Stockton University’s Atlantic City Summer Experience – Live, Work, Learn program has created a novel way to get its students real-world experience while helping some of the city’s largest employers fill much-needed positions in a tight labor market.
The program, which began this year, has led to 145 students being employed for the summer at 12 of Atlantic City’s largest employers, including its nine casinos. The students get a summer job, free housing at the Stockton Atlantic City Residential Complex on the Boardwalk, and four college credits from a career-readiness and leadership class.
“This has been an initiative of our president, Harvey Kesselman, to connect more with the community,” said Stockton Atlantic City Chief Operating Officer Brian Jackson.
In February, the school began the process of reaching out to businesses and soon after set up a website with information and an application. More than 700 students submitted to participate.
The program soon grew from just three businesses to 12.
Bob Ellis, vice president human resources at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, said that having 25 Stockton students on staff has been a huge help since the resort typically relies on foreign labor for the summer season.
“Some may not have their passion yet, but they will work a summer or two at Hard Rock and maybe they really fall in love with it. And we’ll be able to retain some of these students as time goes on,” said Ellis. “It’s a win-win for everyone.”
“This is a way to provide our students with experiences that will prepare them for the future, and that may include a career here in Atlantic City,” said Leamor Kahanov, Stockton provost and vice president for academic affairs, and a developer of the program.
Students say that the free beach housing was a major lure, but so was the opportunity to get a job and a comped college class.
“I was going to go home for the summer,” said Kayla Caputo, who is working as a casino account representative at Ocean Casino Resort. “But this offered free housing, and I’m being paid well.”
“I got a really good job,” said Michael Mora, who is working as a supervisor at the Water Club at Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa. “I wanted to stay in an academic environment for the summer on campus, and the job is really fun.”
Several students said they have been told there would be more opportunities to work part time in the fall and again next summer.
“The exposure to working in this environment is a benefit to the students,” Ellis added. “It’s providing them with a base level of skills that they can take with them wherever they go. They can fall back on the experience working here no matter what profession they choose.”
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