Focus On Cleaning Jobs

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Sean McEnery feels like he’s on the right career path

MORE than 21,000 cleaning jobs are up for grabs as the industry continues to buck the trends of cutbacks and tough times.

And if you think these jobs are dull or dead end, you may be surprised. The variety of roles and opportunities is endless and they can easily fit round the rest of your life.

“Every type of business needs a cleaner, so you could be working in a small shop, a big hospital or even a grand palace,” says Darra Singh, of Jobcentre Plus.

“Other cleaning jobs like road sweepers mean you can get out and about taking care of public places. There are lots of opportunities for flexible working, too, so it is also a good choice for parents or carers.”

And the training opportunities are great. “Cleaning is beginning to be seen as a skilled job with real career prospects,” said Richard Beamish, chief executive of Asset Skills (www.assetskills.org).

“There are now solid opportunities out there for young people to get the right training and carve out rewarding careers for themselves.

“We have developed the cleaning apprenticeship and a range of other vocational qualifications in ­consultation with the industry. These are helping to raise the profile of cleaning as a job worth having, with clear career routes involved.”

WHERE ARE THE JOBS?

Walk into your local Jobcentre Plus or check vacancies out online at www.direct.gov.uk/employment and you will find in the region of 15,800 vacancies. These range from cleaners and domestics to window cleaners and road sweepers. We found thousands of jobs starting at £5.93 an hour (the national minimum wage for those over 21).

At www.fish4jobs.co.uk there are 181 cleaning jobs, while at Reed (www.reed.co.uk) we found another 203 jobs, including a morning shift cleaner in Reading (£6.50).

Monster (www.monster.co.uk) had 323 jobs, including a night hygiene manager in the Brackley area (£24,000) and a cleaning operative in ­Stratford-upon-Avon (from £6.50).

The main players in this business are the large contractors, which employ thousands of people to clean everything from offices to hospitals, airports and shopping centres.

At any one time there are more than 5,000 jobs available, due to people moving on or changing jobs.

Some employers are vast, such as Rentokil Initial (www.rentokil-initial.com), which employs 45,000 people and is always on the lookout for new recruits. Contractors employ hundreds of thousands of people, so it pays to check them out for ­vacancies. Often they will advertise locally, even at premises they clean.

There are a lot of jobs for nights, early starts or weekends.

ISS employs 42,000 people in the UK, of which approximately 20,000 are involved in cleaning. It recruits staff through job centres.

Visit www.uk.issworld.com. Other big players include OCS (www.ocs.co.uk), which has 14,000 people on its payroll; and www.lccss.co.uk, which cleans for major organisations nationwide. Sodexo (www.sodexo.com), a facilities management firm employing 48,000 people in the UK – many in offices, hospitals, schools, defence sites and prisons – also needs cleaning staff.

TRAINING AND OPPORTUNITIES

There are jobs to suit most people, regardless of what hours you want to work and the skills you have.

Most companies have training programmes covering health and safety, how to use cleaning equipment and materials and how to identify ­suitable equipment and materials for a task.

Check out www.assetskills.org/cleaning/cleaning.aspx to find out more about cleaning apprenticeships and to see how you could advance your career through qualifications and experience.

In many jobs you may have the opportunity to complete ­qualifications such as NVQ Level 2 in Cleaning and Support Services, or the British ­Institute of Cleaning Sciences (www.bics.org.uk) Cleaning Operators’ Proficiency Certificate.

If you supervise a team of staff, you can work towards the City & Guilds Level 3 Diploma in Cleaning Services Supervision.

WORKER’S VIEW

For the first time since leaving school, Sean McEnery finally feels that he’s on the path to a solid career.

At 21, he’s just gained an NVQ in Cleaning and Support Services and is working for ISS as a ward host and cleaner at University Hospital Coventry and Warwickshire.

“I worked in a shop straight from school and then did a bricklaying course at college. It was impossible to find a job though when I’d finished and I was out of work for several months.

“When I saw an advert looking for staff to work at the hospital I realised I had nothing to lose by giving it a go.”

Far from being a dead-end job, Sean found he loved the challenges he faced.

“The job is very varied, from helping to prepare food and delivering it, to cleaning the ward.”

When he was offered the chance to study for an NVQ, he jumped at it. “There’s a surprising amount to learn but there’s a great sense of achievement when you know you are on top of your job. In a hospital, especially, keeping things clean is vital.”

His course covered everything from handling chemicals properly and learning the colour coding of various cleaning materials, to procedures necessary to stop the spread of infections.

“Many people have the wrong idea about cleaning – they may think it’s a boring job. But, in truth, no two days are ever the same and in my role I’m not only doing a very worthwhile job but I’m getting to meet patients and interact with them as well. That gives me a real buzz.”

As for the future, Sean feels as his experience grows he’ll be able to take more responsibility and manage his own team.

“For the first time I feel as if I have a career in front of me,” he says. “It’s great.”

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