The British Cleaning Council and members write monthly columns for both Cleaning and Maintenance and Tomorrow’s Cleaning. You can read recent columns below.
Unacceptable delays are hindering the Apprenticeship Standard process
By Jim Melvin, Chairman of the British Cleaning Council (BCC). (This article was first published in Tomorrow’s Cleaning in June).
Our patience is wearing incredibly thin given the painstakingly slow progress the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education (IfATE) is making in assessing and approving our application for an Apprenticeship Standard for the cleaning and hygiene industry.
Over recent months, the team working on the application and everyone connected with it has been patient but now it needs to be clear that these delays and any future delays are wholly unacceptable.
The British Cleaning Council (BCC) first began the process to set up the application for an industry-wide Apprenticeship Levy funded training programme in 2021.
A Trailblazer group of industry employers and sector experts, sponsored by the BCC, developed the proposed Apprenticeship Standard and I have nothing but the highest praise for Lauren Kyle, Karen Slade and all the team for their hard work and dedication in moving it forward.
The Trailblazer group rapidly pulled together the initial proposals, consulted on them with the sector and put forward an amended scheme to the approving body IfATE.
But since then, things have progressed at a glacial pace with the team constantly having to jump over more hurdles. It is absolutely correct if IfATE wish to ask more questions or require new tweaks to our proposals, but taking weeks to respond to us at every stage is not.
I initially hoped we might have approval soon after summer last year, then it was by the end of the year, then we were hoping to do a soft launch at the Cleaning Show in March, and now I hope the cleaning and hygiene apprenticeship will be approved by July.
The fault for this slow progress completely rests at the door of IfATE and it remains unacceptable. The hold-ups add considerable pressure to the cleaning and hygiene industry as we struggle with severe staff shortages and fight to correct the inaccurate image of our work that is held by some in some quarters who frankly should know better.
It remains a stain on those in power that an industry as large as the cleaning, hygiene and waste sector, worth £59bn and employing 147,000 people, does not have an Apprenticeship teaching the technical skills needed by cleaning and hygiene operatives working outside healthcare.
As a result, those firms within our sector who make compulsory Levy payments do not have an option to invest all of that money in their staff and so millions of pounds which could be invested in training our fantastic teams is lost to the sector every year. That is why we remain determined to ensure that IfATE cannot elongate the Apprenticeship Standard process any longer and, in potentially doing so, continue to cost our sector a fortune.
The Cleaning Hygiene Operative Apprenticeship would also provide part of the career pathway for staff as well as helping to redress the completely and dreadfully inaccurate idea that industry workers are ‘low skilled’, both of which are crucial to attracting the new staff to the industry that we so badly need at the moment.
For these reasons, the industry has been crying out for this Apprenticeship for some years and this is the third attempt to win approval for one.
It simply makes no sense at all that, while the Government is promoting Apprenticeships in principle and as part of their stated policy, it remains so hard for us to actually set up an Apprenticeship in practice.
There may be internal issues such as staffing problems at IfATE and the irony is not lost on me!
I’ll be urgently meeting with colleagues to review the process and, whilst it will now hopefully be completed in July, we will also review what escalation would be taken if required and appropriate.
We will keep you updated.
Buyer Beware. Specify CHSA Accreditation
By Lorcan Mekitarian, Chair of the Cleaning & Hygiene Suppliers Association (This article was first published by Cleaning and Maintenance online).
Buyers and users of cleaning and hygiene products need product that’s fit for purpose. They need product claims to be legitimate and relevant. They need to know what’s on the box is what’s in the box. They want ethically and environmentally sustainable solutions. In today’s economic environment, they also need it to be affordable. However, without the time, resources or expertise, how can they be certain the product or service they select meets these needs? The Cleaning & Hygiene Suppliers Association represents manufacturers and distributors supplying cleaning and hygiene products in the UK. Our Accreditation Schemes can provide the solution. Our Standards, Your Guarantee.
The commercial pressures we all face today are immense. Inflation remains stubbornly high. There is no sign of peace in Ukraine and the rapid opening up of the Chinese economy has put pressure on raw materials, driving up costs. Our sector is also feeling the pain of staff shortages. While it’s most marked for cleaning companies, it is also hitting CHSA members.
Balancing these economic pressures with delivering good quality, fit-for-purpose products is not easy. In the past, the unscrupulous squared the circle by cutting corners. A few sheets shorter or a little narrower with the soft tissue. Thinner plastic for the sacks. Lower absorbency for the cotton mops. Our Accreditation Schemes were set up specifically to protect buyers from this type of sharp practice. Over the 26 years since the establishment of our first Scheme, their impact has been immense.
There will always be rogue traders, operating outside our Schemes, more interested in making a quick buck than in trading ethically. It’s a problem made worse by the pandemic, particularly when it comes to cleaning chemicals. At a time of crisis, when people were fearful and demand was high, the unscrupulous made all sorts of extraordinary claims for these products. The evidence-based truth was different.
Today the fog created is being made worse with environmental claims that often amount to little more than greenwashing. It is difficult to discern product information you can trust from the irrelevant, meaningless and unsubstantiated sales and marketing claims made for some products.
A typical example is non-toxic. The implication is the product poses no risk if ingested by adults, children or animals or if released from the environment. But toxicity depends on a range of things including concentration, volume and method of use. Without further qualification, this term can be dangerously misleading. ‘Chemical-free is another meaningless term. It is often used to imply non-toxicity. However, technically everything, including water, plant-based biocides or enzymes, are made of chemicals, so the claim is nonsense.
How are hard pressed facilities management supposed to navigate these challenges and get fit-for-purpose product, with good environmental credentials at the right price?
We can help. Setting and maintaining standards is in the DNA of the CHSA. We have six Accreditation Schemes all supported by a rigorous process of Independent Inspection. The Schemes are for manufacturers of paper-based products, plastic-based products, cotton-based products, and cleaning chemicals, for general manufacturers and for distributors of cleaning and hygiene products.
Every CHSA member has also signed the CHSA’s rigorous Code of Practice, which requires them to “maintain a high standard in the conduct of its business”. This year we expanded it to include the Competition & Markets Authority’s Green Claims Code, which requires companies to:
Be truthful and accurate.
Be clear and unambiguous.
Not omit or hide important information.
Only make fair and meaningful comparisons.
Consider the full life cycle of the product.
The combination of our Code of Practice and Accreditation Scheme membership means every member:
· Trades ethically and sustainably;
· Provides supporting information for claims made;
· Provides quality, fit for purpose products; and
· Makes sure what’s on the box is what’s in the box.