MGM Springfield seeks to aid Puerto Rico evacuees with job opportunities

SPRINGFIELD - MGM Springfield is striving to provide employment opportunities to people who relocated to Western Massachusetts after Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico, a spokesman said Thursday.

The company is working closely with local career centers to reach out to evacuees about jobs and training at the $960 million casino, MGM Springfield spokesman Saverio Mancini said. The casino is slated to open in September.

"MGM is dedicated to supporting the communities we serve," Mancini said. "We stand ready to help the people of Springfield whose families and friends were impacted by the unfortunate situation in Puerto Rico."

Hurricane Maria slammed into the U.S. territory in September, causing widespread destruction and power outages across the island, leading to a large influx of its residents to the mainland.

There are 590 Puerto Rican evacuee students registered in the Springfield Public Schools.

Jill Griffin, director of workforce, supplier, and diversity development for the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, updated the panel Thursday on MGM's efforts to assist evacuees with training and employment. Griffin praised the effort, saying it occurs as Gov. Charlie Baker and his administration are working to provide resources and employment opportunities for the evacuees.

As of last Friday, more than 1,000 evacuees from Puerto Rico have relocated to Massachusetts, with 71 percent moving to Hampden County, Griffin said. More than 2,000 students from Puerto Rico are now in Massachusetts schools.

The culinary and hospitality school is in downtown Holyoke on the canal.

Puerto Rico has more than 15 casinos and has a thriving hospitality and tourism economy, Griffin said. MGM is "very interested" in that employee pool, she said.

Mancini agreed.

"Puerto Rico has a robust gaming and hospitality industry and we are interested in assisting and connecting with people newly settled in the area who may have casino or resort work experience," Mancini said. "These are ideal candidates for a career with MGM Springfield."

In partnership with the New North Citizens Council, MGM will conduct an event Jan. 24 for Puerto Rican evacuees. The event offers a discussion of job opportunities and help with resumes and SkillSmart profiles, Mancini said. It will be at 9:30 a.m. at MGM's career center in the Colvest Building, 1259 East Columbus Ave.

MGM Springfield's new career center located at the Colvest building on East Columbus Avenue will be used for the screening and hiring process for approximately 3,000 jobs.

MGM Springfield is committed to hiring 3,000 employees for its casino operations "and has set some ambitious diversity goals," as well as a goal of 35 percent of its workforce being Springfield residents, Griffin said. Many of those coming to the area have family ties, she said.

MGM is working with local colleges and career centers to help with the training of its workforce. Other local residents needing additional training and skill development in gaming- and hospitality-related fields should enroll in classes at the Massachusetts Casino Career Training Institute Gaming School and Cambridge College's Pre-Apprenticeship Hospitality Program, Mancini said.

"MGM Springfield is ready, willing and able to get the residents of Springfield back to work," Mancini said.