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Rod Smith

Culinary, Resorts Launching Ad Campaign to Build, Diversify Hotel-Casino Staffs

29 March 2004

LAS VEGAS -- The Culinary Training Academy, a nonprofit partnership of the Culinary union and 24 resort operators, on Friday announced it will launch a first-of-its-kind ad blitz next week to recruit workers for the gaming industry.

The campaign was designed by R&R Partners to meet twin challenges facing operators and the union: recruiting enough workers in one of the nation's tightest job markets and building a diverse work force that mirrors the community and visitors.

Deutsche Bank analyst Andrew Zarnett said the ad campaign underscores the strength of the economic recovery in Las Vegas and the gaming industry.

"While in some parts of the country it's still hard to get a job, in Las Vegas it's hard to find enough talented employees," Zarnett said. "Clearly the gaming industry has been very strong since the beginning of the year, and (turning to an ad campaign to recruit workers) suggests the local economy here is whistling."

University of Nevada, Las Vegas professor and casino industry expert Bill Thompson said the tight labor market here makes such novel appeals necessary and also gives the industry more opportunity to diversify its work force.

"There's a shortage of workers here and that's also an argument for Bush's immigration plan, or an idea like his guest worker plan to get workers off mowing lawns and into productive employment," Thompson said.

In January, President Bush announced a major initiative to allow millions of undocumented workers to remain in this country legally, even if they are restricted, to take jobs that U.S. citizens don't want.

The Culinary's ad campaign was designed to target primarily the Hispanic and black communities in Las Vegas to recruit and train food and beverage, housekeeping and kitchen workers for the gaming industry.

Steven Horsford, chief executive officer of Nevada Partners which runs the training academy, said reaching out to minority communities is important in Las Vegas because of the large number of immigrants who speak English "less than very well."

"Still, we have to keep in the forefront that we want everyone to get these jobs," Horsford said. "The ad campaign (should) communicate with everyone. Everyone feels they're worth more than the minimum wage. Everyone wants career opportunities. The campaigns should appeal to the entire community and make people feel better about their jobs."

The training academy retained R&R Partners last year as its communications partner to develop advertising, public relations and grass-roots recruitment campaigns.

R&R Partners Chief Executive Officer Billy Vassiliadis said the goal of the ad campaign, set to start Monday and run through July, is to recruit trainees for the industry.

"The purpose is to provide good employees for the properties and to give people an opportunity to get into the job market and improve their lives," he said.

To design the advertising campaign, R&R conducted focus groups and interviews with workers who have already gone through the training academy, Vassiliadis said.

That research showed that potential workers want to hear from people "like themselves who've gone through similar trials and tribulations of supporting a family, getting a job and moving up (at a company)," he said.

As a result, R&R selected real workers James Rhodes, Michael Treadwell and Alma Lugo De Escobar to appear in the three 30-second ads based on their enthusiasm, life stories and credibility and conducted unscripted interviews that have been edited into the television and print ads.

"They're very realistic, not a lot of bells and whistles. The goal is to make them heroes and role models in the communities we're talking to," Vassiliadis said.

The media schedule emphasizes local television and cable including Hispanic networks with support from bus-stop shelters and ethnic and urban newspapers.