Advancing cleaning apprenticeships

18 January 2019

Karen Slade and Delia Cannings provide an update on the impact of the Apprenticeship Levy on the cleaning sector and look at the latest plans to develop apprenticeships in healthcare cleaning

The Apprenticeship Levy was introduced in April 2017 and requires all UK employers with a pay bill of £3m to make a 0.5% contribution through their PAYE.

In England, apprenticeships are an all-age, all-sector, all-level programme with the Government providing a 10% top up on the levy paid by employers, which is then made available in the form of a digital account to fund apprenticeship delivery. For businesses too small to pay the levy, apprenticeships are funded with 10% from the employer and 90% from the Government. In 2019, this contribution required by non-levy paying employers, is likely to decrease to 5%. Apprenticeships in Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland aren’t operating under the Trailblazer Standard structure. 

Qualifications available

Apprenticeships and the levy have not replaced all cleaning qualifications. Some remain available to the industry and are funded. Of the current cleaning qualifications, only those at level 1, which include the WAMITAB (Waste Management Industry Training and Advisory Board) Award in Practical Cleaning Skills and the WAMITAB Level 1 Award in the Principles of cleaning, remain funded by the Government. Cleaning qualifications at level 2 and 3, which are embedded within apprenticeships, will be funded until 2020.   

The landscape for apprenticeships in the cleaning industry is still emerging under the Trailblazer scheme. The popular Level 2 and Level 3 Cleaning and Environmental Support Services Frameworks are still open for registrations and this is likely to continue until 2020. These qualifications can be accessed now by levy paying employers, like the NHS. For employers who do not pay the levy, funding can be accessed through training providers who hold a contract with the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA).

An appetite for healthcare cleaning apprenticeships

In late 2017 a proposal was put to The Institute for Apprenticeships (IfA) to develop an all-encompassing replacement for the Level 2 Cleaning and Environmental Services apprenticeship by an employer led group. This proposal was rejected as it was felt the Standard would not meet the minimum level of development Apprenticeship Standards require. The Institute for Apprenticeships noted that in principle they would support the development for an Apprenticeship Standard for Cleaning in Healthcare. Consultation with industry has suggested there is an appetite for an apprenticeship in this area with employment requirements set to grow.

The 2017 British Cleaning Council Research report stated: Growth in the (cleaning) industry is expected to continue. The industry is expected to have 467,000 job openings between 2014 and 2024: 84,000 industry growth, and 383,000 replacement demand

The new NHS cleaning specification standards are due for release in March 2019 therefore the development of an apprenticeship programme for healthcare cleaning professionals would be timely. It is hoped the two will eventually sit side by side to complement each other to provide excellence in healthcare cleaning.

It is envisaged that a healthcare cleaning apprenticeship will address the gaps identified and present a model tailored to the needs of a modern NHS embracing change, risk categories and infection prevention control measures.

Public sector organisations are targeted by government to have 2.3 per cent of their workforce on apprenticeships, the NHS had an estimated target of 28,000 apprenticeship starts in 2017/18, a 75% increase on 2016/17. With a levy bill of around £200 million annually and the rapid approach of the end of the Apprenticeship Framework in 2020, the development of an apprenticeship to support the cleaning within the NHS and associated sectors is a priority. 

Next steps

The Association of Healthcare Cleaning Professionals (AHCP) has offered to support the employer group using its experience from working with other apprenticeship groups. The time is now right to drive this model forward.

Participants for the employer group have been identified, to be made up of representatives from healthcare employers with support from education and Awarding Organisations with expertise in cleaning such as WAMITAB. This group will be focused on developing a standard to meet the requirements of cleaning services within the NHS and associated sectors.

The employer group will work with the IfA to seek approval to develop the Occupational Standard and the Assessment plan. Updates will be provided throughout 2019. 

For more information contact:

Karen Slade is training and assessment manager at WAMITAB. Delia Cannings is AHCP national lead for education & training