeks in each department of a Seminole casino property as paid interns. Participants can go to any Seminole casino property of their choosing and can choose to follow a general curriculum or get a custom plan that tailors more to their career interests.
Ervina Capricien, TCD director, said completing the program takes a lot of hard work, dedication and perseverance.
“This is going to be one of the easiest jobs in the world but it’s also going to be one of the hardest jobs in the world. Whatever you put into this is what you’re going to get out of it,” Capricien said. “If you’re here and you’re learning and working and not giving anybody a hard time, then you’re going to make it.”
“This hasn’t been as easy as I thought,” he said during the graduation party. “I’d be lying if I said I told you I never looked at the door while going through the program and just thought about walking out.”
For Sneed, taking part in the program involved moving her three young children – the youngest is in preschool – to Tampa. She said balancing being a single mom with her work schedule was difficult, especially because the schedule changes every time she moved departments. Despite this, along with dealing with multiple deaths in her family, she said completing phase one of the program at the Tampa Hard Rock helped her grow.
“I feel that I have to work just 10-times harder just to show them [my kids] that it’s not easy, but if you keep going it will be worth it,” she said, explaining that throughout the program, there were times she had to work overnight and early in the morning. “My kids are my number one inspiration.”
In phase two, participants obtain supervisory roles for one year. They can choose to enter a supervisory role for up to four departments, each lasting three months. If there is no open position in the department they want, TCD will help create a position for them. Henry plans to pursue a supervisory role in poker and Sneed is pursuing slots and marketing in Brighton.
Edward Aguilar Sr., assistant director of Immokalee casino operations, said that seeing people like Henry and Sneed doing what they need to do to serve the community is great.
“Coming here tonight and seeing the future of the Tribe really brings what we do in our industry with the program to our people,” he said. “The future of the Tribe and the future of everything we do SGA [Seminole Gaming Association] and HRI [Hard Rock International] related is so strong.”
The rest of the phases include gradually moving up and taking on more projects with higher leadership. Unlike other internships or jobs, Capricien said that this program allows people to connect and get to know many of the leaders at the hotels and casinos, many of whom obtained their positions by working from the ground-up as well.
“We know who they are and they know who we are. There are not a lot of interns that would receive that face time. Most of them will only see a photo of the CEO on the wall and that’s how they know them,” she explained. “But here Mr. Allen knows our name, knows us by sight and what we’re going to do in the program.”
Getting to know these leaders, as well as other people who have gone through the program, is an invaluable experience, according to Henry.
“You meet some good people who have been here for years and how the company has changed their lives and how appreciative they are of the Seminole Hard Rock,” he said. “You realize what a good company you work for.”
To participate in the program, enrolled Seminole Tribal members must be 18 years or older, have a high school diploma or GED and clear background and drug tests. People can join the program at any time; currently there are approximately 14 participants.
While the program ensures Tribal members will have a secure career with the casinos, Capricien said that the program should come second to higher education if that is an option. For those who are unsure about a career in gaming or hospitality, she encourages participation in TCD because it will provide valuable insight on the Seminole business.
“This is a real growth time for the company, not just the property here [Hollywood] with the expansion, but across the Tampa property, Immokalee, Coconut – all these properties are expanding and we really need good talent,” said Auggie Cipollini, president of Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Hollywood. “Programs like this are just absolutely terrific to just try to get homegrown talent and train them and develop them to look at them as future leaders in this community.”