Burger King signs pact to funnel hospitality-industry scholarships to employees
By Marilyn Bowden
Executives for Burger King and the Visitor Industry Human Resource Development Council have signed a pact to recruit African-Americans for hospitality-related scholarships to local universities.
The council raises funds for scholarships for African-Americans interested in the visitor industry and to help them find employment, said Stuart L. Blumberg, council chair and president of the Greater Miami & The Beaches Hotel Association.
"Our new partnership with Burger King," Mr. Blumberg said, "brings us to an historic watershed, enabling us to provide scholarship opportunities for African-Americans all the way through the education pipeline, from high school students to working professionals looking to advance their career potential.
"We hope their participation will also open the door for other corporations and businesses to partner with us to further expand this program."
The council, formed 10 years ago in response to an African-American tourism boycott of Miami-Dade's hospitality services, has given 130 scholarships during the 10 years since its inception, Mr. Blumberg said, exceeding a goal of 125. More than half of 91 recipients now hold management positions in the industry.
Originally all scholarships were to Florida International University's School of Hospitality Management, Mr. Blumberg said, a program open only to upperclassman. Adding links to Miami-Dade Community College and Johnson & Wales University broadened the scope of the scholarships and gives students a choice of schools.
"When I became chair," Mr. Blumberg said, "our first goal was to get more dollars through corporate sponsors to make sure we could fund the scholarships in perpetuity."
A little more than $300,000 was raised, Mr. Blumberg said, from 16 donors. Council funds are matched by the state.
This year, Mr. Blumberg said, the challenge has been to identify potential recipients.
Gil Katzman, chair of the council's marketing committee and Hotel Inter-Continental Miami's regional director of marketing, said the council created a marketing department to find out "what motivates a young kid of African-American descent to get interested in the program."
As a major partner employing a good number of African-Americans, he said, Burger King is a good source of potential students.
"Burger King's role really puts the icing on the cake," Mr. Blumberg said, "by providing their employees with the opportunity to continue their education with our scholarships."
"We are delighted to be part of the Visitor Industry Council's initiative," said Vincent Berkeley, Burger King senior vice president of corporate relations. "We look forward to providing our employees with the opportunity to participate in the scholarship program."
Burger King spokeswoman Kim Miller said the Miami-based company has about 40 restaurants in Miami-Dade with an average of 32 employees each.
"We will promote the scholarships to employees and children of employees," she said, "to ensure that all are aware of it and can take advantage of it."
The franchise is scouting 200 managers and assistant managers to fill positions in 12 cities, she said, including Miami and Fort Lauderdale.
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