The IHG® Army Hotels Teen Academy is a paid summer internship set up for employees’ teenagers where they can learn and perform various hospitality tasks. Hotel RDO and GM, Teresa Colatarci, says the program is a great opportunity to “groom possible future leaders and kids that don’t necessarily have the means or desire to go to college right away.”

Launched in the summer of 2016, teenagers are trained to work as housekeepers, laundry assistants, and breakfast attendants by pairing them with a seasoned hotel employee. After the internship is completed, students receive a certificate. During the school year, students may be able to continue working weekends and may be invited back to participate in the program the following summer.

The Teen Academy is beneficial for both teens and hotel teams. Hotels can fill seasonal job openings, and the teens learn various skills that will be a benefit to them after completing the program. Getting paid is also a bonus!

Some students take summer jobs to buy gaming consoles or add to their college funds, but Isaac Diaz had a different motivation for applying to the Teen Academy. During a tour of the Candlewood Suites® on Fort Bliss where he would be interning, Isaac was asked by the HR Coordinator what he was going to do with the money he earned. He explained that he wanted to buy his special-needs 4-year-old brother a weighted blanket and weighted backpack.

He explained to her that the weighted items would help calm his brother down and make him feel more secure. They were expensive, but he wanted to help his mother afford them.

The experience of the summer internship is invaluable and puts the teens a step ahead in the hospitality world. The program is not intended for them to fetch coffee or sort mail; they work actual jobs and love doing so. The program also gives the teens an opportunity to learn about and gain appreciation for their parents’ jobs.

Here are some ways the IHG® Army Hotels Teen Academy benefits participants:

  • Build responsibility: This program isn’t a job simulator; it’s a job. Teens work with real deadlines and enjoy doing so.
  • Gain experience: We all know the saying, you need experience to get the job, but you need the job to get experience. The experience from the Teen Academy is two-fold.
  • Stronger work ethic: Although we love to make sure the teens are having a good time, we want to instill a strong work ethic in them.
  • Serve the community: This year, we’ve added a service project component to the program so that, by helping their communities, the teens can learn first-hand about IHG’s commitment to provide true hospitality.

Brian Gonzalez Morales came from his home in Puerto Rico to participate in the Teen Academy program at the behest of his older brother, Edwin, an employee at IHG Army Hotels on Joint Base San Antonio. In 2017, as his first summer at the Teen Academy drew to a close, Brian had saved enough money to purchase his own car in Puerto Rico. He wanted to take the burden off of his parents who had to drive him to and from school and other activities, a motivation that showcases his selfless and hardworking attitude. This year, Brian returned to IHG Army Hotels to work during the summer, but also offered up his time to work with the new Teen Academy participants, serving as a leader and a guide to them.

The program has been deemed a success and has been praised by both students and employees alike. Today, more than half of IHG Army Hotels have adopted this program with more hotels implementing it every summer. In addition, the program has caught the attention of IHG Corporate’s HR Organization as a model for other hotel brands.