Port Madison Enterprise Employees Hit the Books

By Rachel Pritchett
rpritchett@kitsapsun.com
SUQUAMISH
Olympic College and Port Madison Enterprises are putting the final touches on a certificate program in tribal gaming management that represents a new level of collaboration between the two.
A few more instructors have to be hired and a few more lines added to the customized college-level curriculum before school starts Sept. 21.
Eighteen promising PME workers have been chosen to earn the new Tribal Enterprise Gaming Management certificate. Their tuition will be paid by PME while they earn 15 credits over a year on company time.
Classes will be held near the Suquamish Clearwater Casino Resort, which PME manages.
Enrollment at present is only open to PME employees, but leaders say if the program’s successful, it could be opened to neighboring tribes. While some have asked, there is no current plan to open the course up to the public, however.
“We firmly believe in investing in our employees and our community,” Russell Steele, PME chief executive officer, said of the collaboration that’s been a year and a half in the making.
Wendy Miles, OC’s director of customized training, expressed similar enthusiasm.
“I think both parties are very excited about the opportunity,” she said.
What PME gets out of the deal are that its best employees become better ones, now equipped with a broader understanding of the tribal gaming management. The models they learn will equip them to work in casinos beyond the Clearwater Casino.
And PME boosts its stock of trained leaders in an industry that even in this recession continues to grow.
PME currently has 760 employees, according to Steele, making it among the top private employers in Kitsap County.
Students will take educational excursions into the history of tribal casino game, hospitality, human relations, financials and marketing. Instructors will come from the community and OC, and will include OC’s Jeff Yergler teaching human relations in the workplace.
The collaboration between a tribe and an institution of higher learning is becoming increasingly common. In the Northwest, similar partnerships are in place in with Everett and Tacoma community colleges and neighboring tribes, as well as with The Evergreen State College and Grays Harbor Community College.
The partnership between OC and PME started growing around 2006, when OC provided hospitality training for people who would work in PME’s new resort. One instructor ended up becoming head housekeeper at the resort, Steele said.
Everyone hopes the collaboration continues to grow.
“Both parties hope that we will launch another program in 2010,” Miles said.

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