Apprenticeships - swept under the rug

9th of August 2017 Article by Lynn Webster
Apprenticeships - swept under the rug

UK reporter Lynn Webster discusses apprenticeships in the professional cleaning sector.

With the Apprenticeship Levy having come into effect on April 6, any issues and wrinkles are probably still being dealt with. Introducing a whole new system of payment is difficult enough, and plans to maximise the impact of this 0.5 per cent self-investment may not yet have taken shape.

One essential point raised by the introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy is: what does this mean for cleaning and the industry? Stepping back can help to re-focus on several fundamental questions including that historical one: what value has been placed on cleaning skills in the wider FM world?

Allied to this is the consideration of the wider commitment that, supported by the introduction of the levy, cleaning could now be repositioned as integral to FM. How does FM plan to apportion the levy in relation to cleaning?

If we’re honest it may be that, at this stage, cleaning doesn’t feature on many apprenticeship plans, possibly because the value of cleaning in FM terms is neither understood or accepted. Without true recognition of the value of apprenticeships to the organisation in skills terms, and to individuals in career terms, the success of cleaning apprenticeships may still be in jeopardy – even though funding via the levy could be available.

And the elephant in the room needs confronting; what can be done to attract young people to cleaning in the first place? Not one of the sexiest of occupations, how can we package cleaning in a manner that sets it in the context of an essential service in FM, one where an apprenticeship in cleaning could provide a solid foundation to a fulfilling career?

Crucially the apprenticeship standards, resulting from a rigorous definition process, must be a more than adequate reflection of industry requirements, in skills and career terms. Wide-ranging employer involvement, via the cleaning apprenticeship trailblazer group, ensures resulting apprenticeship standards are fit for industry purpose.

The process of defining, agreeing, redefining and submitting standards for Institute for Apprenticeship approval is ongoing and needs to remain industry- and employer-centred. While employers affected by the levy may be to the fore in the consultation process, the involvement of SMEs is also vital if the whole industry is to benefit.

Preparation is underway for a final industry consultation on the ‘cleaning hygiene operative’ standards, defined for both internal and external building cleaning activities, and the wider this consultation the better.

Arguably the introduction of the levy might serve to focus employers’ minds on all occupational skills areas within their organisation, with an appropriate focus on cleaning. But if cleaning remains an afterthought then no amount of industry effort to determine fit-for-purpose standards can be justified. Standards that remain unused can only serve to indicate once again that cleaning is all too often swept under the dusty rug.

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