Area Resorts Team Up With Brainerd Special Education Program
“It’s all about building a sustainable workforce,” said Teresa Christiansen, the STARS Transition Program Coordinator at Brainerd Schools.
The Brandon Project program is doing this by teaming up with one of the major industries in the area, hospitality.
“If we are going to be training our young adults, then we needed places for them to try out their skills,” Christiansen said.
A space at the Brainerd High School south campus that has served a variety of purposes in the past is equipped with the necessary tools. One section lets students sit and practice removing a shower curtain and reattach it again, as this is the piece that gets laundered.
Using the commercial kitchen lets students put on the apron and work as if they were employed at one of the resorts. “With the eventual goal of the students who are ready, willing and able will be interviewed in May to go into employment this summer,” Christiansen said.
One of the students, 19-year-old Mason Harris, said of his work: “Lots of dishes, cut up some onions and wash tables.”
“We need employees and they are looking for employment, so it is a win-win,” said Patty Mannie, Human Resources Director at Cragun’s Resort.
Both Ruttger’s and Cragun’s resorts are on board with the new Brandon Project.
“They’ve already made a trip up to our resort to take a look at our kitchens and our rooms and have learned how we want certain things done,” said Paula Soderberg, Ruttger’s Resort Human Resources Director. “To see them bring it back here and learning, training and practicing just makes me so excited.”
The program has a focus on housekeeping and working in the kitchen.
“Make food and clean tables,” said 20-year-old Cindi Fleischhacker.
“There is a golden opportunity here of a group of people that are willing to work, want to work, are able to work but are lacking either the training or the transportation to work,” Soderberg said.
The program hopes to place about 5-8 students with employment at the two resorts by the summer.
“It’s a big challenge, but it’s exciting to see the potential for the student and their families,” Christiansen said.
With nearly 26 students ages 18 to 21, they hope the new program will continue provide opportunities well into the future.