I lease a barn and acreage a few miles outside of town where i keep six horses. I hire high school and college kids to do all the dirty and heavy work that i can't or don't want to do. Since the mid 90's i have had absolute hell (with two notable exceptions) finding kids who would, show up or even call if they couldn't get there, do more than the absolute minimum and that not well, couldn't walk from point A. to point B. without supervision or a map to get to point C or showed any interest in doing much. I even had one who was paid in advance who decided that he didn't want to work for a couple of weeks so just gave me my money back. I guess that was better than not giving it back but i was counting on him. i had one who didn't show one day/no call and left me a note the next day that she was doing something with a friend and forgot to come to work. Two days in a row she didn't show up/no call then left me a note that her i phone had been stolen so she lost all her contacts would i please text her my phone number. She had worked for me for almost a year and i'm in the phone book and my home number ends in four zeros. (maybe it was the trauma of losing the phone.)
A week ago i hired a new kid. Varsity football, student council, FFA. wants to go the Airforce Academy. When i spoke with him i was concerned about all the activities plus school. He assured me no problem he would get it done the only problem would be Friday nights when he had a game during football season but his brother would cover for him on Friday night and he would work Saturday to be sure everything was done. Amazing, let's see what happens.
This little job means letting six horses out of their stalls every morning before school. Bad weather means feeding them and watering them in the barn before school. Coming back after school to clean stalls, clean out the wash rack, keep the tool room and saddle house organized and tack oiled, haul off the trash, feed the dogs and cats, bring the horses in feed and water them, be alert for anything wrong with the animals that requires calling me. Plus keeping the arena and barn alley raked. 7 days a week
And it pays a whopping 300.00 a month plus a tank of gas. The upside is i pay in advance, they don't keep hours, school is a priority, they get paid even if they are out of town on school trips or hit the high spots six week test week and i do it myself while they are at the Houston Livestock show for a week showing a pig or a goat. Yes friends, kids in Texas raise pigs and goats and steers then show and sell them to earn money for college or a car.
So my new kid shows up on his first day. I give him a quick walk through and a list and i am out of there. I come back late evening to ride and work with my horses. Not only does everything look better than it has in 10 years there is a note on the dry board in the barn that says, "Ms. McCartt, thank you for the opportunity to work for you." If there is anything else i can do call me or leave a note.". And this is only the beginning by Wednesday it looked like a show barn. Hmmm maybe i have found the one kid in the world whose daddy taught him how to work. I called him and said, " Ian, would you like to gather up four or five of your friends and move some hay tomorrow ." "Yes ma'am, i will have them there by 1:00 and we will get it done."
I met four boys at a storage barn holding 300 bales of hay that weigh about 65 to 70 lbs each and the temps are hitting 100.
These kids are 14, 15, 16 years old. Moving hay from the storage barn and stacking it in stalls in the big barn will convnce any kid that they must have a college education or know a trade other than hay moving in the heat. When i came back at 4:00 they were going strong. I handed each of them a 50 dollar bill and said , "dont kill yourselves it is murderous hot, do the rest tomorrow." What came next gives me hope for the future, an insight into the upside of a recession, if there is one and a clear vision that we have a generation of kids coming up who didn't get a trophy for showing up.
When i handed each of them what i thought was too little for the hard, hot and dirty work they were doing each one of them said, "Thank you so much for the Opportunity to work for you.". They didn't say it once, they said it over and over. All of them. That was followed by , "We are going to be here for a while, we are not going to leave it half done." Holy God, thinking i was hallucinating, i jumped in the car, ran back to town, cashed a check and was back at 7:00 with lots more 50 dollar bills. 300 bales of hay had been moved on top of all the barn work done. 4 young men were smiling like Chessie cats when i passed out the greenbacks and thanked them for more than a good days work for a good days pay.
And they said it again, "THANK YOU FOR THE OPPORTUNITY TO WORK". One explained that he had been calling everybody he could think of just to do something, anything for the summer and after school. Another said he had worked for his uncle, but business was slow so his uncle had to keep his full time employees busy so his job had ended.
Does this sound familiar? It did to me. But ,what was different, very different from what i hear most days from the young stars that have come of school in the past 8 to 10 years as well as a lot of Gen x. They were grateful for an opportunity to work, they weren't whining about no jobs or being laid off or talking about how cool they were. They didn't quit when they could have and finish the next day. They didn't know there was another round of 50 dollar bills on the way, they were glad to get the first round.
What happened as a result of what i saw yesterday. I hired the younger brother of my first new hire on a perm part time. The older brother offered to split his money with the younger one so i didn't have to pay both. No way kids, there is plenty to do out here, both of you are on the payroll. As for the other two. We will be building a new fence starting next week, all the saddles need cleaning and oiling. After that i will figure out what else needs to be done. And that my friends is how jobs are created. By a generation or a sample of , I hope, a generation who just want an opportunity to work.
It's been a long time since i heard "Thank you for the opportunity". It's been a long time since i have seen young kids work like these boys did, with pride in how it was done, pride that they got it done and hoping for another opportunity.
So watch out Millenials, while you are worrying about your "personal brand" and fussing about it if you have to work overtime and your company doesn't give you lunch and facebook at work. I think i have just seen a generation coming out of this recession who already know what it feels like not to be able to find a job or get laid off. They are looking for an opportunity to work. And you know what? Not one of them asked me what it paid before they jumped at the chance.
And maybe just maybe this experience blows a hole in that mantra that illegals are doing jobs that Americans won't do.
I think it may be time to shut those borders down and give our kids "AN OPPORTUNITY TO WORK"