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Training - a crowded market in UK6th of March 2014
ECJ’s correspondent in the UK looks at the evolution of training in the industry, and where it goes now.
There are many facets to the cleaning industry - contract cleaning; chemical product sales machine product sales and service maintenance; human resources; carpet cleaning.
Alongside the tall trees of the cleaning jungle, smaller industries have sprouted, which might be likened to hyenas, feeding off the carcasses of the main businesses. They are health and safety, training and more recently the environment, not to mention risk assessment.
All create jobs, management structures and in some cases spread round the body of the cleaning industry like ivy. We are concerned here with one particular growth area, that of training. More than 50 years ago the idea of education in cleaning was born. Initially a sickly child of whom few took notice.
The general public remains doubtful that cleaners might need training and there has been press and television coverage mocking the idea of training for cleaners. But aided by government approvals and even some funding training began to grow. Manufacturers - seeing an opportunity - backed the idea, sponsored courses as well as certificate presentations.
Wholesale change occurred with the arrival of the concept of outsourcing. Contractors as always considering costs, shied away from expensive (as they saw it) outside training. However the public sector enthusiastically took to training like a duck to water and helped to grow a complex structure of assessors, verifiers and approved centres all of which carried a price tag.
Politicians, discovering that people in training reduced the unemployment statistics, gave a fine impression of helping the ‘hard working man or woman’ and even the work-shy. A panoply of schemes were initiated and a vast suffocating blanket was cast over training with the creation of organisations to manage and control it, principally by spending large sums of taxpayers’ money.
The skies over the smaller contract cleaning enterprises darkened with the arrival of FM. These FM companies spread across the whole gamut of property facilities and beyond offering all kinds of services. By offering their wares to government thus creating the impression of cutting public service costs.
Balance sheets looked healthier and FM companies in some cases made a great deal of money largely without revealing any financial figures. Companies became favourite outsourcing partners who could apparently do no wrong though some recent cases have thrown doubt on this cosy situation.
Training companies benefited from this since the insurers of what were now vast empires, liked the idea of trained employees as part of the impressive packages offered to employers, giving some security against litigation and more and more expensive and profitable cover.
Recently however there has been a swing towards major contract cleaning players organising their own in-house training. True there is no certificate to confirm the training but no bills for outside trainers, verification certificates and so on. Asset Skills, originally set up to boost training and education in the industry but now bereft of government funding, has allied itself to the contractors’ association and one of the FM bodies. Their intention is apparently to move into the already crowded training market.