Revving up

Keeners Car Wash provides a starting point for youth

 

Generally speaking, organizations don’t appreciate it when other organizations poach their employees. However, at Keener’s Car Wash, it’s actually encouraged.

“One of the fundamental purposes of Keener’s is to help get youth better jobs or to pursue further education,” says Andrew Bryson, manager of Keener’s. “We’re a low level, low skill, low barrier, entry level work place. The purpose is not long-term employment; it’s to get some job skills and experience—how to work in a team, how to work independently, how to be a reliable employee.”

Take for example former Keener’s employee Joey Wilmann. He was volunteering at Frog Hollow Neighbourhood House, a few blocks away from Family Services’ East Broadway office. He saw the Keener’s Car Wash car come along and watched as an employee washed a car that was outside.

“I thought, that’s kind of cool,” he remembers. “I was looking for work at the time and so I looked it up online and noticed they were looking for new staff so I sent an email to Andrew and that’s basically how I started.”

At the time, he was about to complete his Associate of Arts Degree in geography at Capilano University and was recovering from knee surgery. He was also ready to start work again.

He’s been with Keener’s part-time for about year, but since he plans to return to school in September, he needed a full time job. “I told Andrew I was job searching. This time of year is a bit slower so he was looking out for me.”

“As soon as I knew he was looking, we had a conversation about the kinds of support he might need,” says Andrew. “I was also keeping my eyes open for opportunities that might fit with what he’s looking for.”

That opportunity came quickly. Andrew was having a conversation with the manager at Modo, the car share service. Keener’s has the contract to clean Modo’s fleet of cars.
“I said, if you’re looking for a car washer I happen to have staff who are well trained in cleaning your cars,” says Andrew. “He laughed about it and then said, yes actually, you’re right. If you have anybody…” Sure enough, the connection was made and Joey got the job.

Joey’s already started at Modo, and appreciates the opportunity he’s had with Keener’s. “I really like all the staff, it’s a great environment and the work itself is rewarding in its own way,” he says. It allowed him to improve his customer service skills and his time management skills. He was challenged most by the physical demands of the job: “You’re definitely sore after the first few weeks, that’s for sure!”

At Modo, Joey’s job will focus not just on cleaning vehicles, but on the safety and maintenance of the vehicles in the fleet as well.

He’s also looking forward to school in September. He plans to build on his degree in geography and will be studying Geographic Information Systems at BCIT.

Geographic Information Systems (GIS) technology is software that’s used to manage and analyze geographic data. The potential uses of the technology are numerous—environmental management, land use planning, engineering, natural resource management, transportation, real estate, utilities, business and marketing, mineral exploration. It’s early days yet, but Joey is particularly interested in applying his knowledge to health and social services.

“I went to the information session at BCIT and there are graduates working in public health using GIS to keep track of health information. I thought that was very cool, it stuck with me from the info session.”

And that’s what Keener’s is all about. “It’s not the model most organizations want because you’re giving away your good staff and you’re giving them to someone else,” says Andrew. “That’s exactly what we want to happen.”