|By Rod Smith, Las Vegas Review-Journal|
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Jun. 10, 2005 - Arte Nathan has learned firsthand about the challenges of supervising 9,500 employees.
For the first time in the gaming industry, Nathan paired 650 chambermaids at the newly opened Wynn Resorts in teams of two to improve their motivation.
It didn't occur to Nathan -- senior vice president of Wynn Resorts Ltd. -- that maids from Costa Rica and Bosnia might have language difficulties or that maids from the Sudan and Rwanda might hate one another.
The third day Wynn Las Vegas was open, the maids marched en masse to his office, demanding the right to reorganize.
Nathan immediately agreed.
The name of the game was empowerment -- and the maids have worked well ever since.
A day before Wynn Las Vegas opened on April 28, developer Steve Wynn told a meeting of all employees that they had been hired for their competence. But to make the $2.7 billion startup operation a success, he told the employees they should work on having fun with guests.
Still, the day-to-day chore of supervising the workers is far more complicated, said Nathan, who spoke Wednesday at Wynn Las Vegas for the kickoff of the Southern Nevada Workforce Investment Board.
The investment boards were set up to coordinate businesses seeking employees with people who need jobs, he said.
The state board devises policy and the local board coordinates local, state and federal agencies to implement the programs in coordination with constantly changing federal policy, Nathan said.
The regional board is working with gaming companies, the local chambers of commerce and the Nevada Development Authority, he said.
"It does no good to train people for jobs that don't exist. It only increases frustrations," Nathan said.
He also announced plans at the summit meeting of industry executives to involve casino companies in the new public-private initiative. He said the initiative would be taken national in the fall at the annual meeting of the American Gaming Association's Global Gaming Expo.
Nathan cited Wynn Las Vegas -- the most recent new major employer in Las Vegas and the company that conducted the largest "from-scratch hiring" in gaming industry history -- as an example of the challenges facing today's employers.
He said out of 110,000 applications received in four months starting in November, Wynn Las Vegas had hired 9,400 workers, or one out of every 11 applicants.
Minorities accounted for 56 percent of all applicants and 68.5 percent of the workers hired, Nathan said.
"I'm a lucky guy. I didn't have to look past a computer data bank (to meet federal hiring requirements)," he said.
Similarly, 36 percent of the applicants and 44 percent of hires were over age 40.
"Young people's jobs? No. These companies are run by mature people," Nathan said.
Furthermore, it's a challenge getting young people, who've played more on computers, to work with older people who grew up settling disputes on playing fields, he said.
"These are big challenges we face as a company and as a community," Nathan said.
He said 6 percent of both applicants and hires were previously unemployed.
Wynn had made a commitment to former workers at the Desert Inn, which was razed to make way for Wynn Las Vegas, that they would get preferential hiring treatment when the new resort opened.
Nathan said 12 percent of the former Desert Inn employees who applied for jobs were hired.
He also said 14 percent of the applicants from Mirage Resorts, which Wynn previously headed, were hired, and that the former Mirage and Desert Inn workers together were the largest source of workers for the new hotel-casino.
He pointed to assimilating the current prison population into the work force as a particular challenge.
"Our prison population approximately equals the Clark County School District, and some get out every day. If we don't hire them, they're going to steal our money," he said.
John Humphrey, regional director of the U.S. Department of Labor who oversees $1.1 billion in regional training programs, told the summit the federal government is tackling such problems.
In this case, it has initiated an ex-offender program working with faith-based organizations to move former prisoners into the work force.
"You want them working rather than going back to stealing cars and doing drugs," he told about 100 attendees at the summit.
Kelly Karch, manager of the state's Maryland Parkway Job Connect Program, said all 11 program centers are now one-stop operations, working with the boards and local businesses to train workers for jobs that are vacant or likely to be created.
As a measure of need, he said in just Southern Nevada, the three Job Connect offices have been visited by 350,000 workers in the past two years.
But program success will be determined by interaction with business.
"(Businesses) need to tell us what they need for us to tailor our training programs for you and for workers who need jobs," he said.
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