First Northsider hired by the Rivers Casino, almost 1000 jobs left

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Shelly Bowers has lived in Pittsburgh for a long time. The 44-year-old was a Taylor Allerdice graduate, and has lived in the East End and on Cedar Avenue in the Northside before moving to Observatory Hill in 2001.

Now Bowers has the honor of being the first Northside resident to be hired by the Rivers Casino, which has made commitments to hire locally whenever possible. Bowers was hired as the assistant to the vice-president of human resources.

Bowers had previously worked in a variety of fields, from being a bank teller to administrative and clerical work and human resources at UPMC. She went to Penn State Beaver before getting her Bachelors at 1994 from the University of Pittsburgh. She has a Masters in psychology from Chatham because she “likes knowing how people work” and has worked with people in drug and alcohol treatment centers.

Bowers had been looking for a new job that would give her a career path, and she realized that working at the new casino would be a great opportunity.

“It just crossed my mind and I realized that this casino will be opening in a little while,” Bowers said. “I thought I could bring something to the department.”

Bowers started Jan. 5, and has worked on many different aspects of the hiring process, which encompasses all aspects of casino operations, from food and beverage to administrative and management. Right now the Rivers casino is run out of a temporary office on Beaver Avenue, in the industrialized section of Manchester.

“It’s really exciting. Just the idea of getting started on the ground level and watching the development of the casino intrigues me,” Bowers said.

Working in a casino is also an interesting idea for the many people who asked Bowers how she got the job and where she went to do so. Bowers said that was the most frequent question from people she has spoken to since starting there.

“How did you know they were hiring? How did you know where to look?” Bowers said, repeating the questions she receives whenever she explains where she works. She tells them she kept checking the Web site and kept pounding away at the job openings until she saw something that fit.

“The best way to get started is to keep looking and be resourceful,” Bowers said.

Working at the casino right now is an interesting time, Bowers notes, highlighting their efforts to build a 1,000-person organization from the ground up, and developing the structure needed to organize and hire all those employees.

           That is why Rivers Casino has partnered with other groups to help identify and train good candidates for jobs in its various operations. Randy Lheureau, the workforce development specialist for the Northside Leadership Conference, has been working with people on the job process for months now, and said that there is still time to get started on the application process.

           “It’s a very new industry so most people are unaware of what they will have to go through to work there,” Lheureau said. He listed background checks, state licensing requirements and updating resumes as several obstacles that applicants must overcome to be considered for jobs at the casino.

           The Conference, which is a grassroots umbrella organization that encompasses the entire Northside, is a coalition of community-based groups looking to improve the quality of life and redevelop the Northside.

           Since the opening of the new casino was announced, the Conference has held 24 workshops and attracted more than 800 people to a seminar that gave people the basics of what to expect working in a casino, and the application process.

“Our role is to be the point for anyone looking to learn to see if the casino is right for them,” Lheureau. “As they finish the casino, it’s becoming more real to people. This interest will only continue to increase over the next couple of months.”

Lheureau invited people to contact him and the Conference for technical help with resumes, applications and figuring out how to overcome various potential obstacles such as child care and transportation (Contact information to follow at the end of the article).

“We do what we can to address issues early on to give people the best chance to work there,” Lheureau said.

The Northside Leadership Conference has an agreement with the owners of the casino, Holdings Acquisition Co., for the Casino to contribute $1 million a year for residential and business development projects on the Northside, and a commitment for preferential hiring of people from the Northside and from low-income areas around the City.

Andre Barnabei, the vice president of human resources for Rivers Casino, said that every group they have been in contact with has been interested in the jobs that will be available at the casino.

“Anyone that we have been in contact with has been excited about the opportunities we will be creating,” Barnabei said.

Jobs will begin being posted soon, Barnabei said, with an initial focus on management and administrative positions, as well as people with industry experience. Over the summer, the company will then begin looking at the various divisions that make a successful casino; food service, security, surveillance and slots operators, to name a few. There will also be positions in the restaurants and retail sections of the casino, as well as a possible second-phase hotel.

What will the human resources department be looking for in their new employees? Barnabei said that besides a positive attitude, they will be looking for flexibility. For example, a food-service employee may be asked to handle a different task, or for schedule flexibility at the 24-hour casino.

Barnabei – a Washington & Jefferson graduate who has nine years of experience at Mountaineer Casino and grew up in Weirton – sees building a casino from scratch as a unique opportunity.

“We have the full ability to create the culture here,” Barnabei said. “We want to have a very open door policy.” He envisions a workplace where managers walk the floors and know their employees by their first names.

He sees the jobs as not just seasonal or temporary, but with potential to move around in the company and in the industry as a whole. Barnabei said that there will be room to grow at the Rivers Casino for employees that want to.

As for now, he said the hiring process is in lock-step with the construction process, and that they will be hiring throughout the year.

For more information, call Randy Lheureau at (412) 330-2551 or email him at casinocareers@pittsburghnorthside.com. For more information on the Leadership Conference, go to www.pittsburghnorthside.com.

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