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Young People Need Our Support to Achieve Success

Business Information by Gladys Edmunds
At age 15 Gladys developed a travel service that would prosper for more than 30 years. She is a national award winning entrepreneur, keynote speaker, author and columnist. Visit her at

Young People Need Our Support to Achieve Success

Young People Need Our Support to Achieve Success

Dear Gladys,

You often speak of hiring young people. I have not had good luck with this approach. I have a retail store and often hire high school seniors part-time. It is amazing how many young people don’t have the basic skills necessary for the work world. Usually I find that most have nice manners and are pleasant to customers. But many can’t read, write, count or spell very well. I want to give young people a chance, but I feel that they should come to the job with at least basic skills. Are parents and schools to blame for this ineptness? Can you please speak to this?

Thanks - H. B.

Growing up I had hopes and dreams of owning my own business. Whenever my childhood friends organized to play house I always designated myself as the owner of the store where they could buy their imaginary household goods. During my teenage years I realized my earlier dreams by starting a travel company that I owned for more than 30 years. And I take pride in saying that the training to grow my business came as a result of the many small business owners allowing me to come into their stores and do small chores.

When I was seven, the owner of a corner candy store, Mr. Howell, gave me a Saturday afternoon job selling and bagging candy. A couple of years later Mr. Trower, owner of a local cleaners, let me sweep floors and pin tickets onto clothes to be dry cleaned. In addition, during our elementary school days, my brothers had paper routes and I delivered groceries for the neighborhood grocery store.

Of course, those were the days when parents, educators and business owners worked together to develop children into young adults who could work effectively in the world.

I believe every young person is capable of reaching untold heights. We all know how important it is to have our children enter the workplace with the necessary skills. But they need our help to do it. To prepare young people for the working world, educators, entrepreneurs, and community members have to come together as a unit and become responsible for the development and growth of our kids.

I am sometimes reminded of the importance of basic educational skills for both the young and the old. One particular piece of interest showed up one day while reading the movie reviews in the newspaper. I read about a film called The Madness of King George. The original title was supposedly The Madness of King George III, but the distributors left of the “III” for the American market because, they thought people might think that they had missed parts 1 and 2. According to this story is just a rumor.

Maybe so, and maybe not. Those of us night owls who watch the Jimmy Kimmel show are familiar with his skit called Lie Witness News. Recently the Black Panther Marvel movie has had record breaking sales at the box office. It tells the story of T’Challa who is the king of a fictitious African country called “Wakanda.” It’s not a real place, but Jimmy went to the street and asked people for their thoughts on the crisis in Wakanda. Surprisingly more than a few responded as if Wakanda was a real place. Some of the inept responses were hard to watch.

Now, here’s an example from my own experience. Some of the wacky things that can happen when a person is not properly prepared to enter the workplace can be funny in retrospect, but they can be costly and sometimes frustrating to a small business. Like the messenger that I hired to deliver travel documents.

One morning, because of a heavy snowstorm, the messenger took the bus instead of driving. He left the office early that morning with a stack of travel documents to be delivered to our corporate clients. About 90 minutes after his departure, we got a phone call from a woman saying she had found a stack of envelopes bearing our company name and address in the snow on 5th Avenue, a couple of blocks from our office. We picked up the envelopes from the woman and delivered them to our clients. I had not heard from our messenger and had no idea what had become of him. This incident was pre-cell phone days.

About 4:30 that afternoon he finally showed up at our office, trembling uncontrollably from the frigid weather. His teeth were chattering so hard I could barely understand a word of his story. After warming up with a cup of hot coffee, he told us that after he had stepped off the bus to begin delivering the documents, he reached inside of his coat for the tickets to discover that they were not there. Meanwhile he sees the bus pull off, but not before he could etch the number of the bus into his mind. He said that he thought he had left the envelopes containing the travel documents on the bus. The only thing he could think of to do was to stand on that corner, half frozen, waiting for a bus bearing that number to come around again so that he could return to his seat and search for the envelopes.

He didn’t have the problem-solving skills to think of an alternative to standing out in the freezing cold all day.

Parents, educators, entrepreneurs and community members independently cannot solve these dilemmas. No single entity can figure out why an employee didn’t have the sense to come in out of the cold or explain that there are no movies called The Madness of King George I or II. However, if we can come together collectively, I believe that we can find the correct answers and give the necessary support tour youth to better prepare them for the workplace and for life.