Freshly minted high school grads have much to offer your store

By Gordon Hecht, YSN Contributor

It will be 49 years ago on Friday that I walked to the podium to receive my diploma from Dust Devil High School (motto: Knowledge is Good). The next day I got my first real job, one where I got a paycheck and had taxes withheld, including paying that FICA fella.

The building still stands on West Charleston Blvd. in Las Vegas, about a mile from the furniture market. The retailer, Jay’s Furniture Carpet & Appliances, is long gone, but the training and knowledge I gained is still with me today.

I was hired as a delivery helper — the guy on the other end of a sofa. The pay was $2 an hour, minimum wage at the time. It was a fair wage, as I brought less than minimum skill with me when I started. Over the summer I gained valuable proficiencies that weren’t taught at ol’ Dust Devil High, and probably still not taught today.

I learned how to work. That meant clocking in and out every day, on time or earlier. It meant wearing clean clothes and good shoes. I learned that a lunch break was 30 minutes, not 35, and how to work with other people to get a job done. And I learned the value of customer satisfaction and how to be courteous and neat in their homes.

My immediate boss was the delivery driver. He taught me how to use a two-wheel dolly to lift heavy items, tip a dresser back so the drawers didn’t spill out, and how to pad and tie mirrors so the glass didn’t break. He showed me how to switch the way the door opened on a Hotpoint fridge. I learned to jump out of the truck to guide him into backing into a driveway and how to sweep and fold pads when the day was done.

I have used the general work skills ever since and used specific skills, like driving a dolly, as recently as this past week. Even though I was paid $2 an hour, I got the value of another buck-an-hour in training and knowledge.

This May and early June brings us another flock of high school graduates. About 8 million young women and men will get their diplomas and only about two-thirds of them will start college. In 2022, 8% fewer graduates will go to a university, many of them wrestling with the idea of investing $200,000 in a bachelor’s degree versus entering the workforce immediately. And while in the 1990s and early 2000s a bachelor’s degree was the ticket to an upper-middle class life, that’s not necessarily true anymore, and many skilled trades pay more than white collar jobs.

You’ve probably heard — recruiting and hiring have been difficult over the last 24 months. The good news is there are now about 2.5 million people with new high school diplomas out there looking for work!

Before the turn of the last century, one of the benefits that employers offered was OJT, meaning on-the-job training. Companies would promote the fact that they would pay people to learn work skills, no previous experience required.

You may never have thought of hiring a 17- or 18-year-old to work in your business, and certainly not someone who’s never talked to a customer or answered a business phone. It’s a huge time investment to teach someone how to sell, move or repair your products.

But while today’s teen may not have a lot of work experience, they bring other skills that your current team may be missing. They understand the power of connecting on social media; can have a meaningful text conversation (ICYMI OMG LOL RFLMAO IDK TBH, and PAW); aren’t afraid of operating a website; and don’t get dizzy at the thought of working a spreadsheet.

Although it takes time, it’s less of an investment than un-teaching bad habits. You have an opportunity to train people to do the job the way you want it done. And while there’s always the risk of training people only to have them leave for another company, the risk is counterbalanced by the opportunity to build a loyal team with a low rate of attrition.

Much has changed since my days at Jay’s. We had a map book instead of GPS. Trucks had a shift stick and a clutch instead of an automatic transmission. Paychecks were handwritten (weekly and weakly) and were cashed at a bank or liquor store instead of direct deposit. It’s been decades since I last saw any of my co-workers there. But I believe they would be proud to know of their lasting influence on me as a kid fresh out of high school.

You too can be the mentor that today’s graduates need. Promote “No Experience Needed, We Pay You to Learn” and you’ll get the people you need, and you’ll give the training and experience they want.

I started working in the home furnishings business and it’s still in my blood. Drop me a note about your first job and how you got started in your career.

Gordon Hecht is a business growth and development consultant to the retail home furnishings industry and a regular contributor to YourSource News. You can reach him at Gordon.Hecht@aol.com.