Accrediting apprenticeships

Paul Thrupp, Chairman of the British Cleaning Council (BCC), outlines the path towards accredited training for the cleaning and hygiene sector.

By the time you read this, I expect the BCC to have established a Trailblazer group dedicated to working up a proposal for a recognised and university training accreditation across the whole of cleaning and hygiene industry. The group will consider the structure of the program and how an industry- wide apprenticeship could work.

When finalised, the proposals will go

to the newly formed All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for the Cleaning and Hygiene industry for consideration and, we hope, the proposals will win their support. The idea ultimately needs to be accepted by The Institute for Apprenticeships to become official, but we’ll have a greater chance of success if the APPG gets behind it.

I personally think there’s an overwhelming need for an industry-wide training accreditation and apprenticeship.

Parts of the industry, particularly in London and the hospitality sector, rely on high levels of workers from aboard and the recent Immigration Bill made it much harder for potential employees to enter the UK and work in our industry, on the basis that jobs are thought of as low- skilled by some.

We who work in the industry know we do a skilled job, and that cleaning is not simply an add-on to someone’s day job. If cleaning is carried out incorrectly, it could compromise the environment and potentially cause a delay in the recovery from COVID-19.

The remarkable and vital work of our industry colleagues during the pandemic has demonstrated that ours is a skilled occupation and we must make Government understand this if we’re to have a chance of influencing policy. Having an industry-agreed training accreditation is essential to achieving that objective. The APPG agreeing to make this issue one of their priorities was a major step forward.

The Apprenticeship Levy is another reason why a recognised, industry-wide training accreditation makes sense. Employers with annual pay bills of more than £3m


put around 0.5% of their annual pay bill towards the levy, and this can be utilised on apprenticeships.

However, at the moment some companies in our sector are paying this levy without getting any benefits, as there’s no appropriate apprenticeship for the majority of their staff. For these companies, funding their own apprentices to work towards a recognised cleaning and hygiene qualification, instead of losing levy funding, makes total sense.

Unfortunately, the industry has tried to win support for an apprenticeship before and failed. In 2017, The Institute for Apprenticeships turned down a proposal to develop an all- encompassing replacement for the Level 2 Cleaning and Environmental Services apprenticeship, but I think the time is right to try again. There’s significant industry support for the idea, as indicated by the agreement of several of the biggest businesses in the sector to be represented on the Trailblazer group.

The pandemic has also gone some way to changing the way our industry is viewed within Government and the country at large, with increased recognition of the industry’s vital role. We’ve seen cleaning and hygiene operatives thanked in the Houses of Parliament and, of course, a sizeable group of MPs, including some of the most prominent Parliamentarians in the land, have joined the APPG, which is all very encouraging.

There’s also a lot of training expertise in the sector to build on. Our members were involved in the creation of the Healthcare Cleaning Operative apprenticeship, giving us a model to base the sector-wide apprenticeship on.

Our colleagues at the Worshipful Company of Environmental Cleaners are developing a Register of Chartered Cleaning Practitioners and we can also draw on years of expertise in training held by the British Institute of Cleaning Science.

Just to be clear, this is not a done deal. There’s still a lot of work to do, and it will take persistence, but I’m very optimistic about our prospects.

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