Said to be a sign of commitment to the economic growth of Atlantic City, Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno announced Thursday a $2.6 million customized training grant for the Revel Entertainment casino and resort, authorized by the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development.
According to the Labor website, the largest customized training grant available — for consortia of more than two businesses — is $350,000. Labor Commissioner Harold J. Wirths said he, along with a review panel, has the discretion to change grant sizes to meet the needs of projects.
“Never have we had one — not during my tenure — with the magnitude of over 5,000 jobs. You can’t approach that with a smaller grant,” Wirths said. “We just had to do something outside the box … If anyone else comes forward with 5,000 new job openings, I’ll do my darndest to scrape the money together to provide something equal to this.”
Wirths said the Revel application was the most comprehensive package he has seen during his time in the department. It is the largest grant authorized under the customized training program.
The grant will allow Atlantic Cape Community College to train prospective employees in the Atlantic City region looking to fill the 5,000 anticipated jobs being created by the project. According to Jean McAlister, associate dean of continuing education at Atlantic Cape, the school will directly train roughly 2,000 people in areas such as dealer training, sanitation and guest relations.
Atlantic Cape will also work with Revel to train 300 people as trainers for in-house continuing education. McAlister said the school will receive $350,000 for the programming, which ranges in course length from two hours to 40 hours.
“They have identified people in their own organization that will be training leaders for them,” McAlister said. “We’re going to teach them how to train adults, because although you might be great at technology or excellent at a point-of-sale system, you may not understand how to really train an adult.”
“Everybody in that building, from the housekeeping to top management, is getting training,” Wirths said. “(Revel’s) training facilities are absolutely state of the art … this company knows how to treat its employees.”
Revel issued a statement Thursday afternoon, stating it was pleased with the grant.
“To date, over 28,000 people have applied for jobs with Revel. Clearly, people want to work. Some, however, have not developed the basic skills needed while others are underemployed and are capable of much more,” the statement said. “Our goal is to offer extensive training to assist under and unemployed people improve their lives. With this grant, we will be able to offer training in everything from basic life skills, ESL and computer skills to leadership training and guest experience training. “
The project has already received work opportunity tax credits and on-the-job training assistance from the Labor Department. Guadagno said in the announcement that 2,600 construction jobs have already been created by the $2.4 billion project, and the grant will bring “a new promise of prosperity to the area.”
Wirths said Revel’s recent announcement of term limits for front-of-house employees did not factor into the decision.
“That’s a management and labor issue, I’m in the business … of training people,” Wirths said. “That’s between Revel and their union … It would be very dangerous if we ever started basing grants on deals between managements and their employees.”
Wirths said, in addition to the grant, that Christmas had come early to the department as it announced Thursday that New Jersey added more than 10,000 private-sector jobs in November, and revised the October numbers up by 2,000 jobs.
“What a better holiday gift or Christmas gift, whatever you celebrate, than a person getting a job?” Wirths said.