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Entry-Level Work as a Stepping Stone, Not an End Point

February 8, 2021 by Emsi Burning Glass

Half of young workers are able to parlay their first job, one that typically requires less than a bachelor’s degree and less than two years of experience, into better-paying jobs within five years, according to a new report from Burning Glass Technologies, with support of the Schultz Family Foundation and in partnership with the 100,000 Opportunities Initiative (now called the Hire Opportunity Coalition).

Entry-Level Work as a Stepping Stone, Not an End Point, examines the work histories of young people aged 16 to 24 not in school, without college degrees, and lacking work experience. Just over half (52%) of entry-level workers with no bachelor’s degree and less than two years’ experience reached better paying jobs in five years, while 48% of these workers remained in a cycle of entry-level jobs.

Burning Glass used its dataset of tens of thousands of resumes and work histories to gather insights about what happened to young people five years after starting an entry-level position. The companies studied included the 100,000 Opportunities Initiative corporate members at the time of study and were compared to peer companies – defined as the 50 largest retailers not already part of the coalition, according to retail sales data.

Key findings from the report include:

  • The data reveals three major patterns of career progression. In an analysis that studies where new hires land five years after their first job, the experience of young employees with limited work and education backgrounds presents three quite distinct profiles:
    • Leapfrogging – 44% of young workers in this cohort showed progression from their entry-level job, most moving into better paying jobs in other areas.
    • Levelling Up – 8% of the studied young workers progress to better-paying jobs within the career area of their initial entry-level role.
    • Spinning Wheels – 48% of the young workers in the database appear to be stuck, with fewer than half earning a living wage after five years working.
  • Among the firms studied, young workers with limited education and employment history cluster in four main career areas. Nine in 10 of these workers get their start in sales, administrative support, food service, and transportation.

Download the report.

Emsi Burning Glass

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