The International Institute of New England’s Healthcare & Hospitality Training Program (HHTP) is a nine-week course designed to prepare immigrants for jobs in the hospitality and healthcare industries, and to equip them with the necessary skills to launch their careers. IINE has offered skills-training programs in-person and on-site at our office in Boston for over 15 years. However, that was before COVID-19.
In only a matter of weeks, traditional classrooms all over the country were transformed, including classes at IINE. To help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and to keep our students and employees safe, the spring 2020 HHTP class moved to an online learning platform. The transition was challenging; the nine-week course started on March 9, in person, only to switch to online learning just 12 days later. Reflecting on the experience, Chief Program Officer, Xan Weber commented, “It has been remarkable for me to witness how effectively and quickly we have moved all of our programming to remote delivery.”
Despite the very real challenges that came with adapting to virtual learning, both students and instructors found inspiration in the dedication and commitment of those around them. “They have been incredibly supportive, patient, and engaged for nearly two months now” said HHTP instructor Mary Blunt. “[Their] hard work is inspiring. Every day it was such a joy and an honor to turn on my webcam, say hello, and spend about the first three minutes just saying hello to everybody…’.
Even though the latest HHTP graduation ceremony looked different from previous events, it still felt the same, filled with joy and best wishes for the graduates. To mark the long-earned celebratory moment for the graduates and their families, the IINE workforce development team – from the admissions specialist to the skills training manager – put together an online celebration to congratulate the students on their achievements.
In a series of recorded video clips, students shared their favorite class moments and thanked everyone for “attending” their ceremony. “My favorite part of this class was hearing about customer service and hearing my classmates share stories” said Faisal Yagoub, an HHTP graduate originally from Sudan. Another student, Natalya Podusenko from Uzbekistan, stated “Thank you for coming to my graduation and for celebrating this special moment with me.”
Even though this graduating class could not gather in person to celebrate, they were still able to share this special moment online. “You’ll be entering the workforce at an unusual time, but that is likely to have many different opportunities, and you are well prepared” added Ms. Weber. In fact, an HHTP graduate from a previous cycle was recently able to secure a job at Starbucks despite the challenging job market imposed by COVID-19.
We look forward to welcoming the next group of students to a new virtual cycle of the Healthcare and Hospitality Training Program. More information on the HHTP program can be found online at: https://iine.org/job-skills-training-boston/