Focus on the young

16th of March 2011

Christian Bouzols in France reports on a series of national meetings  aimed at raising awareness of opportunities in the cleaning industry.

Company bosses, teachers, apprenticeship tutors and other interested professionals gathered last month in quite high numbers at the most recent 'Rencontres de la Propreté' that are held every two years across France. This year, these national meetings dedicated to the cleaning industry and its opportunities took sustainable development as its central theme. They also dealt with future challenges and new educational possibilities for young people planning to enter the cleaning industry.

Building on the success of the 2008 meetings, the French cleaning federation in partnership with the Ministry for National Education decided to bring a number of societal problems closer to home for young participants, who were invited to meet the challenges of sustainable development. This theme has been taken very seriously by cleaning companies, which have signed up to a 51-point programme of action in favour of the environment, social progress and economic welfare. With a definite sense of citizenship, these companies show much promise for the future, as do the young people entering into a cleaning career.

These decentralised meetings took place in several large French cities throughout January. The cities of Toulouse, Lyon and Lille were involved in an operation whose main aim was to promote cleaning sector opportunities to a young audience, because this sector - like the building sector in France - remains little known or suffers from a negative image.

That said, it continues to enjoy growth and has seen its payroll increase by over five per cent a year for the past 10 years. This ties in entirely with the reality that a great many young people are looking for jobs. Thus the 'Rencontres de la Propreté' also aim to present a whole gamut of sustainable jobs that are largely ignored by the public. Of particular interest to young people, these jobs range from window cleaners in high rise buildings and experts in ultra-cleaning, to maintenance and refurbishment operatives, team leaders, operating managers and company heads. The cleaning sector sits at the heart of present day environmental issues and offers great opportunities to young people who are curious about them.

Still, there remains a problem in attracting this young audience given that teachers, vocational counsellors and students hardly know anything about cleaning. These meetings have therefore an outreach purpose in bringing together teachers, vocational guidance specialists and company executives in order to draw their attention to the future of young people.

The cleaning sector should offer great employment opportunities in the future because 150,000 of its workers are due to retire, and every year the sector’s place in overall employment is increasing. Its economic weight is considerable given that it provides employment to 420,000 people in France and made a turnover of 11 billion euros in 2010.

In addition, cleaning trades are increasingly specialised and call for specific techniques, to the extent that this year, a second 'Masters' in cleaning sciences has been established in one of the seven  apprentice training centres in France. This needed to be made known, and the 'Rencontres' served their purpose in doing just that.


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