The tourism sector is widely regarded as a place where young people can make their first foray into the working world. Most consider how its entry-level options and flexible hours accommodate students’ schedules. Tourism offers far more than that, however: it is a place to learn important skills that will help individuals in any career they choose, and the opportunity to build a career in the sector itself.
According to the Statistics Canada report Getting your foot in the door: A look at entry-level job vacancies in Canada, there was an average of 367,000 job vacancies in Canada in 2016. Half required no previous work experience and were considered entry-level. As such, these jobs are ideal for those seeking their first job (such as students or new graduates), those re-entering the workforce after time away, and those changing careers or jobs.
Of the 175,600 entry-level jobs, half did not have any educations restrictions, while one in four required a high school diploma. Just under half of the entry-level jobs were for part-time work and about one in three were temporary positions. Employers reported constantly recruiting for a quarter of these positions, suggesting the positions have high turnover rates.
The existence of such jobs is important, as more and more Canadians are extending the time they spend within the education system. In 1990, 18% of working Canadians aged 25 to 44 had a university degree. By 2016, 38% did. This change in the labour force is partly supported by the ability of students to work part-time jobs, requiring a high-school education or less, that offer the flexible scheduling they require to work while they study.
Many of these entry-level jobs are in the tourism sector. The industry with the largest number of reported vacancies in 2016 was accommodation and food services, which reported 51,500 vacancies total, of which 32,600 (or 63.3%) were entry-level. The arts, entertainment and recreation industry had fewer vacancies (8,700 total) but over half (4,600) were entry-level.
Aside from the technical skills needed for a given job, employers want employees who are collaborative, communicate well, problem solve, and can adapt to a changing workplace . These are skills that can be gained in tourism. In a survey of 2,200 Canadians, the majority felt that working in tourism taught communication skills, people skills, multitasking, and problem solving.
Starting a career in tourism also has long-term benefits. The U.S. travel association looked at data collected by the U.S. Bureau of Labour Statistics that tracked 5,000 workers from 1979 to 2010. It found that those who started in the travel industry reached higher wages ($81,900) than those starting in other industries ($77,600) and that two out of five of those who start in the travel industry go on to earn more than $100,000 per year. Importantly, these benefits extended to those with a high school degree or less. They ended up earning $69,500 on average, compared to $66,100 for those with similar education who started in non-travel/tourism industries.
Tourism offers workers the opportunity to turn their entry-level jobs into full-time, well-paying careers should they choose to pursue that path. But even if they do not, tourism offers an excellent starting point for furthering education and pursuing any career.
 Statistics Canada, Getting your foot in the door: A look at entry-level job vacancies in Canada, December 6th, 2017. http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/75-006-x/2017001/article/54898-eng.htm
 Aon Hewitt, Developing Canada’s future workforce: a survey of large private-sector employers, March 2016. http://thebusinesscouncil.ca/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/Developing-Canadas-Workforce-March.pdf
 U.S. Travel Association, Fast Forward: Travel Creates Opportunities and Launches Careers, 2012.