Grooming young talent

CBS Services gives job experience and college scholarships to summer interns.

September 12, 2011
Lindsey Getz
Industry News

Wade Martinez, president of CBS Services, in Houston, has a true appreciation for hardworking students trying to earn a living. After all, that’s how he started his own business. Mowing grass to earn money for college, Martinez made some flyers that said “College-Bound Student needs money.” From there, the name CBS stuck and Martinez continued to work through college. “During college I’d come home to do work and my fraternity brothers would mow grass with me,” he says.

After graduating from Southwestern University with a degree in accounting, Martinez says he “almost became an accountant.” But when he realized that the entry level accounting positions he was applying for would only earn him as much as he was making in college, mowing lawns, he decided to put his efforts into growing that business instead. “I had the idea to hire some college kids and keep the name CBS,” he says. “From there, the program has just grown. We’ve created a systemized program where college students can learn what to do to be part of a business.”

The partnership between CBS Services and local students looking for job experience has worked out well. Martinez has hired both high school and college students, whom he says make great employees and benefit from some real-life work experience – plus a paying job. “The kids are really bright and hard working,” Martinez says. “They’ll start when school ends for the summer and it will fill that void since it’s our busiest time of the year. Then they’ll return to school right around the time things are slowing down – so it works out well. Plus, I get to be a business mentor and help them learn some things, and that’s incredibly rewarding for me.”

College students get paid an hourly wage as well as earn a minimum $1,000 scholarship through the summer, which they’ll receive at the end of the season. If the student goes above and beyond with extra tasks or is very successful in sales, they have the opportunity to earn “bonuses” and boost that amount even higher.

Martinez says he gets students with all different backgrounds and he finds them jobs based on their varying skill sets. Some may help with marketing or other projects he has going in the office. “For instance, we just redid the company handbook and that had to be typed and formatted, so that was a large project I gave out to a student,” he says. “I’m also currently writing a book, and I had a college student do some of the research and data analysis for me and that’s something they’d earn a scholarship for. You basically have to match the student up with what they can do.”

Interestingly enough, Martinez says he’s never hired someone on track to be in the green industry. “We have licensed irrigators and licensed pest control applicators so we don’t need students filling those full-time positions,” he says. “What we need is marketing, customer service, phone skills, producing follow-up letters, and other business tasks. Bright students can do these jobs.”

Though the students are quick to learn, Martinez says there is typically a learning curve. After all, nobody can be thrown into a job and know what they’re doing overnight. “I look for students that want to learn,” Martinez says. “And you do have to teach them something – that’s part of it all. But I’d say it’s typically a week-long learning curve and then the students are on track with the job they’ve been given.”

While some may assume this is an opportunity for cheap labor, Martinez says that’s not why he does it. Plus, he adds, it may actually cost him a little extra labor-wise with the hourly wage he pays plus scholarships. But he does admit that even though the labor may cost him a little extra, there are some advantages to not having to pay for unemployment or health insurance. It’s purely a seasonal position.

In the end, the hardworking, bright students that Martinez hires are typically worth the extra expense. “I look for students that have a good work ethic,” Martinez says. “They do extra curricula activities and they still have good grades. That’s an easy way of knowing they’re well-rounded, hard workers and they’ll be a good fit with just a little bit of guidance and help.”