Skills and training for a forward-looking cleaning sector

14th of January 2021
Skills and training for a forward-looking cleaning sector

The already rapid shift towards a climate-neutral and digital transformation in the European economy is being accelerated by the Covid-19 pandemic. So upskilling and re-skilling are urgent priorities to ensure workers and companies are well equipped for the challenges ahead. European industry organisation EFCI tells us about its work in this area.

As the already rapid shift towards a climate neutral and digital transformation in the European economy is being accelerated by the Covid-19 pandemic, upskilling and re-skilling are urgent priorities to ensure that workers and companies are adequately equipped for the challenges ahead. There is a wide consensus among many European and international organisations such as the ILO, OECD, Eurofound, EU-OSHA on the need to encourage digitalisation, tackle the digital gap in our societies and adapt workers' skills to future challenges in order to increase the crisis immunity of all countries, companies and workers. (1)

The technological and environmental transformations together, with the new hygiene requirements and cleaning protocols to contain the spread of Covid-19, are some of the main drivers of the need for a shift in the skill sets of the cleaning industry's workforce. In this regard, the EFCI is at work to support cleaning companies to be up to the challenge of equipping cleaning associations and companies with the necessary tools to ensure that our key workers acquire the skills as well as newly required expertise to meet these challenges and reach their full potential.

New skills model

The European institutions have successfully recognised the urgency to rethink the European workforce's skill set and have integrated at the hearth of the recovery pathway a new skills model that will help meet the Covid-19 challenges and deliver on the green and digital ambitions. The latest Skills Agenda, issued by the Commission last July, provides 12 action points for the upskilling and reskilling of workers within the next five years.

First among the 12 action points is the Pact for Skills. The joint initiative aims to mobilise representatives of industrial ecosystems in all sectors of the economy, regional and national authorities, social partners and education and training providers to equip employees with the necessary digital as well as basic skills (literacy, numeracy). Further, focusing on Vocational Education and Training (VET) the Skills Agenda proposes a number of actions to support more proactive retraining that anticipates changing needs during employment including new ways of delivering, certifying and financing mid-career learning with support from universities and professional institutes.

The importance of VET for a skilled profession

The ongoing digital transformation of industrial cleaning, including the development of digital tools (software, sensors and robots, internet of things) as well as the sector progressive integration into the circular economy, are changing the way cleaning companies operate and sell their services. To be up to the challenge, continued education and training in green, digital, language and other basic skills is of the utmost relevance for the industrial cleaning sector.

This is even more the case given the composition of the sector's workforce, having 30 per cent of cleaning operatives with a migrant background - which most of the time results in linguistic barriers- and a substantial number of non-digital natives.

EFCI's work for a future-proof skill set

"Supporting and recognising vocational education and training in the sector" has been one of EFCI's main priorities since the beginning of the current legislative term. In October 2019, the EFCI adopted - together with UNI Europa - a joint statement on the impact of digitalisation in the cleaning sector.

The social partners acknowledge that a successfully-lead digital transition might become an opportunity to enhance professionalism and innovation in the industry, to the benefit of all its stakeholders.

To respond to this need, the EFCI launched in February last year a project on digitalisation and green skills, entitled "SK-Clean - Digitalisation in the Cleaning Sector: supporting the skills transition for cleaning operatives". The project is supported and co-funded by the European Commission.

Its main purpose is to map the industry's different training systems across Europe and to develop a roadmap to guide cleaning companies through a successful digital transition while fostering greater social inclusion. It also aims to provide those employed in the industry with additional instruments to raise policy makers, buyers and other stakeholders' awareness on the expertise and training that quality professional cleaning services require.

More than ever, the European cleaning sector must be ready to meet the challenges and seize the opportunities this transformational moment offers for the recognition of the professionalism and expertise that quality cleaning services require. Ensuring the adequate training and continued skill development of our workforce will certainly enable the sector to continue developing its potential and reach this objective.



Our Partners

  • ISSA Interclean
  • EFCI
  • EU-nited