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Student Interns & Apprentices Team Up With Meyer Vacation Rentals For Summer

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

GULF SHORES, Ala.—SH Enterprises Inc., parent company for Meyer Vacation Rentals, welcomed six college student interns and 18 high school student apprentices to the team this summer.

The students come from area high schools and colleges and are eligible to receive school credit toward a tourism and hospitality industry-focused career.

“Most of these folks have been helping pre-pack linens and keep the warehouse running, and they have proven to be an amazing asset to the team,” said Meyer Vacation Rentals President Michelle Hodges. “Walking through the warehouse, it is exciting to see how these students work together to ‘Make It Happen,’ as we often say at Meyer. They have taken ownership over their area of the warehouse and are committed to keeping on schedule and, most days, ahead of schedule.”

During a small luncheon welcoming the students aboard, managers were on hand to interact and answer questions, including CEO Les Williams and Field Operations Asset Managers Jennifer Hebert and James Tankersley.

“Austin, one of our interns, appreciated the face time with Les to share some ideas on how to enhance current processes, and the service team was excited to learn how important their roles are in helping guests make vacation memories,” said Corporate Safety & HR Administrator Patricia O’Donnell. “Hearing Jennifer and James talk about how they started out in housekeeping and have found a career in hospitality management was priceless for some of these young people who really have no idea what they want to do when they graduate.”

Youth apprentices represent seven public and private regional high schools while the college interns come from the University of South Alabama, Pensacola State College, University of Central Florida and University of South Carolina.

The students learned about opportunities with Meyer from job fairs, family members employed with the company and college hospitality programs. “All of our college interns have career aspirations in the hospitality industry ranging from vacation rental management and event planning to hotel management,” O’Donnell said. “Some of our youth apprentices are still undecided—which is the value of the youth apprenticeship program, since it allows them to see a true career path right here in their own backyard. Others are interested in art/animation, graphic design, history, education, criminology, psychology/religious studies, and nutrition/personal training.”

O’Donnell said regardless of career aspirations, spending time working in the hospitality industry teaches many skills, such as customer service, collaboration, communication, time management, problem-solving, conflict resolution, critical thinking, motivation, work ethic, dependability, adaptability, teamwork, safety, etc. “Those in the warehouse are learning logistics and production, which are skills that transfer to other major industries that are growing in our area, such as aerospace, ship building and online distribution.”

O’Donnell said the students also bring great value to Meyer. “They want to work. They show up when scheduled, on time and ready to get the job done. They are positive and full of life and energy. They are eager to learn and do whatever needs to be done to take care of our guests and owners. They are not scared of change. You can have them working on one task, see a need elsewhere, move them, and they immediately adapt. They are diverse yet inclusive. They work well together. They encourage and motivate one another and also aren’t afraid to speak up, respectfully, when they see something that needs to be corrected. For the most part, they are about ‘we’ and not ‘me,” which is so critical to our success, especially during our peak season.”

Meyer has operated a college internship program off and on for a number of years and consistently operated since 2015. In 2019, the youth apprenticeship program was developed as part of the Gateway Initiative developed by the South Baldwin Chamber of Commerce and the Coastal Alabama Business Chamber. The purpose of the program is to create a local pipeline of hospitality and tourism talent. Last year, Meyer hosted five apprentices. “We will continue to grow both of these programs, and will add a focus on a new adult apprenticeship program sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor for lodging, maintenance and laundry,” O’Donnell said. “The natural progression for our young people is to take the pathway from youth apprentice to associate apprentice to manager apprentice and be poised for management within a five- to six-year period.”

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