21st-century service economy is a classroom for any career
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When Briton Dumas graduated from Eastside High School in Gainesville, Fla., he had a choice: accept a full ride to West Point to play football, or attend culinary school to pursue a career in the service industry.

He chose the service industry.

Through school, part-time restaurant work and participating in culinary competitions, not only did Dumas learn valuable skills — and win $80,000 to help pay for culinary school — he found his future. Today, Dumas is the executive chef at Embers Wood Grill in his hometown of Gainesville. He gives back by hiring hardworking young people from his old high school whenever he can.


Dumas is just one among countless others who found their success story in the service industry. Young people from across the country have benefited from the opportunities provided by retail businesses, restaurants, hotels and the travel industry to learn valuable skills, work hard as part of a team and grow in their jobs. As the White House convenes the Summit on Worker Voice this week, we hope that voices of workers like Dumas will be central to the conversation.

The service industry is a place of opportunity for the young and experienced alike. It is where people with little to no applicable work experience can learn life skills and advance their careers. These businesses are a classroom for any career, teaching focus, teamwork, time management and much more.

Stifling the opportunities these industries provide with regulatory overreach is not the answer. As we all work together to build a 21st-century workforce pipeline, we'd do well to support and encourage these types of career opportunities and the on-the-job training they provide to the more than 30 million Americans employed in the service industry. These businesses are at the heart of every local economy, employing and serving their neighbors. They are engines of local economic development; hometown jobs that keep our communities working. That can't be outsourced.

In fact, just this month, Chipotle hired more than 4,000 people across the country in a single day, setting thousands of Americans on this path to career success. Over the summer, service industry leaders including Alaska Airlines, Domino's, Hilton Worldwide, HMSHost, Hyatt, JCPenney, Macy's, Nordstrom, Pizza Hut, Potbelly Sandwich Shop, Red Robin, Starbucks, Sweetgreen, Taco Bell, Target and Wal-Mart joined together with other companies to launch a nationwide effort to hire 100,000 teens and young adults who face barriers to jobs and education.

This is a powerful example of what service industry employers do every day for millions of people across the country.

At a time when the nation's youth unemployment rate stands at more than 20 percent, service industries are stepping up to the plate, jump-starting careers and training America's workforce. Over the next few years, the service industry is expected to add millions of jobs.

Many of these added jobs will be entry-level positions, giving folks the start they need to chart a successful path forward, whether they stay in the industry or not. These proactive steps to address youth unemployment will provide real pathways to the middle class and beyond.

The job creators we represent look forward to continuing the important national conversation about how we best develop our country's 21st-century workforce. The service industry's unmatched ability to kick-start careers and foster opportunities for young people like Briton Dumas and millions of others must be a key part of that conversation.

Sweeney is president and CEO of the National Restaurant Association. Shay is president and CEO of the National Retail Federation.