Blog post: A marathon not a sprint – changing perceptions of the cleaning industry

by Sean Canty, Director, CAM Specialist Support

April is London Marathon month, an event that I know not all Londoners welcome, especially those living or working on the route and facing major disruption. However, I see the Marathon as a great celebration of everything that is wonderful about our city.

It’s a colourful, multicultural event open to everyone, from the world’s elite athletes to well, frankly, eccentric oddballs! How else would you describe the guys dressed in a diving suit, Dr Who’s Tardis or a bottle of London Pride? And, of course, the Marathon raises millions for a wide variety of good causes; more than £770 million since the first race in 1981.

It’s also a great showcase for our Capital with the route taking in buildings displaying London’s heritage and modernity in equal measure – including a number that CAM is responsible for cleaning and maintaining. Thousands line the route and millions watch around the world to see the sights and sounds. Good luck to everyone taking part, whether running competitively or walking in a silly costume. I hope you achieve your goal.

A clean sweep

Although I’m not attempting this gruelling test, I am involved in a major challenge and that is to alter people’s perceptions of the cleaning industry. Something that will definitely be more of a marathon than a sprint!

The action of sweeping and mopping is widely perceived as low skilled. However, this is because there’s a lack of understanding about the training that a professional cleaner undertakes. This necessarily includes health and safety for personal and public protection, COSHH regulations and customer service training – all required before individuals can develop their skills and make career progress in the industry.

Just because people mop and sweep at home doesn’t mean they are ready to do so in a public environment. The myth that cleaning is low-skilled is exemplified by public comments such as those by Sir Michael Wilshaw in his criticisms of apprenticeships being awarded for “low-level” skills like making coffee and mopping floors.

Like many jobs, cleaners start at the base level. How is this any different to a young man or woman joining a manufacturing business, learning the basics needed to get a foundation in the industry and then looking to build a career? The answer is that it’s not, yet those working in the different industries are looked upon very differently and it’s time that changed.

I’ve written to the CSSA to call on them to challenge this perception of the cleaning industry and hope many more of you will join the cause. The finish line may be a long way off, but it would be a major achievement to reach it!

This blog post was first published on the Cleaning Matters website.

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