Employment Success Story: The Odd Job Squad
By: Nicole Linzmeyer
The Odd Job Squad through Eagles Nest Youth Ranch and Wesmor High School in Prince Albert helps youth gain valuable work experience that provides students with the necessary skills for future employment and growth after High School.
Matt Grzesiak began working at Wesmor high school two years ago for an employment program for students in the Life Skills classroom and the Eagles Nest classrooms. Matt quickly realized that setting up students with employment was not working because some of the students were struggling in other aspects of their life and would have trouble committing to long term employment.
Matt came up with the idea to start the Odd Job Squad, where he posts ads on various websites to find people in the Prince Albert area who have an odd job that his crew of students can do. This can include mowing a lawn or other various maintenance and home projects that anyone might need to have done. Matt acts as the boss or supervisor of his crew by paying them weekly, showing them how to do their jobs safely and properly, and encouraging them to meet their full potential.
“At the beginning I did a lot of skill matching to the job requirements but as we went on and my relationships with the youth got stronger I was able to push and challenge them even more to expand their skill set by doing things they have never done before” said Matt. “I felt my relationships with the youth were a key part of building success with the Odd Job Squad as I was able to be more like a real boss when we were doing different jobs and feel comfortable challenging them in situations they have never been in.”
Gaining experience while in school allows for young people to learn the skills and confidence necessary for future employment. Matt sees the program as a skill building tool, “you’re going to get a kid that comes and goes through Eagles Nest that might only be there for a month and maybe has never cut a lawn before but you give him that skill before he moves on.”
Last year was the first year of the program. Three of the students from Wesmor graduated and were all able to gain employment after graduation. Matt pointed out that during the first year, they learned a lot about what works best for the students in terms of payment, “last year, any time we cut a lawn the kids would just get whatever they got paid. Then after the summer we set up a job for one of the kids and the new job was only making minimum wage, he got upset because he wasn’t making a lot of money. So this summer I changed it up and it’s run more like a business now. The kids all make $12/hour straight across the board. The extra money we do get goes back into supplies, so that their expectations are a little more realistic when they do go into a real job.”
Matt does a great job of training the students and holds them all accountable for the quality of their work, “I set the standards high. If they don’t meet that, then they keep at it until they do meet it. That’s the bar that I set for them. If their getting paid $12/hour, they are getting paid good money to do a good job. I layout expectations of what needs to be done, how customers expect us to do the job, and if it doesn’t get done that way then we redo it until they get it right. For the most part they are good and they realize when they get a paycheck at the end of the week it’s worth it, even if they had to redo the lawn because it wasn’t right.”
In its second year, the Odd Job Squad has already tripled its profits from the first year. The program is growing and showing a lot of success. Matt even commented that there is a lot more interest in the Odd Job Squad now with the students at Wesmor as well as at Eagles Nest Youth Ranch, “Now they all want to work and they all want to do this. I don’t have the capacity yet to fill everybody.”
The Odd Job Squad is a really unique program that sees the potential in everyone, and not only builds work experience, but gives student’s life skills as well. As the program continues to develop, it will be great to see the many success stories that are sure to come from it.