After graduating from West Roxbury High School in Boston, Mykelsy Charles began taking college classes while working to support herself and her mother. Mykelsy was determined to earn a degree but could only take a class or two each semester. After several years, the grind began to wear her down.
She worked wherever she could find a job that would fit her schedule, including positions at several fast food chains. She applied to work at several hotels, but was rejected due to lack of relevant experience. Then, while working as a university dining hall supervisor earlier this year, the 23-year-old heard about the Greater Boston American Apprenticeship Initiative (GBAAI) from her boyfriend’s mother.
GBAAI helps people like Mykelsy connect with careers through three stages: pre-apprenticeship training, apprenticeship, and higher education. First, Mykelsy was able to participate in a 6-week pre-apprenticeship program through the BEST Hospitality Training Center in May. The crash course in housekeeping skills and customer service also provides nine college credits at Bunker Hill Community College.
Staff helped Myksely apply to relevant positions for which she was now qualified. “They’re there to guide you to the right path,” she said. “About a week after I graduated, I found a job.”
A hotel employer made her an offer for a union apprenticeship in housekeeping that paid $3.00 more per hour than her previous job and included benefits. “It’s a physical job, it’s really hard. But I really like the fact that you manage your time,” Mykelsy said.
Apprentices receive another three credits and are eligible to receive financial support from GBAAI to finish their degrees, so she is taking classes and hopes to graduate in spring 2018 with an associate degree in hospitality and restaurant management.
The hotel environment is a natural fit for Mykelsy. Armed with both practical experience and a degree, she has her sights on a management position. “I’ve always wanted to be in a place where I enjoy what I’m doing, and look classy and sharp, and meet people from all over the world,” she said.
Programs like GBAAI that let people earn while they learn benefit those who can’t afford to take out student loans but seek an education for in-demand careers.
“It’s a great program to help kids like me or older people who want to start going to the right path,” said Mykelsy. “I’d recommend it to everyone.”