HOLLYWOOD — An ambitious program designed to send Tribal members into management and executive positions within Seminole Gaming is looking for more participants.
The Tribal Career Development program (TCD) started about 15 years ago and has had about 100 enrollees since its inception. There are currently 16 participants in the program – eight of whom are from the Tampa area, including the program’s latest graduate – Clayton Simmons.
“I think we’ve had different levels of success over the years,” said Jim Allen, CEO of Seminole Gaming and chairman of Hard Rock International. “I just wish we had more people involved. I wish it was 160 instead of 16.”
Allen spoke about the importance of the TCD program at Simmons’ graduation at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Hollywood on Dec. 13. Allen and others say TCD is evolving and that they are looking at ways to make it more attractive and compelling.
“Ultimately that is the most important thing – to have as many individuals from the Tribe as possible know the business, so obviously they can continue to grow. I think this particular program allows that opportunity,” Allen said.
How it works
Ervina Capricien is the director of the program and also a former graduate. She was head of human resources at the Seminole Classic Casino before transitioning back to lead TCD.
“There are five phases,” said Capricien, who is from Big Cypress and a member of the Panther Clan. “First, you go into the casino and into every department – and then the hotel side. You get a general knowledge of the department you go into and learn what everybody does,” she said.
That could mean you’re a cashier for a week and then on the front lines with supervisors, managers and directors.
Put another way, trainees learn from a blend of on-the-job-technical training, specialized classroom training, seminars and workshops, best practices, mentoring and work experience. It’s a paid program.
Phase one is three years. Phases two through five may take one year or more to complete (per phase) depending on a trainee’s background, experience or how quickly they progress in certain areas.
‘Greatest family business’
Allen said one of the reasons it’s important for Tribal members to know the Tribe’s different business facets and to be in management positions is that it ensures the longevity of all the many moving parts.
“It’s the greatest family business in the world,” Allen said of the Seminole Tribe of Florida. “The more and more we can have people that love the business and understand the business from all aspects … I just fundamentally think that’s a great thing for the Tribe.”
Allen said in the past there have been Native American casinos in the U.S. that have been primarily run by management companies with little or no tribal representation.
“You see many times they weren’t actually looking out for the best [interests] of the tribe,” he said. “So the more people you can get in the business itself and find out: ‘What the heck is that crazy Jim Allen doing?’ or ‘What’s going on there? Why can’t I have that?’ I think that’s healthy,” he said.
Allen has been in casinos and hospitality for almost 40 years. He’s been with the Seminole Tribe of Florida for almost 20.
New graduate – Clayton Simmons
Simmons has completed phase one and is now in phase two – working to gain supervisory experience.
The 30-year-old was born and raised in Tampa and is a member of the Panther Clan.
In addition to his work within TCD, he’s been an employee on the community side of the Tribe, previously working in maintenance for the Tampa community.
“What appeals the most to me about this program is how many opportunities there are and the possibilities a Tribal Member has if they apply and complete it,” Simmons said. “I always knew about the program, but I waited until I thought I was mature enough to see it through. Now in it for three years, I wish I started earlier.”
Simmons, like Allen, said he sees the importance of knowing as much as possible about the Tribe’s primary business – gaming and hospitality.
“How it is run, who is managing it, and how it has been this successful,” Simmons said.
Simmons will now work in either slots or table games as a front line employee for a year or two.
“After I have the knowledge and skills to move up I would go to the supervisor position. At the back end of the five years I’d be in a higher role as dual rate pit manager or assistant manager in slots,” he said.
Mitchell B. Osceola, vice chairman of the Seminole Tribal Gaming Commission, commended Simmons on his accomplishment at the graduation.
“I want to congratulate Clayton on your achievement here, and to the TCD program for giving these Tribal members opportunity,” Osceola said. “We need more individuals out here. We love Jim [Allen], but he’s not going to be here forever. The Gaming Commission supports all Tribal members 100 percent,” he said.
Allen hopes the program will build on its past successes.
“I hope that for decades to come, the Tribe never loses its focus on trying to promote and create career opportunities for members of the Tribe,” Allen said.
To be eligible for TCD, you must be 18 years old, an enrolled member of the Seminole Tribe of Florida and have a high school diploma or GED.
Trainees can be placed at any of the Tribe’s six Florida casino locations: Seminole Brighton Casino, Seminole Casino Coconut Creek, Seminole Classic Casino, Seminole Casino Hotel Immokalee, Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Hollywood and Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tampa.