Business boss helping make a clean path to work for youngsters at Doncaster school
Businesswoman Sam Kerley is a woman on a mission.
Sam, who has built up one of Doncaster's biggest cleaning companies over a period of nearly 20 years, has signed up to help fix up work experience for youngsters with special needs.
Her own firm, Solutions4Cleaning, has already pledged to provide places. But managing director Sam is on the hunt for other businesses to follow suit by taking one of the pupils with conditions such as autism who study at Pennine View School, Old Road, Conisbrough,
Arranging the work experience is part of her new role as the school's enterprise advisor, and one which is she is relishing. She has already worked in schools, going in as a volunteer with the Donacster Chamber Skills Academy, in which businessmen and women speak to pupils about the world of work.
She said: "I've just started doing work with Pennine View, and the task is to find work experience for year 10 and 11 students. Thy're youngsters with special needs, and my feeling is there is a place for everyone, and as businesses it is our place to find places that are the right fit for people, special needs or not.
"As employers, that is what we do every day. in terms of fitting the right person for a particular cleaning job. I think it is just the same with work experience, finding the right places to fit everyone, for pupils and employers in the world of work. It is about talent matching."
Sam runs a business which has grown from a firm set up by her husband, Kevin, as a sole trader, into a major operation which now employs around 250 people.
Both she and Kevin originally worked in hotels. The firm Kevin set up now operates from a unit on the Sandall Stones industrial estate on Kirk Sandall. Kevin now runs a coaching and mentoring business, with the cleaning firm now run by Sam.
A large part of the job of her and her staff is finding the right person for each job. She finds some people are better at large scale jobs such as warehouses, while some are more suited to detailed cleans in environments such as health centres.
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She thinks finding the fight person for these roles is just the same as finding the right work experience for a youngster with special needs, and is appealing for other firms to come forward and offer placements.
More than 80 per cent of Solutions4Cleaning's workforce is female, and most are part time, typically working 10 to 20 hours a week. All are on fixed contracts, and Sam does not approve of zero hours contracts so does not use them.
"I don't agree with zero hours contracts," she said. "People need assurance and if you look after them, then they are going to look after our customers better, and that's what we want.
"I think it is better for the customer if the cleaners and staff build up a relationship with their customers, because that means that the cleaners are happier and the customers are happier. The cleaners know they will be in an environment they're comfortable with."
The typical profiles of her employees are young students who do not want to work late night at pubs, mature women looking for extra money, and parents fitting in with childcare arrangements.
"Our biggest focus is not finding staff, it is placing staff, finding something that's suitable for them, and I think that's something our team is very good at," she said. "It is talent matching."
The range of work is very broad. Clients range from racecourses to building sites, and from pubs to health spas. They have even valeted ambulances. Sam's philosophy is that if somewhere has four walls and a roof, she can usually find a cleaning solution, although she brings in specialists for work at height.
But she is under no illusions about the level of priority at which most people place cleaning in their thoughts.
"People don't think cleaning is sexy," she said. "I've long joked about it, and find that it is not a priority on someone's list until they find it's not being done properly. But as soon as people realise that it is becoming an issue or it's affecting health and safety, they suddenly want it sorting out straight away, and have a real sense of urgency. We have had to adopt a quick turn around for a lot of jobs when people have wanted us to start within a week."