Flexibility and Paths to Success

For millions of Americans, a first job provides critical skills that lead to a successful and rewarding career both in service industries and other professions. First-time workers learn lessons that last a lifetime; the importance of everything from hygiene and grooming to time management, communication, teamwork, customer service, setting and achieving goals, etc. For a vast number of Americans that first job—that “opportunity job”—begins within the retail industry, the travel industry or the restaurant industry.

flex-imageIn addition to giving workers the opportunity to learn skills on the job, these three industries also offer the employees the flexibility in scheduling that they need to gain additional knowledge, skills and training. For example, of the 5.6 million Americans working part-time while pursuing higher education, nearly one-third, or 1.8 million workers, choose to work in the travel industry. And of restaurant workers under age 23, an overwhelming 65% are going to school. Finally, the vast majority (68%) of part time workers in the retail industry choose to work less than a full time schedule.

The record is clear; opportunity job providers allow student-employees to work part time and to provide the scheduling flexibility to pursue a path to further their education and success. Many choose to remain in these industries and go on to advance to successful managers, executives and owners. Many others go on to achieve success in other professions, equipped with the basic skills and job training they received from their earliest jobs. Because so many opportunity job holders begin as part time employees, working only part of the year or reduced weekly hours, annualizing their income is misleading in that it fails to recognize both the flexibility and upward mobility these jobs provide.

In fact, individuals working in opportunity jobs often are more successful in meeting their educational goals than workers in other industries. For instance, over the past 30 years, the travel industry has achieved an impressive record of helping workers earn their degrees. Among workers who began their careers in the travel industry, one-third earned at least a bachelor’s degree compared, for example, to 19% in construction and 18% in manufacturing.