The British Institute of Cleaning Science Founded 1961 with over 10,000 members Largest independent body within the cleaning industry
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Sitting on the western edge of Birmingham, just a few hundred yards from junction 2 of the M5 sits one of the cleaning industry’s most innovative and unique training centres. Founder, owner and Chief Executive, Delia Cannings refers to the centre as the ‘embodiment of her life’s work’ and her enthusiasm and passion can be found in every corner of the purpose built facility.
She says; “We have to make the wider public aware that cleaning isn’t just about ‘bins and bogs’ cleaning is much more than that, it is a profession, it’s the application of scientific knowledge, it contributes to the health and wealth of the nation.”
Delia became a cleaner more or less through necessity when she needed to earn extra income to help support her young family. Her mother had also been a cleaner, or as she euphemistically used to phrase it a ‘porcelain consultant’ and so it seemed natural for a young Delia to pursue that path.
She began working in hotels and hospitals, and was struck by just how anonymous the cleaning teams are in these environments. It was this feeling that inspired her to go to college and study the industry to try and gain a better perspective on the role.
“I embarked on a 2 year cleaning course at a local college, and absolutely loved it, but I realised my cleaning methods where not what they should have been, and I found out quite quickly that cleaning was actually a science”.
Using the knowledge she picked up on the course, Delia was able to go back to the wards and instruct her colleagues on better ways to operate. She got enormous satisfaction from teaching and once back at the hospital she rose quickly through the ranks from supervisor, to cleaning manager, and eventually full circle to being a lecturer at the college that had originally taught her.
She says that cleaning operatives are often blissfully unaware of the skill base they are using on a daily basis; mathematics, economics, chemistry, microbiology “they are problem solving and communicating, and are using a huge amount of skills that they are not being recognised for.”
These key industry skills picked up from many years of training and working are now being passed on to the many students who come to Junction 2.The training centre is the embodiment of everything she’s learned over the years, and was designed as a solution for industry. Students of all skill levels get to experience the kind of environment they’re likely to face once on the job.
For instance, in one corner there’s a mock-up of a hotel bedroom, there’s a toilet facility, a shower unit, a kitchen, and even a boardroom. The sluice area has been designed with safety and hygiene in mind, and students can learn first-hand how to store and label cleaning products.
Delia believes that many younger people could be persuaded to come into the industry if they were made aware of the opportunities that lay within. Cleaning is a multi-million pound industry where people can go from operator to MD in a very short period of time, if the will and aptitude is there.
She wants a national minimum standard of training for cleaners that is compulsory, and which is supported by government. Consistency across the sector, she says, could help in areas like hospitals where there is always the threat of infectious bacteria spreading if the correct procedures aren’t adhered to. National standards could go some way to alleviating this kind of problem, reducing the risk, and giving some consistency to the profession.
In recent years the government has made extra funding available for school levers, but there hasn’t been the same focus on those already in the industry. One way to expand the skills base and make sure those skills get passed down to the next generation is to make sure cleaning operatives at all levels receive training throughout their careers.
Delia’s aims chime with the BCC’s philosophy that pledges to promote cleaning as a viable, well-regarded career, with clear progression and excellent prospects. The theme of this year’s conference in November is ‘changing perceptions’ away from the idea that cleaning is a low-skilled, underpaid occupation.
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