The problem of training the office boy has been a perplexing one to business men. The instruction received by boys in the public schools does not seem to give them the power of application. When they enter upon office work, they must be trained from the very beginning, and the duty of training the boys has devolved upon and has been a severe tax on the office manager. After many suggestions had been received from employers and a careful study of the problem had been made, the West Side Branch opened a course designed to train boys and young men in office work. The outline of the course was based upon the requirements in large offices, questions put to candidates for positions, examinations where such were needed, and all other similar matter which was obtainable.
The work is divided into two parts: one a course in business arithmetic, spelling, letter-writing, business English and commercial geography, special emphasis being placed on the geographical situation of New York with its main commercial centers and its transportation lines. Practical work constitutes the other part. It consists of lectures and talks, and office work. The lectures deal with the boys' personal appearance, cleanliness and general demeanor. The office work involves the use of office equipment, much of which was loaned by different firms, and includes the use of the telephone, switch-board, various copying devices, indexing and filing systems, and other office appliances.
In addition to instructing boys and young men in the elementary studies given in the first part of the course, the object is to train the present or prospective office man in routine office work, whether expensive and upto-date appliances are used, or those of an older and less elaborate type, so that the boy can find his place immediately and pursue his work from the very start, without requiring any great amount of the manager's time to settle him in the traces. From time to time business men stimulate the boys by talking to them on matters of everyday interest. These talks help to keep the boys alert, and foster a spirit of progressiveness.
Every boy is urged to spend at least two nights a week in the gymnasium because his efficiency will be increased by a good physical condition.
The opening of the course produced considerable ncws paper notoriety, and the press all over the country made all sorts of comments. Everybody was interested.
OFFICE TRAINING, WEST SIDE BRANCH.
"If the traditional office boy can be trained and made into a useful adjunct of business," said the editors, "the idea is a good one, and if the course is successful, the office managers will have a large burden removed from their shoulders".
The Association immediately began to receive calls for office boys until the employment secretary was ready to throw up his hands in despair. Three times the number of boys enrolled in the course could have been placed in positions, so large was the demand. One of the difficulties which arose, however, was that many employers did not seem to see that the trained office boy is worth more than one without training; this in spite of the fact that many of those in the class who were already in business were able to better themselves and others who came in as green recruits were placed in good positions.
Forty boys were enrolled in the classes the first year and many of them returned for the second year's work.
There is no question that this work has been and is of a beneficial character, and it can be developed further so as to render a real service to the commercial public in the training of reliable, efficient and promotable young men. But there must be co-operation on the part of employers which is not always easy to secure as too many of them only seem to look at the office boy in one way. However, the outlook is hopeful and in the course of time the efficiency of the office assistants' course can be increased so that trained office boys will be recognized by the employers more than they are today, and the latter will use their influence to persuade boys in their employ to carry special work so that they will be better fitted for promotion.