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Virtual training program aims to help hospitality industry reopen

Mike Haynie is president of The Maryland Center for Hospitality Training. (Submitted Photo)

Mike Haynie is president of The Maryland Center for Hospitality Training. (Submitted Photo)

A veteran Maryland hospitality industry executive has created an online training platform to help individuals and organizations return to work safely as COVID-19 continues spreading.

Mike Haynie, president of The Maryland Center for Hospitality Training, partnered with Dupont Sustainable Solutions to create a “Back to Work Safely” training program. The program, which is offered in English and Spanish, uses an hour-long video to teach employees how they can stay safe, stay alive and cope with anxiety triggered by the pandemic.

Haynie said he created the program because he did not think employees were receiving enough guidance. The program also addresses the information gap between English-speaking and Spanish-speaking employees. The latter make up a significant portion of restaurant and hospitality workers.

“I think that handing people PPE equipment, saying, ‘Hey wear these gloves. Put this mask on. Follow CDC guidelines,’ so what does that mean?’” Haynie said. “And so, I felt as though there needed to be a little more explanation relative to viruses so that people understood in one setting exactly how to conduct themselves.”

The program explains how viruses are carried by animals and spread through sneezing and touching commonly used surfaces such as phones and computers. Employees also learn how to use PPE, how to effectively sanitize and what to do if they feel physically or mentally unwell.

Although the program is not free, Haynie said it is responsibly priced because he created the program as a form of social entrepreneurship.  Recognizing that some businesses may be struggling financially due to the pandemic, Haynie said, he sometimes provide free access for those who cannot afford to pay full costs.

The program officially opens July 1, but Ocean City Hotel, Motel and Restaurant Association, Inc. and Worcester County Government have already purchased licenses and distributed it to businesses. Since most of the area’s businesses earn a sizable portion of their revenue during the summer months, Haynie said, he allowed them to access the program earlier.

After completing 90 minutes of online training, employees receive a certificate of attendance. MCHT’s chief marketing officer said that completing the training will arm employees with factual knowledge to pass on to friends and family in their communities.

When asked whether people would take the training seriously, especially in areas like Worcester County where many individuals disobeyed social distancing guidelines on Memorial Day weekend, Haynie said he understands that people want to be done with COVID-19. Nevertheless, he said, he would still wear a mask, and he thinks his training program could potentially alter people’s perceptions.

“If they can take this information away from the workplace and educate their children, significant others, their neighborhoods with this factual-based information, then maybe behavior starts to change,” Haynie said. “We can’t rely on news channels giving different versions for educating the population. The workforce has something in common, that it has the captive attention of our population, and training has always been paramount in our industries.”

Haynie founded MCHT in 2012. He sits on the boards of The Maryland Office of Tourism Development and Visit Baltimore. He also serves on Gov. Larry Hogan’s Reopen Maryland Task Force and Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young’s Baltimore City Restaurant Recovery Task Force.

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