Creating a career in cleaning?

21 June 2024

NEIL SPENCER-COOK urges a shift from the conventional approach to discussing career paths in the cleaning industry and advocates for greater visibility of diverse career opportunities beyond cleaning operative roles.

I am not sure about you, but I hear this regularly or a variation of it. Whilst I do think to attract people into the industry, we do need to show that there are career paths available, we spend so much time focusing on discussing this and portraying our unique business understanding of this, whether it’s a soft service career, an FM career, or any variation of that, at no point do we consider the person whose career it will be. 

If you are anything like me, I do not react well to being told this should be your next step in your career, although I am now of an age where people say this to me less, I have always had an objection to someone telling me you should be “there” next. To be fair, I must thank these people as they have meant I have made the decisions (usually to prove them wrong) I have, to get me where I am now. 

Back to my point, each one of us is different and have differing views on many things, why would we not think that someone joining the industry is the same?  Do we not train based on including everybody and adapting our training style as much as possible to ensure every candidate gets as much as possible from the training? 

Then why would we dictate or guide them on a fixed career path?  Like I said at the beginning we do need to show that there are career paths to encourage people to join the industry, but I am not sure we should guide them along a fixed career path. 

Isn’t it like everything in life, some of us go to university, some of us don’t, some of us start in retail and end up in finance, or end up in management, some of us are happy to stay at a certain level and keep going enjoying what we do.  Everyone is different and I think this is the biggest thing we can learn whilst we are constantly trying to manage the narrative around careers in cleaning. 

What are the careers in cleaning? Well where do you start? Any business has many common functions; supervisors, managers, sales, marketing, finance, admin, operations, IT, and purchasing; no matter what industry you are in these careers exist, but when we talk careers in cleaning it is always about starting as a cleaning operative! Is this what we are doing wrong?  Is this the thing we are missing?

What really occurred to me while the Youth Employment careers page was being produced was, why are these only now being published as careers in the industry? You see the job ads in the relevant places, but do you ever think why are we not shouting about this is a job in the cleaning industry or do we do as we always seem to and keep that part quiet as it might not appeal?  

Why are we not proud of the industry we work within?  Why are we often heard to be the most negative about the industry we work in?  I fell into cleaning; I only took this job for a short term whilst I was…  but didn’t move on, there are so many of these stories that I have been told, along with comments like I am only a cleaner, we ourselves portray the most negative impression of the industry. 

I for one am proud to be part of this vibrant and dynamic industry, that faces all the challenges of any industry along with some unique ones and I am also here to celebrate individuality, and not try to pigeonhole any individual into a particular career path. I will happily share where things could go and options available, but I will never be one to say you should be doing this next, because if they are anything like me that will mean they go off and look for something else. 

Neil Spencer-Cook is group managing director at BICSc.

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