When Everett’s Melissa Perez went to the voting booth on June 22, 2013 and cast her vote emphatically in favor of the Encore Boston Harbor casino, she never dreamed she might work there one day.
Now, nearly six years later, Perez, 26, stood with a smile from ear to ear at the Encore Job Fair in the Hynes Convention Center on Monday, reveling in the good news that she likely would be hired as a pastry chef.
“I did vote for it in 2013,” she said. “I knew it would bring a lot of employment opportunities for a lot of people. I voted for it thinking about the future. Now they are wanting to hire 5,000 people here at this fair. That’s a really big number to think about. I was all for it from the beginning, and it feels really, really good to think I have a good chance to be part of it. I’m excited to see what they have in store.”
Perez was one of thousands of potential employees that flooded the Hynes Convention Center in the Back Bay last Sunday and Monday looking for possible employment at the casino – which is offering some 5,000 jobs in 500 different categories, and they’re jobs that need to be filled and ready by the June 23 opening date.
Perez said she grew up in Everett and attended the Everett High Culinary Arts program, and then progressed to the accompanying Future Chefs program in Boston. That helped her to land several restaurant jobs, and eventually became a specialist in pastries.
At the Encore job fair, she said she had come with friends and relatives, and lots of people from Everett who hoped to get a leg-up on the many jobs – particularly ones so close to home.
That, she said, was a big thing for her.
“For the majority of my career, I’ve had to work outside of Everett,” she said. “The closest to home I have come was in Somerville and that was very fortunate. I’ve mostly commuted to Boston and Cambridge. I never thought that I would be able to work at one of the best facilities in the area, and it would be right where I live.”
Her enthusiasm was shared by many, and Encore President Bob DeSalvio said that the long-promised job opportunities have now become reality.
“The message is, it worked,” he said on Monday. “I was extremely impressed by the quality of applicants we saw on Sunday. We saw so many people from Everett, Charlestown, Boston, Medford and Malden. So many people had hoped to get an opportunity, and to see it become a reality now is really impressive. All the planning meetings and all the information for years that we’ve put out, it became real.”
DeSalvio said they had concerns of whether they could find the right people in the right numbers, but he said after this first fair, he no longer is so concerned. Many of the people they interviewed, he said, were already employed.
“I think what we’re seeing is folks looking to trade up,” he said. “Every single person I interviewed Sunday was already employed. There was a few who were in between jobs or had been laid off, but most of the folks I saw were already in a job and looking for their next opportunity.”
Like Perez, DeSalvio said applicants from Everett and the surrounding communities were interested in being closer to home.
“The Everett people I spoke to were very happy about a shorter commute,” he said. “Commuting has been a very big deal for people trying to get time for their family and their lives. They liked the idea of the bus lane and getting jobs where they could be close and take the bus to work.”
DeSalvio said they interviewed for nearly every position, from hotel workers to food and beverage workers to banquet supervisors to finance positions.
In the area of finance, DeSalvio said he was surprised by the vast numbers of folks looking for an opportunity with Encore.
“We had an exceptional turnout for accountants (and finance),” he said, noting that they had many from the banking industry show up for their openings.
He said they were also just looking for talented people – even if they weren’t right for the job they wanted, DeSalvio said they wouldn’t let them slip away.
“We’re trying not to let really good candidates slip out the door,” he said. “If the job they are looking for isn’t right, we can shift them to other similar areas.”
The job fair was the first of three that are planned for the Hynes, and the usual Encore energy was transferred to the Back Bay facility from the first step inside.
Applicants were greeted at the front lobby of the main hall to check in or register if they were walk-ins. If one did not have a resume printed or created, there were places on hand to get that done before going inside.
Once inside, pulsating music sounded from a live DJ in one of the back waiting rooms, while candidates registered and got their number for the initial interview. After that process, they progressed to a waiting room with comfortable couches, the live DJ, a dance floor and fresh flowers. It was there they waited for their specific job interviews – with the DJ calling their number over the music when it was time for them to interview.
Encore didn’t hire any special company to do the interviews, but rather they had all hands on deck, with current employees – including DeSalvio – handling the interview processes. Current employees from food and beverage interviewed prospective candidates from those areas.
If all went well, candidates could leave with a good assurance that they would be hired – though no jobs were given on site.
DeSalvio said they already have 400 employees on board, and they have another 1,100 that are already in the queue.
“We need about another 3,500 and we saw 2,100 people on Sunday,” he said. “I think we’ll do quite well on Monday too. Based on the numbers of applicants we’ve seen, it tells me we can get there. As long as we keep up this pace at the other hiring events.”
He also added they have been very pleased with the success of the dealer school at Cambridge College. They have about 150 that have graduated and the next session is full already.
“That’s going to be 300 folks that will have gone through and be ready for employment as a dealer on day one,” he said. “That is excellent. The instructors tell me they are quality students. They are learning the game and infusing the culture of the company too…It’s not just the mechanics of the game, but how we treat our guests.”
From the point of hiring, those who are “onboarded” will have a series of licenses from the state or qualifications to get through. Once that is done, they will begin reporting for their jobs in late May and early June – with some of the culinary positions starting in late April.
DeSalvio said they will go through extensive on-site training because things have to be perfect when they open. While there will always be mistakes, at the five-star level, a resort has to be top quality on day one.
“I has to be ready,” he said. “That’s one reason we bring folks on so early.”
Encore plans to have another large hiring event at the Hynes Convention Center in mid-March.