Johnita McNair, housekeeping manager at Wyndham Orlando International Drive and beneficiary of the American Hotel and Lodging Association’s Cost-Free College Program, stands next to President Trump during last week’s signing event for Trump’s Pledge to the American Worker. AHLA President and CEO Katherine Lugar signed the pledge.

THE AMERICAN HOTEL and Lodging Association has joined a national initiative to improve the quality of the U.S. workforce. Last Thursday at an event at the White House, AHLA President and CEO Katherine Lugar signed President Trump’s Pledge to the American Worker that will provide enhanced apprenticeship and work-based learning programs.

More than 20 companies and associations joined AHLA is signing the pledge, the first act of Trump’s National Council for the American Worker. The council is made up of administration officials with the purpose of developing a national strategy for training workers in high-demand industries based on input from public, private, education, labor, and not-for-profit organizations.

“By signing the Pledge to America’s Workers, these great companies are affirming their commitment to train American workers for American jobs,” Trump said.

AHLA and its American Hotel & Lodging Educational Foundation plan to enroll 50,000 apprentices over the next five years, provide 125,000 job seekers and current employees with industry certifications and include 5,000 employees in its Cost-Free College program. AHLA announced the scholarship program for hotel employees in March. It also offered $75,000 in grant money to Chicago community-based organizations that recruit and train new hotel workers.

“As part of an industry supporting 8 million jobs across the U.S., the growth, empowerment, training and diversity of our workforce makes our industry stronger and improves our guests’ experience,” Lugar said.

A beneficiary of the Cost-Free College Program, Johnita McNair, housekeeping manager at Wyndham Orlando International Drive, made remarks at the event. She was one of the first to enroll in the program.

“Thirty-one years on the hospitality industry has been good to me,” McNair said. “So my motivation is to be good to my generation that’s following me.”

AHLA also sponsors the “earn-while-you-learn” Managerial Apprentice Program, which includes on the job training, classroom education and industry certification.  AHLEF’s Empowering Youth Project, established last year to train young workers who are not in school, has provided $500,000 in grants for local community organizations to train 1,000 young people over the next two years. In 2017, the foundation awarded a record $851,500 in academic scholarships to 372 hospitality management students.

The National Council for the American Worker also plans to increase access to available job data, including data on which regions offer the most opportunities so students and workers can make informed decisions about education, job selection, and career paths.It also will develop a national campaign to raise awareness of workforce issues, such as the need for more skilled labor and STEM education.