The service sector is one of the most diverse industries in the country, providing work opportunities to people of all backgrounds. In fact, restaurants employ more minority managers than any other industry, and in 2014, 15 percent of first-line supervisors/managers of food preparation and service workers were African American. In celebration of Black History Month, Path Forward is helping to tell the stories of the diverse faces of the industry, from entry-level employees to managers to owners.

Rowetta Robertson, Market Development Manager At Mattress Firm

Rowetta Robertson has risen through the retail ranks to change her future and that of her family. Since advancing from a manager-in-training to a market development manager today at Mattress Firm, Rowetta has been able to purchase her first home and give her sons access to a better education. Speaking of the earlier challenges and positive changes in her life Rowetta says that “My life could have ended up much different … all because my career in retail.” …

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By Bill Thorne, Senior Vice President for Communications and Public Affairs at the National Retail Federation and a member of the Path Forward Coalition.

Most people remember their first job, and not just for the extra dollars it put in their pockets. We remember it because for many of us it was the time when we began to develop a sense of professional responsibility and workplace habits that would serve us throughout our working lives. …

A third generation owner of an 81 year-old retail business knows a thing or two about what makes a business succeed. For Debbie Schaeffer, President and CEO of Mrs. G’s in Lawrence Township, New Jersey, equipping employees with training and skills to deliver quality customer service is a key to success.

Looking back to the lessons she learned from her grandparents who started the business in 1935, Debbie said that, “if we didn’t have customers, we wouldn’t be in business” and noted how committed her parents were to their employees and their role in mentoring staff.

For the 25 employees at Mrs. G’s, all play an important part of the customer service experience. Working with staff to develop skills is not limited to operating a cash register. Debbie knows the value in developing basic skills, like smiling while helping a customer over the phone, to the more modern skills needed today like operating a store website, blog and social media accounts. The eight people on her sales team now use iPads on the store floor to have product information right at their fingertips to help customers find the exact information they need. …

The Benefits of Valuing Employees

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By Bill Thorne, Senior Vice President for Communications and Public Affairs, National Retail Federation, NRF is a founding member of the Path Forward Coalition.

This month, the City Council in our nation’s capital approved a measure to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour, following close behind other states and municipalities like California and Seattle. If you listen to the rhetoric, most of the attention is focused on the sole issue of wages and not enough consideration is given to other ways workers are valued. …

The Value of Service Sector Summer Jobs

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By Cicely Simpson, Executive Vice President, Policy & Government Affairs, National Restaurant Association, NRA is a founding member of the Path Forward Coalition

Summer is a sacred time for students. Their days cooped up with books have come to an end, and a stretch of sun and care-free afternoons await. But for many of America’s teenagers, summer vacation is more than just a chance to take a break from the classroom. It’s an opportunity to gain valuable skills that they will take with them long after graduation. …


Path Forward

Path Forward is raising awareness on the positive role the service sector plays in empowering millions of Americans.

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