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Making the leap.

Last September, when Castle & Cooke Chairman and CEO David Murdock announced the phase-out of pineapple production on Lanai by 1992 or 1993, he said in a statement that resort development would give C&C "the opportunity to provide long-term employment to all its employees on Lanai in a growing, viable industry." C&C officials noted there would be positions both with its Lanai property management arm, the Lanai Co., and with Rockresorts, the operator of its new hotels (see story page 24). But many observers and even employes themselves remained skeptical about the latter opportunity, wondering how people whose only job experience had been in the pineapple fields would make the transition to hotel work.

Seven months later, those questions are beginning to be answered. As of mid-April, some 35 percent of the 420 Rockresorts employees--at the year-old Lodge at Koele, the newly opened Manele Bay Hotel, and the resorts' central services office--formerly worked for Dole Co. Rockresorts officials admit that training employees with no hotel exprience to work in the two luxury properties has not been easy. But to George Lidicker, managing director and vice president of Rockresorts Lanai, the extra effort has been worth it. "I'd rather do this and have a permanent employee," he says.

Although Rockresorts has provided extensive training to employees once they have been hired, the management company has not been the only source of assistance to pineapple workers aiming to make a transition. Immediately following Murdock's September announcement, State Labor Director Mario Ramil established a committee of government officials, representatives from the International Longshoremen's and Warehousemen's Union, and executives from Castle & Cooke and Rockresorts to work cooperatively to help the plantation employees.

Armed with a $110,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Labor, the group asked Maui Community College's Visitor Industry Training and Education Center (MCC/VITEC) to develop a four-week curriculum for use during aperiod in March when the pineapple cannery was closed for maintenance. Some 182 workers--about a third of them Filipino immigrants in their 40s and 50s with limited language skills-signed up for the daily classes, which provided information on the types of jobs available at the resorts and training for a variety of positions.

Both organizers and students started the program with some trepidation about its success, says Lois Greenwood-Audant, director of MCC/VITEC and coordinator of the training program. But by the March 28 graduation, 66 of the 182 students had received job offers from Rockresorts, and it was considering hiring another 32 people.

Greenwood-Audant says both management and employees learned from the program--and one important lesson was the willingness of the pineapple workers to make the difficult transition to resort jobs. "Yes, it's good business and it's good politics to hire (Lanaians)," she says. "But if the workers hadn't responded--if they had kind of dudded out and if the training hadn't taken off in the first week or two--we wouldn't have seen that level of commitment from Rockresorts."

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Title Annotation:Castle and Cooke Inc. employees retrain under Maui Community College's Visitor Industry Training and Education Center curriculum
Author:Hooper, Susan
Publication:Hawaii Business
Date:May 1, 1991
Words:493
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