Valuable skills attained in first jobs

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First jobs are typically on the lower end of the pay scale, but they often do provide an opportunity to develop crucial skills that are valuable in future jobs and job satisfaction, according to results from a survey conducted for McDonald’s and the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC).

The survey suggests that employers should teach their employees critical soft skills that – especially when paired with education – help drive the feeling of financial stability and job satisfaction later in life.

The survey queried nearly 2,000 employees across all walks of life and multiple industries, from food service and retail, to manufacturing, education and healthcare. Overall, survey respondents gave their first job good marks: 77% said they were satisfied with their experience. They also said there are several soft skills learned in a good first job, with three categories rising to the top:

  • Responsibility – from being on time, to completing all duties associated with a job, and being accountable for results
  • Teamwork – including collaboration, problem solving, critical thinking, and effective and clear communication
  • Responsiveness – actively listening to colleagues or customers, staying focused, and acting quickly and thoroughly to deliver meaningful results

The survey found that people who learned at least one skill per category at their first job are 19% more likely to have a full-time job currently, 24% more likely to have health insurance, and 50% more likely to report a feeling of job satisfaction.

McDonald’s, which provides many individuals with their first jobs as well as opportunities for higher positions and job advancement, said that 88% of survey respondents whose first job was at the fast-food restaurant said they learned how to work as part of a team, compared to 74% of Americans overall. And 57% said they were taught how to provide customer service very well, compared to less than half of Americans overall.

The online survey, conducted this spring, includes responses from 1,974 Americans between the ages of 18 and 49, including 439 former and current McDonald’s employees.

Education can accelerate success

People who learned at least one skill per category are more likely to pursue further education, which improves career paths at an even greater rate, according to the survey. With a good first job and an associate degree, survey respondents were two times more likely to be working in a job that creates financial security and more than twice as likely to report a feeling of life satisfaction, it says.

The results of the survey provide information to help McDonald’s build on its employee programs, such as Archways to Opportunity – a program AACC advised on – which empowers restaurant employees to earn a high school diploma, work toward a college degree, take English as a second language courses and more.

“When young people have access to programs like Archways to Opportunity and the education community colleges provide for millions of first-generation college students, there is no limit to what they can achieve,” AACC President and CEO Walter Bumphus said in a release.

Since its launch in 2015, Archways to Opportunity has increased access to education for more than 65,000 people and awarded over $130 million in high school and college tuition assistance.

Some individual McDonald’s restaurants have added their own educational opportunities. For example, in June a McDonald’s franchise company in Louisiana and South Louisiana Community College (SLCC) announced that the restaurant’s employees, using the Archways to Opportunity program, could this fall access an additional $500 per semester from SLCC, for up to four semesters.

“Many times, the cost of tuition and fees can be the sole deciding factor of attending college to better one’s life,” Lana Fontenot, the college’s vice chancellor for institutional advancement and executive director of the SLCC Foundation, said in a release. “This additional assistance from SLCC, combined with the McDonald’s Archways program, can lessen financial burdens for students and allow them to focus on their educational success.”

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CCDaily is published by the American Association of Community Colleges.