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The journey towards professional Chartership in Cleaning

Published 3rd November, 2023 by Neil Nixon

Melanie Richardson, C.Env.Cln, Head of Business Responsibility & Cleaning at Vinci Facilities, receives her award.
Melanie Richardson, C.Env.Cln, Head of Business Responsibility & Cleaning at Vinci Facilities, receives her award.

We take a look at the cleaning industry’s new Chartered Register of Practitioners and what it takes to gain a place on it - with experiences shared by three cleaning industry professionals who have been through the process.

The Worshipful Company of Environmental Cleaners received a grant of Royal Approval allowing it to confer the award of ‘Chartered Practitioner in Environmental Cleaning’. This means members of the cleaning and FM industry, all over the world, can have their professional experience and expertise acknowledged by becoming ‘Chartered’, a privilege enjoyed by many other professions.

A relatively new scheme for the cleaning industry, there has been significant interest in the Chartered Practitioner’s Register since its launch in 2021. Many cleaning professionals have begun and completed their chartership journey since then. Here are three members of the UK cleaning industry who have fulfilled their obligations to receive chartership status, and they share their experiences of the process with you, their colleagues.

Matthew Dean, ISS Facility Services Management, C.Env. Cln

It is challenging to balance the commitments of the Chartered Practitioner Register (CPR) submission with the obligations of a demanding day job such as mine. Evidencing one’s expertise over a career span requires focus, commitment and work.

Attaining chartership is not easy or a simple pre-approved formality. It requires a 10,000-word submission and interview, consisting of logical and chronological explanations of the applicant’s professional career within strict parameters.

Due to the effort involved, as well as what you learn about yourself, your career and the possible way forward, both the process and end result are extremely rewarding.

I began writing my submission with some ease after attending a workshop and completed 3000 words quite quickly; but then came the proverbial ‘writer’s block’. However, after attending a second workshop and speaking to a mentor, I realised that there were other perspectives about my career that I could explore more deeply. After that, 10,000 words didn’t seem like enough to share all the dimensions of my career!

The CPR workshops are invaluable in revealing what more an applicant can include in their written submission. With help from a CPR mentor from the WCEC, and the guidance from workshops, I took time to examine my professional career from a 360-degree perspective, which helped me reveal the value I have added in my roles to date.

Chartership is a prestigious demonstration of your professional expertise - it gives you professional confidence as well as opens up new opportunities for your career. The CPR, in my experience, has helped me to stand out in the crowd. While I didn’t go to university and attain a degree in my chosen field, becoming a Chartered Practitioner signifies the skill and experience I’ve gained in my own professional life, which is undeniable, proven, and credible.

At my company, ISS, I’ve always felt supported to become what I want - to go on my CPR journey and build a successful career in the cleaning industry. Now, I’m proud to serve as an example to other ISS colleagues who want to pursue similar ambitions. To this end, I gave a presentation to global ISS leaders explaining the CPR process, my reasons for doing it, and the benefit of achieving it. So far, a few people in the organisation have shown interest, one of which is based in the US, so an international CPR candidate could be forthcoming soon. Watch this space! #aplacettobeyou

Colm McGrath, BICS, C.Env. Cln

I embarked on my own CPR journey and attended my first CPR workshop in July 2022. I submitted my expression of interest, which was accepted at the outset. However, I didn’t fully grasp what I was in for! It turned out to be a challenging undertaking (but worth it in the end!)

The required 10,000 word submission became a retrospective of my personal professional journey. It examined my career from when I filled salt and pepper shakers in a commercial kitchen as a trainee chef, to becoming an award-winning head chef at the very young age of 21, and beyond. I went to night school to study for City and Guilds courses and blossomed from there. For someone who didn’t have many academic qualifications, I progressed quickly in my vocation, and before long I became a teacher in catering management, which involves a lot of health and safety. The next step for me was a career in the cleaning industry.

Now, as a seasoned trainer with the BICS, for me every day is a learning day. Often, those in the cleaning industry are much unsung and not recognised for their expertise and experience. I always put myself in the cleaning operative’s shoes and teach in a way that will remain memorable. This is where my passion most shone in my CPR written submission.

The most challenging part of writing the CPR paper was reflecting all aspects of my work accurately. My role entails, amongst other elements, researching and embracing innovation, new methods of cleaning and advising in best practice. However, CPR mentors and guidance in CPR workshops helped me to convey all the essential information. My first draft was a fairly easily written 7000 words. I kept revisiting it and managed to do just over 9,000 words to complete in time for September 2022 submission.

