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Goodwill Hospitality Training: Serving Up Success

Gavin Wilson hopes that by learning to set a table for others, he is setting himself up for meaningful employment.

Wilson, 25, of Nashville, is a participant in Goodwill’s Hospitality Training Program.

After high school, Wilson got a job he enjoyed with a payday lender. He became a night shift manager and had a lot of responsibilities. But then he got into legal trouble, spent several months in jail and lost his position.

“Ever since then, it’s been an up-and-down struggle for me,” he explained. “I’ve went from sleeping on my momma’s couch to having no place to stay at all.”

For awhile, Wilson stayed at the Nashville Rescue Mission. Now, he lives with his step-brother.  He has tried to find regular work, but with no car, the only opportunities accessible to him have been low-paying, temporary jobs, such as working as a construction day laborer for $8.50 per hour. And he has a 2-year-old son who needs his support.

Recently, Wilson’s mother, who works for the Oasis Center — a nonprofit organization serving youth in Nashville, told him about Goodwill’s Hospitality Training program.

The free, three-day program is for people interested in pursuing a career in the hotel and restaurant industries. Graduates earn two nationally recognized certifications from the American Hotel and Lodging Educational Institute — one as a guest room attendant and one as a restaurant server.

They also receive training in digital literacy, computer skills, resume building, interviewing and workplace communication. And Goodwill assists students in finding employment opportunities.

“The class allows people who don’t have experience in the industry to learn about the policies of most hotels and restaurants and how to go about basic tasks pretty much wherever they might work,” said Trainer Mark Kelly. “On average, graduates of the program can expect to earn $12-$15 per hour starting in hospitality positions.”

Guest speakers are brought in from the industry, and the classroom at a Goodwill Career Solutions Center in Nashville features a table and bed so students can envision the lessons and get hands-on experience.

A former hospitality student, Shaunte’ Frye, credits Goodwill with getting her started on the path to a career.  

Frye was a new mom when she took Goodwill’s training in 2015. She had just moved to Tennessee from Massachusetts and had been out of the workforce for some time due to illness. But upon graduating, she landed a job with a hotel chain. Later, she found an even better job at Vanderbilt Eye Institute, an ophthalmology clinic in Lebanon.

“The certifications I received helped me stand out in comparison to other candidates,” she said, adding that the resume assistance and job search training she have also been beneficial. “The process gave me a confidence to take on new tasks. I can never truly express how the opportunity at Goodwill really did assist me in more ways than just career.”

For Wilson, the training opens a door to achieving several immediate goals.

“This is an opportunity to help me find a job doing something I enjoy, helping people out and earning more money so I can take care of my son,” he said. “I have no choice but to grasp at it.”

Goodwill Hospitality Training program sessions are held twice a month. Classes are from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. and take place on the first and third Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays of each month. Students must complete the 12-hour training and pass a final exam to earn the certifications.

Goodwill Classes & Training


For more info or to register contact:

1 (800) 545-9231

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