The discussion on the dearth of skilled and trained manpower in the cleaning industry has remained an inconclusive topic; often raising disputable questions like “why should one invest in training workers who switch jobs for an extra penny”; “what is there to train them in cleaning”; and so on… At a time when the industry is facing a dearth of cleaning manpower, Clean India Journal in this article highlights the present scenario of training in India.
An interesting point surfaced during a discussion with service providers – “if there is training facility available, we would definitely want our cleaning staff to get trained but only if the duration is for a day or two. If the training extends to one week or 15 days it would be difficult to spare workers.” This raises further questions: what to train, how much to train, how many days
Ironically, India faces not only dearth of skilled cleaning workers but also lack of proper training programmes. Training is restricted to what workers learn on-site, where many hired from the local areas are probably holding the broom for the first time. In the absence of proper training facilities, a few of the equipment suppliers have opened up training facilities in the recent past. This move by equipment suppliers is largely to ensure that their machines are handled properly. A few service providers, on the other hand, have established facilities at their offices to provide basic training.
In a layman’s perception, cleaning is a mundane activity which holds no business potential and hence, providing training for cleaning is understandably inappreciable to them. Improbably so, even for many FM professionals, training takes a back seat. Training is provided for the sake of training. FM professionals here refer both to service providers
and client companies.
Better training for better productivity
It is important to provide the right and required training “because training, in the long run, will help in better productivity and more efficient use of all resources,” says Peter Hug, Managing Director of VDMA. The German Engineering Federation (VDMA) in association with Deutsche Gesellschaft fuer Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH has developed an innovative skill development programme in the cleaning sector for facility management in India. It is in operation for over two years and is fast expanding to major cities in India.
While 99.99% of the people believe that cleaning is something that anyone can do, every other person gets into the cleaning business either as a worker or a service provider. However, it is this mindset that has to be altered to ‘cleaning as a science that can be learned through training and proper practice’.
Profile of Workers
When it comes to sourcing workers for cleaning, the service industry looks at locally available manpower which often includes those from the area close to the worksite. They are given what is termed “on-jobtraining”! This category of workers hired by such service companies are novices put on a professional job. Engaging such workers has resulted in absenteeism, dropouts, poor service delivery and a mistrust on the service industry as a whole. The service company gets penalized or loses the contract too!
Another category of workers is the security guards-cum-cleaners. It is not surprising to find a security guard outside an ATM doubling up as a housekeeper. Using the simplest of tools – a cotton mop cloth and a broom – the security guard cleans up the ATM room probably once and periodically when it gets visibly dirty. Training or no training, he still does the job of cleaning for the sake of cleaning.
Duration of training
The duration for training remains a deciding factor on whether to train or not to train. It is challenging too. “Getting a fresher off the street or a school dropout to train in cleaning for better prospects has its own challenges. Hence, if a slum dweller is being offered a six months or one year course, it would not hold his interest,” explains Peter Hug.
At the services end, even if a company decides to send its workers for professional training, it would mean loss of business during the days of training. This is one of the major reasons why service providers refrain from sparing their workers even if it is for training for better productivity.
Thus, service providers have created a schedule for training which includes pre-site training, on-job training, periodic training… in an attempt to provide the worker the necessary skills to perform. However, this ‘ideal alternative’ of training schedule adopted by the service provider is not implemented as projected. Often the workers are pulled out to complete errands in the midst of the on-site training or workers engaged for cleaning are pulled into doing tasks other than cleaning…
Thus, such trained workers are tagged ‘trained’ but yet not trained.
Keeping in mind the increasing need for skilled manpower, the VDMA-run training centre in India in the last two years has been extending training to marginal people from the slums and from the countryside. “We offer these people a 45-day training at the Institute and thereafter depending on their skills, resources and capabilities they are absorbed by the cleaning industry. This way the industry can engage skilled workers and there is no loss of business in training them later or on site.”
The Institute has recently introduced Supervisor training. “Training takes an important turn when it comes to supervisors, essentially because a supervisor is the director behind the whole process of cleaning. Cleaning is not just cleaning from left to right. A supervisory training teaches focuses on how to study the floorplan, how to calculate the time and resources required for cleaning ahow and how to formulate a strategy to clean. This way the supervisor is able to get work done more effectively and efficiently; there is more activity and better results,” explains Peter Hug.
The major issue faced by the Institute with students is to convince the people in the slum areas and from the street to come to the Institute for training and better life. “When you pass by the slums, you will find that satellite television and mobile is given preference and only then comes the toilet and the shower. There is a need to spread awareness that it is important to have a good health and good environment and one needs to clean oneself, wear clean clothes and live in clean surroundings.
“We are happy that the Modi government has launched the Swachch Bharat Abhiyan. With cleaning being raised at the political level, it will speed up the awareness process. If there is no awareness, people will not know the need for professional cleaning. Buildings can be maintained, houses can be maintained, people can live in a hygiene environment and a lot more issues can be addressed through professional cleaning.”
In the present scenario of the wage structure, a fresher joining the cleaning job is on the same pay scale of the one who has put in few years of work. Hence, it is important that skilled and trained workers being hired are placed on the higher pay slab and are engaged in specific projects with a clear career growth path. “This will motivate the trained workers and they can foresee their future themselves as a supervisor in a year or two.
“Pay slabs differ from segment to segment depending on the kind of work that needs to be done. The job profile of a worker in a hospital is much different from a worker in a hotel. Moreover, there is a big challenge with the wage slabs in countries following the minimum wages which are region specific. Sometimes, a market driven wage is much better than the minimum wages, as it is subjected to change from time to time and place to place. In fact, the framework of the minimum wages should be altered. The worker should be able to make a living out of the wages and a worker who is working better with better skills and training, needs to be paid more if we have to keep in the job for a longer time and made more productive,” says Peter Hug.