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From the Field: Problem-Solving - How a Car Detailing Business is Turning Lives Around

September 06, 2017
From the Field: Problem-Solving - How a Car Detailing Business is Turning Lives Around

By: Alex Ellis, Supported Housing Case Manager and Beal St. George, Development and Communications Coordinator, Spectrum Youth and Family Services

We’ve always struggled to help our youth find and maintain employment. Some of our youth do find success in our JOBS program, which is designed to help youth with a mental health diagnosis on all kinds of life skills, including finding and keeping a job. However, many of our youth face barriers to employment, like inconsistent attendance, or employers who do not understand what a client may be going through, or who cannot afford to engage in in-depth training for our youth.

We’ve learned that many of our youth are lacking the “soft skills” required to succeed in the workplace, like how to speak to a boss, how to show up on time for work, how to solve conflicts, and how to work independently.

So, in an effort to minimize these barriers and empower our youth, Spectrum Youth & Family Services has created a social enterprise that employs our clients while teaching them soft job skills to be successful in the future. 

 (Photo courtesy of James Buck)

The social enterprise is called Detail Works, and it’s a full-service car detailing shop. In teams of four or five, our youth work 20 hours a week (either morning or afternoon) on detailing cars—but in reality, it’s so much more than that. Our youth are working through professionalism, attention to detail, becoming leaders and following directions, and interacting with bosses and customers. Detail Works is staffed by a general manager and youth coordinator. Our youth start their day with a meal at Drop-In, and we help with much-needed supplies, like sturdy shoes and work uniforms.

At Detail Works, our youth are learning on-the-job skills, including a valuable trade. We’re still in start-up mode, with a grand opening scheduled for the end of September, but already, it’s been successful for our youth. One youth has left the program—because he was hired by another car detailing business!

 (Photo courtesy of James Buck)

As one young man who works with us put it, "I love every minute of [working here]. The look on our customers' faces is priceless. It's a chance to give back to these guys who have given so much to me."

Recently, Jack Thurston from NECN and Meg Carpenter from Local 22 & Local 44 News have come by the shop. If you’d like to learn more, or schedule an appointment, visit www.detailworksvt.com.