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The importance of training during a time of crisis

04 December 2020

John Shonfeld discusses the value of training and development in the cleaning industry and reveals the new Chartered Practitioner scheme that the Worshipful Company of Environmental Cleaners plans to launch.

CLEANING HAS often been regarded as the unskilled option as far as career choices are concerned. However, that really is not the case as we know. It requires training, dedication, and ongoing knowledge acquisition. When you are servicing clients with meticulously high expectations, that can’t be just done on a whim with a mop.

More than ever during this pandemic, the cleaning sector has found the boost and value in terms of appreciation that were previously lacking. Our survival as human beings now depends heavily on the most rigorous of hygiene standards in everyday life.  Everybody, everywhere, is talking about cleanliness and hygiene, and they are compelled to have an active interest in these practices, because of coronavirus.

The ‘cleaning is simple’ myth

In the cleaning industry, there has been a rise in using specialist industrial equipment and, therefore, it follows that staff need to be trained on how to use machinery correctly and safely.  

The need for more technical know-how extends to waste services and green waste management; even grounds maintenance and laundry services require specialist training. And now with a huge demand for deep cleaning because of coronavirus, which comes with a particular skill set, such as knowledge of correct chemistry, equipment, and techniques. It is wholly necessary to satisfy the exacting expectations of clients and to keep end-users safe.

As the industry has progressed in the interests of environmental responsibility, more green practices  are incorporated to what we do. More efficient machinery that cleans more, using fewer chemicals and less water, or energy. And if so much expertise has been invested in their creation, then similar dedication must be applied in how to use them properly.

Training is an investment in people and excellence

We’ve never been faced with such an urgent need for excellence and adaptability in the cleaning sector as we are now. Investing time and money in staff instils a sense of purpose, value, and encourages skills retention. For too long, the cleaning sector has been viewed as the easy option, no skills required, no professional development prospects, and no future. That simply isn’t the case. The sector has kept pace with demand, servicing many clients with discerning needs, sophisticated facilities management systems, and protocols.  

Technology has played a significant part in this progress for us, from managing databases, automating financial and contract services, monitoring workers, vehicle fleets, procurement, and yes, training. We won’t succeed as an industry without these elements, and every step along the way, training has been vital, so the ‘machine’ works smoothly.

The WCEC champions Chartered Cleaning Practitioners

As a significant step towards maintaining high industry standards, the WCEC is in the process of setting up a professional register of Chartered Cleaning Practitioners, open to all members of the industry. 

Membership will be initiated by an online application which allows the individual to be interviewed and mentored through the process of providing a dissertation of between 5,000 and 10,000 words on an agreed subject to demonstrate to a panel of WCEC professionals that they have the appropriate skills to meet the awarding criteria. 

An annual fee is payable to remain on the register and all registrants will be expected to maintain CPD (Continuous Professional Development)  - which is even more poignant now as the industry adapts to challenging changes in market conditions. 

Training enables adaptability

‘We’ve always done it this way’ has often rung the closing bell for many a business. Change is often unsettling, and as human beings, we don’t always respond well to it. However, change is what drives evolution, and it means we’re moving forward. 

This is why I think that training must continue being the foundation of continued excellence in the cleaning sector. And believe me when I say, this won’t just apply to our and related professions, but every other industry, because living with coronavirus means that we have to adapt the way we work, as well as live.  We can’t do things the way they were done before.  We have to be smarter, measured, more aware, and more technologically and scientifically attuned to our new pandemic world so that we can continue to contribute to the economy and find safer ways to enjoy our lives.

With challenges coming at our sector in really impactful ways, our people must be ready. So, invest in training; learn to do things differently, safely, better, and more efficiently.  Cleaning isn’t just a service, it’s a business. And in the face of adversity, we must expand our options and teach our staff how to operate within fresh and new parameters.

John Shonfeld is master of the Worshipful Company of Environmental Cleaners.