A training academy has officially launched to help prepare workers on the Century Boulevard Corridor and in other parts of Los Angeles for careers in the hospitality industry.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, was joined by City Councilman Bill Rosendahl, Maria Elena Durazo, executive secretary of the Los Angeles Federation of Labor, and Art Pulaski, secretary-treasurer of the California Labor Federation, Nov. 8 in announcing the start of the Hospitality Training Academy (HTA). The public/private partnership was funded with a $500,000 high growth sector training grant from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, city officials said.

“The Hospitality Training Academy is an example of a strong collaboration and a collective commitment to invest in our local workforce,” said Villaraigosa, who launched the academy during a conference at the Radisson LAX hotel in Westchester. “With a partnership that includes employers, unions and community organizations, we are investing in a training infrastructure that will play a major role in our economic revival and that places skilled workers in jobs that pay a living wage and provide full benefits and a pension.”

The training academy is a project that connects the UNITE HERE Local 11 union, employers, the community college district and community groups with the public workforce development system. These groups will work together to ensure that Los Angeles’ workers have access to the training they need to qualify for and advance in jobs in the hospitality sector.

The academy is also designed to provide hospitality employers with the highly qualified workforce they need to stay competitive.

In addition, city officials said the academy aims to improve the hospitality industry by boosting workers’ guest-service skills and preparing them for hospitality careers. Experts predict that the initiative will also create jobs, noting that better guest service tends to lead to repeat business.

Officials hailed the success of the training academy as a pilot program, which started training workers about one year ago. The program has already graduated 180 trainees in a career-advancement program and placed 33 job seekers in union hotel jobs that pay a living wage and provide full benefits and a pension.

“In order to create new jobs, we must invest in the industry,” said Cindy Bolton, Portfolio Hotels and Resorts Area managing director for Radisson LAX and Sheraton Gateway LAX hotels. “A highly trained workforce makes hotels more competitive and makes L.A. a more desirable destination for visitors.”

The academy plans to train 350 workers in the next two years and expand industry diversity.