Instructor Pablo Sierra teaches his
students what any computer teacher would: typing, Word, PowerPoint,
Excel. Somewhat less run-of-the-mill are his lessons in room
nights, menus and site inspections.
Sierra works at the Brooklyn,
N.Y.-based nonprofit Opportunities for a Better Tomorrow, which
assists disadvantaged youth and adults with job training and
lessons in academics, professionalism and financial stability. One
of Sierra’s pet projects -- which the 50 trainees currently
registered at OBT must complete -- is to plan a hypothetical
meeting. And while the gathering won’t actually take place, the
legwork is real. Trainees have to plan destination events for 32
attendees, as if they had a budget of $67,000.
“Sometimes they look at you like,
‘You’re crazy -- this is a lot of work!’ But once they get into it,
they actually end up having a good time with the project,” says
Trainees draw a destination at random
and must find appropriate hotel accommodations, flights, car rental
and meals, all within the given budget, as well as create a fact
sheet about the meeting’s location -- some of which they may never
have heard of before. Potential meeting sites include Acapulco,
Mexico; Dallas; Isla Verde, Puerto Rico; Las Vegas; and Punta Cana,
Dominican Republic, among others. Once given their assignments,
trainees can communicate with their instructor by e-mail or memo --
lending a more professional air to the proceedings.
Sierra, who spent 20 years working in
the hotel industry, likens the assignment to a big word problem. “A
lot of people become overwhelmed by the information,” he explains.
“I tell them they just have to break it down and take things one
step at a time.”