By Alexis Neely
The DowntownDC Business Improvement District (BID) continues to invest in new workforce development programs for the red-and-black uniformed caretakers of DowntownDC — the Safety/Hospitality and Maintenance ambassadors (SAMs).
After an in-depth survey by the BID’s administration to determine what skills SAMs were most interested in gaining, a class in English as a second language was created.
Classes began on August 6, with nine SAMs in attendance. Meeting twice a month on Mondays for six months, the class is comprised of modules designed for both professional and personal growth.
By offering this English course, the BID provides an opportunity to broaden horizons for SAMs who may have previously relied on translation or simply not been able to understand important documents.
Director of Administration Nabavi Oliver said it’s an extensive effort to find a way to encompass all the needs of employees, allowing them to grow into and develop their passions.
“The BID is one of those organizations that really understands that regardless of your background, there’s opportunity for upward mobility,” he said. “I’m happy to lead a team that provides this type of resource for its employees.”
The BID has also crafted an entrepreneurship course, for those with hobbies they are interested in using to start a business. Slated to begin in September, the course was inspired by courses from the Small Business Association and D.C.’s Department of Small and Local Business Development (DSLBD).
All classes are offered during work hours so every employee has an equal opportunity to participate.
The BID currently employs 77 SAMs. For many ambassadors, working for the BID was a return-to-work position, giving them an opportunity to garner skills that can push their career forward.
Past SAM success stories include Alvin Chase, a former maintenance ambassador who is now employed by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA).
Another former maintenance ambassador, Varvie Daughtry, originally struggled to find work after being released from prison. He found employment with the BID and later left the organization to share his story in support of juvenile justice reform.