As the district manager of a business that serves Montgomery and Prince George's counties and the District of Columbia, I am interested in returning part of our investment to the community. And one of the most promising means of doing this is by taking on young people for short-term summer jobs. As in all businesses, it is that bottom line that makes us or breaks us--and when we can see a need and have the right project, young people can be a real asset.
Our firm, Browning Ferris Industries, is a worldwide company primarily involved in commercial trash removal. My district, a self-contained unit, employs 75 people, about 60 of whom are black. We operate 55 trucks throughout the area and run our own mechanics shop, parts shop, container delivery network and sales division. Like everything else, our business is becoming more and more technical. All of our contracts are for containerized trash bins, which our trucks pick up and deliver using hydraulic lifts. Our employees, therefore, are skilled drivers, heavy-equipment operators and experienced and capable mechanics.
Why add summer help? I am not in the business of creating make-work jobs, but this summer I have some project work that would benefit our company and, at the same time, teach a young man or woman various aspects of business. We have found that our industry is not as familiar to people entering the job market as the computer industry, for example. But once someone is introduced to the solid waste industry, they are surprised at how sophisticated it has become. It was with this in mind that we decided to introduce a couple of youths to the solid waste industry.
The two young people we have brought on will be exposed to allacets of business, from customer relations to cashing their computerized paychecks. It is our hope that we can provide an atmosphere in which these two people can learn something about our business and also the business world in general. At the same time they must, and will, perform the duties that we will require, from assisting in the container shop to riding with our drivers.
The two youngsters we hired were referred to us through the Prince George's County Private Industry Council, participants in the area's Summer Jobs for Youth Campaign. In the past, I have sometimes been reluctant to bring in young people, feeling that they were not ready or, in some cases, willing to work. But knowing that these young people had received job-readiness training from the county helped reduce my reluctance.
I have discovered this year that my previous feelings were unfounded. Young people are eager to work and quick to learn. They point to our problems and suggest solutions that seem so simple--often solutions that we, too close to the job, never considered.
In putting in 40 hours or more of hard work each week, what do the young people gain? I would like to think that the work experience with us will stay with them. They are learning how to deal with people and to budget their time, and they are getting a chance to see the real world in action. In addition, they are changing their perception of trash collectors.
The television ad on summer jobs says, "Make the Most of Your Youth." At Browning Ferris we have. We have gained two young people for summer jobs who will make a long-term addition to our bottom line.