By undertaking the CPR application process, I learned that I achieved a lot over the years; it is easy to take your achievements for granted when you don’t make the time to examine them. None of my achievements was by chance, however, but it took focus and hard work to do all that I have done, and I reflected that in my written submission.

Since 2010, my contributions to the cleaning industry have been recognised and I have received awards. My most recent was for dedication to education, and my Fellowship of the BICS. I’m proud of that because it reflects my commitment to teaching and learning. If it makes cleaning safer, effective and ensures a secure working environment, then I’m on the right track. There’s no space to be ‘stuck in a rut’. Encourage, teach, and support the progress of cleaning operatives whose service to our society is constant.

Since I have achieved chartered status, fellow professionals have expressed an interest in doing it themselves, hopefully with lots of support from their managers. I’ll be hosting a workshop soon to talk about my CPR experience. My professional remit includes a geographical portfolio of Northern Ireland, Republic of Ireland and some of England and Scotland. I look forward to sharing the message that this is a must do as far and wide as I can! There are no barriers in cleaning.

Melanie Richardson, C.Env. Cln

I learned about the Chartered Practitioners Register (CPR) scheme through the Worshipful Company of Environmental Cleaners (WCEC). A number of bodies have talked about initiating a chartership programme in the past, but the WCEC actually realised it and I’m pleased to have applied.

I attended an informative webinar about the CPR application process. I wanted to apply, not just for myself, but also to support the WCEC and all they’ve achieved to raise standards in the industry. I felt it important to demonstrate my own professional credibility as a woman in a ‘chartered’ world. It was important for me to be part of that community and confirm my standing in the industry in which I work, that’s often looked down upon. In so many other industries, there are those whose professional expertise has been recognised by chartership. This isn’t a modern concept at all, and now that the WCEC has initiated a new scheme, it may spark a revival.

Overall, the CPR application process was very good. Like anything else, there’s scope for improvement in the process. I would keenly recommend a facility to allow payment online, or with a company credit card. The CPR registration would qualify as a company expense and if you’re paying for it personally it’s not possible to get a VAT receipt.

I also think it would be very helpful to have an allocated mentor who has been through the process (and preferably one who is not going to be an application validator!) That may be easier to do now that a few cohorts have achieved chartership, widening the pool of possible mentors. There’s nothing like getting advice from someone who’s shared the experience. Guidance from a mentor is very useful support when writing the 10,000 word extended essay which I found to be hardest part of the process.

Going forward, it would be beneficial to have set guidance about writing the essay, expectations on content and what’s really sought in a submission. I discovered it’s about the personal, developmental, professional journey; it’s not about reproducing the contents of your CV. When I began the essay, I wrote 7000 words without much difficulty. Thereafter, I struggled to reach 10,000, but I was told that it wasn’t necessary to do more, as I had conveyed enough information.

My submission was accepted, followed by an online interview. Perhaps going forward, the interview should be conducted by someone you don’t know; but I understand that’s a challenge in the cleaning industry as we’re a tight knit community.

I was so proud to have been awarded my chartership and the award ceremony made it even more special. Be sure to take a guest with you and share the experience!

Many people ‘drift’ into cleaning and don’t see it as a career, having minimal aspirations because of our industry’s low profile. However, chartership changes this completely, as it’s an affirmation of the standard of your achievement. It forces you not to take your skills for granted, but acknowledge your own experience and expertise. I have found that very valuable on a personal and professional level. Now, being a recognised Chartered Practitioner in the cleaning industry raises the bar of visibility alongside other sectors who have enjoyed the same privilege and recognition for decades.

In Vinci, anyone who wants to pursue chartership will be encouraged. There are possible candidates for the future, but they would need to build the required body of experience behind them. I do share my experience with other industry cleaning professionals and I’ve met some who are seriously considering pursuing application to the CPR.

In conclusion, I’d say that those who have completed the CPR process should be ambassadors to the rest of the industry. Perhaps when they attend high profile industry events where there’s a concentration of senior level cleaning professionals, these individuals can share their experiences, and be an inspiration in our remarkable, yet under-sung industry.

Further Information

To find our more about the Chartered Practitioner’s Register in Cleaning, please visit: https://wc-ec.com/chartered-practitioner/

If you would like to find out more about the Worshipful Company of Environmental Cleaners, or any of its initiatives please email: clerk@wc-ec.com.

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