The cleaning industry has reacted angrily to claims by Ofsted Chief, Michael Wilshaw, that cleaning should not be offered as part of an apprenticeship.
It comes in the wake of a recent Ofsted report that criticised the quality of apprenticeships, claiming low level skills such as cleaning are potentially devaluing the apprenticeship brand.
Mr Wilshaw was also critical of the government for failing to encourage more young people to take up apprenticeships in other sectors.
But it’s his description of cleaning as a ‘low-skill’ occupation that has caused many cleaning professionals to question his understanding of an industry that contributes in excess of £8 billion to the UK economy annually.
Sarah Bentley, CEO of the Building Futures Group, said: “It is wrong to suggest that cleaning skills are ‘low level’ and Ofsted’s report displays a huge lack of understanding. As the Sectors Skills Council we develop the National Occupational Standards for the sector, such standards are developed in consultation with employers and adhere to guidelines laid down by the very government Ofsted serves.”
Chris James, CEO of Wamitab, said: “A narrow stigmatized view of cleaning, or cleaning apprenticeships is a reflection of the paucity of understanding purveyed by the authors, rather than the reality of environmental, conservation, and enhancement that is cleaning today.”
Jim Fitzpatrick, MP for Poplar and Limehouse, who is a big supporter of the cleaning industry in Parliament, said: “Cleanliness and Hygiene are critical elements of safety and security. Preventing fires and providing infection-free environments are ensured when locations are cleaned and maintained properly. This requires professional skills of management and staff to deliver the quality the public expects.”
Stan Atkins, CEO of BICSc and Deputy Chair of the BCC said: “It is imperative the cleaning industry has recognised apprenticeships such as window and façade cleaning, and we need to make sure young people learn technical skills. Some skills can be covered using on the job training, others, however, require learning and the application of that knowledge.”
The industry wishes to make the point to Ofsted, and others, that the job of a cleaning operative has changed enormously over the last few years, and it now requires a wide skill set, and can offer young people a good career, with real prospects of moving up to supervisory and management level.
In the meantime, Mr Wilshaw has been invited, by a number of BCC members, to witness their training programmes in action, and to meet the youngsters who are now pursuing fulfilling careers as a result of successfully completing apprenticeships.