A new downtown Muncie hotel project is looking to partner with Ball State to train people with disabilities to work in hospitality fields.

The hotel will provide hospitality training for people with disabilities. Upon completion of the program, participants will receive a workforce credential endorsed by the Indiana Hospitality and Restaurant Association, allowing them to work at any hotel or restaurant in the state of Indiana.

Executive Director of Arc Innovations, the parent company of the hotel, Kim Dodson said the project would benefit from help from the university.

“We want to possibly share some faculty, share some common area,” Dodson said. “We want to provide the opportunity that when people leave our training institute with their [workforce credential, they] can maybe apply more classes to that to earn a bachelor’s degree or an associate degree in whatever field that they choose.”

The hotel is the first of its kind, according to arcind.org. The ground breaking came more than a year after it was announced in August 2013.

Associate director of disability services at Ball State, Courtney Jarrett said employment rates for people with disabilities have been low in the United States.

“Nationally, or just historically over time, they’re not good,” Jarrett said. “Even with a college degree, the majority of people with disabilities in the United States are unemployed or grossly underemployed.”

According to a report issued by the Bureau of Labor Statistics on people with disabilities, only about 18 percent of people with disabilities were employed in 2013. By comparison, 64 percent of people without disabilities were employed in 2013.

Dodson said, while no actual program partnerships have been cemented yet, she is pleased with Ball State’s support of the hotel.

The planned opening for the hotel is in the summer of 2015. Besides the 150 hotel rooms, there will be a Thr3e Wisemen restaurant, the training institute and retail spaces owned and operated by people with disabilities. The first class of students will start in January 2016.

Dodson said that the courses the students will take will be very concentrated.

“We see the courses [being] anywhere from four to 16 weeks,” Dodson said. “A typical class at a college now is two to three days a week for an hour. Ours [are] going to be five days a week for seven to eight hours, so it will be a very intense, short training atmosphere.”

Jarrett said that the hospitality field is a good fit for people with disabilities.

“[They] may not have the skills to be successful in the college setting, like in a classroom and academically, but they do have other skills that they can utilize to be successful in their everyday life,” Jarrett said. “They can run a cash register ... they would be good at checking people in at a hotel and managing things like that. I think there is room for people to do all kinds of things.”