Program lets kids explore ‘fat job’ and more

PRINCEVILLE — “It’s a fat job, but someone has to do it,” said Susan Mahuiki, pastry chef at the Princeville Resort.

She was speaking to a group of Kapa‘a Middle School eighth-graders gathered around her table in the resort’s ballroom as part of the interactive phase of the national Groundhog Job Shadow Day program Monday.

Close to a hundred students from Kapa‘a Middle and High schools, as well as students from the resort’s associates, converged on the hotel to get a closer look at the types of jobs and careers are available to them.

“It’s a great program,” said Don Long, a counselor at Kapa‘a Middle School. “I’ve been here all five years they’ve had it, and it works because the program has worked out to where it meets the state’s standards.”

Long said KMS sent 50 students and chaperones to Princeville while another group of 50 students were going through a similar experience at the Hilton Kaua‘i Beach Resort.

“Job shadowing is designed to give kids an up-close look at the world of work as well as answer the question, ‘Why do I have to learn this?’” said Deborah Baker, director of human resources at the Princeville Resort. “It’s a national program where students across the country shadow workplace mentors as they go through a normal day on the job.”

Baker, in welcoming the students to the resort, explained how the big group is broken down into smaller groups that represent the ahupu‘aha. These groups were the storytellers, crafters, fishermen, boat-builders, planters, hunters, gatherers and chanters.

“Each depend on the other,” she said. “The fishermen need boat-builders. We want the hunters to supplement the gatherers, otherwise we’ll all be vegetarians.

“The hotel works the same way. Culinary supports the restaurants; the restaurants can’t operate without the laundry and the dishwashers. And, of course, we need customers to keep the restaurants open.”

Baker said the students get to see firsthand how the skills they learn in school relate to the workplace.

Students were broken down into activity stations representing different departments of the resort’s operation — housekeeping, culinary, banquet, engineering and golf.

“Golf is a new addition for this year’s program,” said Stephanie Kaluahine-Read, the resort’s public relations officer. “Do you realize we have two golf courses that employ 65 people at each one?”

Mike Castillo, the director of golf, brought his other pros — Steve Murphy of the Prince Course and Eric Belmonte of the Makai Course — and a computer setup that enables golfers to analyze their swings.

Other employees had to figure out how to recreate the experience of working in their departments.

“We were here yesterday trying to figure out what we were going to let the students do,” said Jackie Inanod, of the engineering department. “Last year, we brought them to the boiler room. This year we wanted to do something different.”

The students tested the water at one of the many fountains around the hotel.

“We have a lot of water features,” Kaluahine-Read said. “The engineers are always testing at least one of them each day.”

The Banquets department had students learning how to fold napkins and do place settings while in housekeeping, it was a memory test as students were given a set amount of time to set up a toiletry tray to the resort’s standards.

“It’s hard to work with gloves,” said Jaime Iwasaki, one of the eighth-graders, as she fiddled with condiments to decorate a cupcake.

Mahuiki explained the reason to the middle-schooler and how some things have to be done.

“But working in the pastry section is very creative,” Mahuiki said. “We bake all of the desserts for the restaurants.” Mahuiki told the students one of their more unusual request was for a wedding cake made on a cupcake.

“Chocolate for breakfast. This is good,” said eighth-grader Giselle Soriano.

Baker said the visitor industry supports one in every three jobs in the state.

“Some of you will be future executive chefs, future rooms managers, bussers, guest-services agents or even general managers,” Baker said. “We welcome the chance to work with you and show you what the hotel industry is all about. We’re pleased you’re choosing our hotel as a place to learn about the island’s main economic driver.”

Students rotated through the various activity stations at 15-minute intervals before adjourning for lunch, then an afternoon of activity where students had to recall some of the things they learned in the morning.

“For the middle school students, this is a good activity,” Long said. “It keeps them focused on staying in school. But it only works well because of the people in the community.”

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