By Megan Sayles, AFRO Business Writer
Report for America Corps Member
Upon graduating from Howard University, Vivica Brooks joined the management team at Washington Marriott Wardman Park in D.C. Her experience there not only allowed her to assist in managing the day-to-day operations of the hotel but it’s also where her passion for training and education manifested.
“I had seen the various paths that I was able to take, being in hospitality, and I wanted to see more women and people of color in the hospitality industry,” said Brooks, founder and president of The Brooks Group, LLC. “I wanted people to be exposed to and understand how they can get into hospitality and how they can truly grow their career without going into a lot of debt.”
After a stint with a local nonprofit centered on hospitality, Brooks decided it was time to start her own business. She founded TBG Trains, also known as The Brooks Group, LLC, in 2010 as a workforce training and development company that specializes in working with underserved and marginalized communities. The company is meant to prepare people for what Brooks refers to as their WOW, or world of work, by providing side-by-side training, coaching and motivation.
“I wanted to create a program that really supported the individual so we’re not just doing off-the-shelf training,” said Brooks. “It’s also about the whole person that we need to give attention to.” Some of the students who participate in the courses are experiencing homelessness or are undergoing domestic violence so Brooks ensures that she chooses instructors who don’t just care about the lesson plans but also the students themselves.
TBG Trains started with a hospitality bootcamp and has now grown to offer additional training, including certified food manager/food handler, concierge essentials, digital literacy, Microsoft office specialist and work readiness. The company also partners with nationally-recognized organizations to certify students in these career paths so they have more room to advance in their chosen profession.
When the pandemic hit, TBG Trains converted its entire catalog of courses to a virtual setting, and the company added a new program. After seeing how COVID-19 was disproportionately affecting Black and Brown communities, Brooks talked with her team and decided to create a community health worker course.
One aspect of the workforce that TBG Trains drills into its students is the importance of soft skills, which include time management, attendance, conflict resolution, appearance and attitude. According to Brooks, soft skills are what allow people to stay in the workplace. Even if an individual is not the most qualified person for the job, an employer may be able to picture themselves working alongside them because of their soft skills.
With more than 10 years in business, one success story that stands out to Brooks is that of Skyler Kelley, who enrolled in TBG Trains’ hospitality bootcamp while she was experiencing homelessness. After she completed the course, Kelley went on to work at Marriott, and now, she has opened her own coffee shop in D.C., Brij Coffeehouse & Juicebar.
“We hear that word ‘holistic approach’ a lot now, but really implementing it and engaging individuals is what’s allowed us to have the longevity that we’ve had for so long,” said Brooks.
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