Security with a Smile

Inaugural class Hospitality Pre-Apprenticeship program at Cambridge College Springfield
The inaugural graduating class of the Hospitality Pre-Apprenticeship program at Cambridge College Springfield

Henry Agudelo, of Feeding Hills, thought he knew security from his years as a correctional officer in Connecticut, as an undercover officer for the USDA investigating food stamp fraud and his time as a soldier.

What he learned over the last three weeks, however, was working security with a smile.

"There are a lot more smiles," Agudelo, 45, said yesterday after graduating with the first class of Cambridge College's Hospitality Pre-Apprentice Program.

The marriage of "You are the Show" customer service along with ensuring a safe and pleasant environment is a priority for MGM Springfield, which is sponsoring Cambridge's program. While there are other employers interest in hiring graduates -- Six Flags New England attended yesterday's graduation -- it's the promise of working security at MGM Springfield that drew Agudelo.

"We are going to be headed into a whole new world with MGM," Agudelo said, "it is going to change the city."

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Timothy Mock, of Connecticut, another Army veteran, has been working in security for years. But the course he just finished was still helpful.

"I want to take my security work to a whole new level," he said.

Agudelo and Mock were part of a graduating class of 17.

Security isn't the only course.

At its classrooms on the first floor of Tower Square, Cambridge College also offers classes in restaurant serving, restaurant busing, casino cage cashier, public area attendant, front counter team member, luxury guest services and Greater Springfield concierge.

Teresa P. Forte, Cambridge College director, said the courses were designed with input not just from MGM Springfield but from other employers and the Greater Springfield Convention & Visitors Bureau. Greater Springfield concierge helps prep folks to act as impromptu tour guides advising newcomers on what there is to see and do in Springfield. Some of that material is incorporated into the other courses as well.

Courses range from one to four weeks and cost from $159 to $459. Courses are 20 classroom hours a week.

Graduates get a certificate and the ability to continue with more coursework once they are on the job.

Six Flags New England is looking to hire 3,000 people before its 2018 opening April 7, said Sabrina Cruz, a human resources supervisor at the park.

MGM Springfield will need about 200 security officers for its opening day in September, said Marigate Murren, vice president of human resources at the casino.

She didn't say how much the security jobs pay, but employees on site, in all job descriptions, are expected to make an average of $40,000 a year.

Jason Rucker, executive director of security for MGM, said he expects to hire more security personnel in the next few weeks. A certain percentage of them will start work even before the casino is ready to open. Construction is progressing and fences are coming down, and Rucker said he needs security people for the job site.

As the casino gets closer to opening, he'll have to start hiring supervisors, he said. The plan is to promote early hires into those supervisory positions.

"If you are on board doing the job, why should I look anyplace else?" Rucker said.