Pedro Amorim is the Assistant Food and Beverage Manager the Hilton Orlando, Florida. He also chairs the hotel’s Blue Energy Committee, which supports community-based activities. Mr. Amorim joined the “Youth Voices” panel at the June 21, Youth@Work conference in Washington, DC, where he and his fellow panelists discussed what young people can do to expand educational, economic, and civic opportunities in their communities.
When I was asked to be a panelist at the International Youth Foundation’s Youth@Work conference in Washington DC and represent Hilton Worldwide, I was excited and honored but also nervous. My lack of certainty created insecurity and fear that I would not rise to the expectations and that I would fail. But I decided to take it as a challenge and face it with an open mind. What I didn’t anticipate was how this trip would change the way I will conduct my leadership style for the rest of my life.
When I arrived at the famous Hilton McLean, Travis Diem, Director of Global Culture and Education, greeted me with a smile saying “we are excited to have you here.” The Bellperson, Aboyime, picked up my luggage from my hands and when I offered to help, he refused by simply saying “Sir, today you are our guest.” I felt so welcome and at home.
After a quick change, it was time for a tour of corporate headquarters. The first thing that caught my attention was how young the team is. I had always thought that it would be a “Corporate” group walking around with suits and ties. That was not the case. It is a young, energetic and smiling crew in business casual attire. It caught me off guard to see all those faces that I never met but yet they seemed to know me because of H360 [Hilton’s employee website]. I remember one Team Member saying: “Here we are on H360 all the time, watching what the teams around the world are doing”.
From the moment the IYF conference began, I started to realize how deep these issues are. Today’s youth unemployment crisis is just the tip of the iceberg and if we don’t work together to find positive solutions, we risk creating a lost generation and experiencing increased instability around the world. Many kids have no access to education and on top of that, young people must be mentally and emotionally prepared to enter the job market. The capacity to think critically, solve problems, communicate effectively, and work in teams are some of the life skills highly valued by employers, but which are not addressed in most formal education systems. Due to a youth demographic boom, we have over 1 billion young people getting ready to enter the job market and needing a chance to succeed.
At lunch, I met our CEO and President, Chris Nassetta. He came up to me and when I went to shake his hand, he hugged me. He was genuinely interested in my story and shared his appreciation for my participation in the conference. It was inspiring for me to have someone in that position be so approachable. My fears of disappointing him disappeared, and all I wanted to do was shine.
He delivered the keynote speech right after lunch and I felt the atmosphere in the room go from worried or apprehensive to hope as he talked about “Why youth matter.”
Mr. Nassetta started by telling us his most important job was being the father of six girls. He went on to explain how his connection to this cause started with his role as a father and that made it so close to his heart. His emotion inspired me. “I’m firmly of the belief,” he said, “that in every community across this earth there is a future leader that can transform his or her own village, town, city and ultimately their country, and as a result change our world for the better.”
Mr. Nassetta also mentioned the launch of Hilton initiatives that will help guide our hotels to broaden our work helping young people to achieve stability and discover hope. We do that by contributing our resources and expertise across the globe and engaging our team members to focus on education, volunteering and partnering.
My panel, made up of young social entrepreneurs and youth leaders, gave us a chance to reflect on the day’s discussions based on our stories and experiences. Together, we agreed that not only did we need to find jobs for unemployed youth but while doing so, we needed to find the right fit for each individual, and then develop them into leaders. We agreed that part of the new generation has lost some of the old school values and is looking for instant gratification, thinking that a college degree will automatically provide them managerial jobs. We also agreed that we are looking for partnerships with the older generation as we have not yet established our own credibility