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A Career in Cleaning - Education, Membership and training within the cleaning industry | BICSc

A Career in Cleaning

Column used in C+M Magazine - August Edition 2013

There have been four recessions in the UK during the last 40 years and I’m pleased to say that, thanks to working in the cleaning industry, I have survived all of them (although this one is not over yet). I remember clearly the ad in the local paper that stated ‘Men wanted for porter and cleaning duties’ - I thought I can do that. I applied and so, on 5 January 1974, I found myself in the cleaning industry. My induction and initial training was ‘follow Bob’. As this was a new contract for the cleaning con- tractor, Bob had joined from the previous contractor (this was prior to TUPE). It soon became clear that Bob knew little more about cleaning than I did. I seem to recall that we used a lot of the client’s paper towels in our first cleaning operation. But on the plus side, Bob did know how to hide the dirt!

In the first years of this new career, I was hungry for knowledge which was difficult to access. In addition, the client implemented the first cleaning audits (inspections) that I had ever seen. It was nearly 10 years later that I re- member them becoming part of standard practice. Two things became clear to me in the early days:

There was no clear career path, so when I joined I thought I might always be a cleaning operative. I also be- came aware of the industry’s practise to start new opera- tives at the same rate of pay as the existing operatives on the contract - regardless of training and skills gained. This initiated my life-long belief in payment for skills.

To quote my mother: “A one eyed man is king in the land of the blind.” In those days, cleaning was perceived to be done to an acceptable standard unless the cus- tomer complained. This was not restricted to the contract I was working on. It was general across the industry. Through those early years it was very rare that we, as op- eratives or junior management, had sight of the cleaning specification that dictated the frequencies and outcomes (if any). Hence my reason for the quote from my mother.

During my time at BICSc I’ve been able, with the help of my team and the BICSc council, to start address these two major issues within the industry.

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