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Training opportunities for all in cleaning sector26th of September 2014
Sarah Bentley, chief executive officer of Asset Skills Training in the UK, explains the importance of education and training within the sector, the role highly skilled cleaners play in the workforce, the hazards and repercussions of poor standards of cleaning in the workplace and the exciting career paths open to all.
There is no greater asset in a busy, thriving and fast moving business environment than the daily provision of a clean, safe and organised workplace. Poor standards of cleaning could pose a direct health risk. In addition to the financial risk through the loss of customers, the damage to the company’s image could be substantial and long lasting.
With global pandemics on the increase, scientific research has demonstrated that cleaning staff play a powerful part in infection protection. Consumers and governments worldwide are slowly becoming aware that the health of any city or population can depend on clean residential, commercial and public environments.
The cleaning industry is therefore at the forefront of this, which means professionals working in this sector will be required to meet higher standards in the future. Employers need to think about how to empower these professionals working on the frontline. Cleaning staff now need exceptional training, tools and products to do their jobs effectively.
“Slips, trips and falls are the largest cause of accidents in all sectors... the main causes of accidents that result in more than three days’ absence from work,” according to the European Agency for Safety & Health at Work. Many of these slips are due to leaks and spillages, unsafe wet cleaning methods and not drying floors after washing. The repercussions can be significant in terms of cost to business.
Alarmingly, in the UK, the second highest amount of workplace injuries are from slips, trips and falls (STF). In 2013, there were more than 1,200 slips, trips and falls reported to the health and safety authority. A quarter of those incidents led to the injured person missing over a month from work - just how many of these incidents were avoidable?
Employing low skilled workers at minimum cost can result in significant outlay and expenditure for your business in the long run in terms of sick pay and, in severe cases, legal battles. Cleaning is a technical skill and professional training is crucial to performing daily duties safely, whilst maintaining standards and promoting sustainability and best practice within the workplace.
Currently, cleaning is neither fully automated nor outsourced; for example, in the Far East, domestically recruited people are your business and, as such, they believe investment in them is key.
Benefits of training
The benefits of training programmes for the cleaning industry are manifold. We believe that the right kind of training boosts morale and helps staff to feel more motivated about work in general. When skills are encouraged and improved, confidence grows and, with confidence, performance is improved.
Training is also an excellent way to keep pace with changes in legislation, your business and the industry. Familiarity with new developments and techniques, plus compliance with procedures and regulations, are now essential to remaining competitive. Training is the most stimulating way to meet and master these new challenges and to stay on top of the game.
Training shares good habits among staff and encourages higher performance. An employee who has attended training courses can set the standards for their colleagues when they return.
Focused training can pay for itself many times over by boosting efficiency and maintaining higher standards of cleanliness. Regardless of where staff members are working, appropriate training ensures consistency in results throughout the workforce.
Training impacts positively on employee health and morale, to say nothing of the impact on a company’s solid reputation and the bottom line.
Cleaners form an essential workforce and there are some excellent opportunities for entrepreneurs who want to start their own business or, indeed, for the part-time workforce. There are plenty of opportunities for people of any age, with rewarding careers in management and/or supervisory roles.
Cleaning offers young people a route into a job that teaches them new skills and into career paths that they may not have considered whilst at school. And the sector covers a host of careers, from infection control at hospitals and forensic cleaning of crime scenes to specialist cleaning of tourist landmarks.
Finally, with cleaning at a respected and European professional level, the gateway for career opportunities in other EU countries brings its own incentive, not just to the individual but also to European operations and multinationals.
Doug Cooke, chief executive at Principle Cleaning in the UK, believes fervently in investment in his staff and explains the importance of training.
He said: “Our employees embrace company values and we believe in treating everyone justly and fairly. Performance based recognition, extensive training and opportunities for advancement all result in greater productivity and service longevity. Our clients benefit.”
Angelica Martinez works for Principle Cleaning and supervises 22 staff and 250,000 square feet of the Lloyd’s of London building. She took a management diploma in cleaning and feels strongly that it progressed her career and helped her to win awards.
She said: “The course taught me how to react in everyday situations you encounter whilst at work. How to think, then act, and be confident you are doing your job properly and maintaining best practice at work. It opened my eyes to health and safety issues and profits, something I hadn’t thought of before - how to work more efficiently and produce less waste.
“It is my belief that every supervisor should take this course. It teaches them how to follow best practice guidelines for creating a productive workplace environment and look after the most important people at work - their operatives.”
Martinez added: “Since taking the course, I have been given more responsibility at work and more opportunities have opened up for me. I have been promoted to daytime manager and now manage 22 staff. In addition to self-improvement, there has been a noticeable increase in morale and motivation amongst the team I work with.
"I want them to be happy in their jobs and create a positive environment. An efficient and cohesive workplace is all about building the morale and productivity of your employees. In this way, complaints, disruptions and legal issues may be minimised and resolved, so everyone can get on with their work.
“After I had completed the course, I entered the Golden Service Awards 2013 and won the Site Supervisor of the Year award. I was both honoured and excited to be recognised by top industry professionals. I am extremely proud to be the recipient of this prize - it is great recognition!”
She concluded: “I strongly feel every manager should have the opportunity to take the course. The course content covers everything from health and safety, HR and profits to working efficiently and time management - it opened my eyes on how to become a better manager. The course has made me more aware of my working environment and my colleagues and has resulted in me being more proactive.”