Teaching foreign workers English is not an employee benefit utilized by many building service contractors. In fact, according to a recent Contracting Profits labor survey, only six percent of BSCs offer English as a Second Language (ESL) classes as a company perk. But BSCs may want to rethink their benefits package.

In the beginning, ESL classes may be an original strategy to retain workers without having to resort to raises. However, ESL training really pays off when looking for good candidates to promote to fill managerial vacancies.

“The people who are investing time in ESL classes are the first people we’re going to promote into those positions,” says Jamie Gutierrez, owner, Omaha-based Midwest Maintenance Inc. “The first opportunity that comes up for a supervisor, or if a supervisor goes on vacation, they can stand in for that supervisor and find out what it’s like to be at that level.”

Midwest Maintenance has sustained an effort for the past five years to provide English as a Second Language instruction to its employees. To date, more than 500 of the company’s employees have taken the courses.

“A church in the community offered free ESL classes, and we started sending people to classes like that,” says Gutierrez. “But for us in the cleaning industry, most of our people work at night, so it was difficult.”

In 2004, Midwest began partnering with the local community college to offer a program, funded through a workforce development grant, which allowed on-site instruction for the company’s employees.

“They sent us a teacher and we provided a laptop,” Gutierrez says. “And we provided the people and the space. Also, at the beginning, we provided a monetary bonus goal, and some of our customers bought into the idea that our employees — the ones that signed up and qualified for the program — would come three times a week, and they would come during their work hours, so they would get paid during those hours.”

The accommodation is worth it for the customers, Gutierrez says, because the employees’ greater English proficiency benefits them.

“They end up having a more communicative employee, because a lot of the time they are long-term with the customers, and they don’t want to lose them,” she adds.

In 2008, the company transitioned to a completely internal program for which it employs a full-time instructor. The new program allowed Midwest to tailor the program more to its particular needs.

“He does manager training, a different kind of training in which our managers can get certificates,” Gutierrez says.

At any given time, between 20 and 80 Midwest employees are taking the internal classes.

“Now that we have our own ESL teacher, and we don’t have the grant money for the laptops, we might say, ‘If you’re willing to put in the time to take the class and advance, the ESL classes are not just normal ESL classes,’” says Gutierrez. “We also teach customer service skills and maintenance system skills, so it’s practical English for them to learn on the job.”

Employees are offered these courses during their probationary period. If they advance three levels in the curriculum, they are eligible for an increase in pay.

Dan Calabrese is a freelance writer based in Wyoming, Mich.


Study Shows Productivity Increases In Green Buildings

Building occupants who work in “green” buildings are more productive than those who work in nongreen buildings, according to a new study from the University of San Diego’s Burnham-Moores Center for Real Estate and CB Richard Ellis. Researchers defined green buildings as those that are Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified or those that bear the Energy Star label.

More than half of respondents either “strongly agreed” (12 percent) or “agreed” (42.5 percent) that employees were more productive in green buildings; 45 percent noted no change in productivity.

In addition, 45 percent of the respondents reported experiencing an average of 2.88 fewer sick days at their new, green office location. An equal amount noted no effect.

Green cleaning is a requirement in LEED for Existing Buildings: Operations and Maintenance certification. Green products contain fewer volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which contribute to poor indoor air quality.The bill is effective immediately and requires all public schools to purchase and use Green Seal approved cleaning products when feasible. Products covered in the bill include restroom cleaners, carpet cleaners, general-purpose cleaners, glass cleaners, hand cleaners and hand soaps and paper towels used for cleaning. The bill does not cover floor chemicals, laundry cleaners, toilet and facial tissue products and towels for hand drying.



Kimberly-Clark Professional, Roswell, Ga., has received Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) chain-of-custody certification for a broad range of tissue and towel products, making it the first away-from-home tissue products provider in North America to receive this distinction. The label certifies that the wood fiber used to make the products comes from well-managed FSC-certified forests or from post-consumer recycled fiber.

Beachland Cleaning Service, Vero Beach, Fla., won the “Participating Partner of the year Award” from the Cleaning For A Reason Foundation. The award is presented to the partner who generates the most contributions to the foundation for the year.

Coverall Health-Based Cleaning System, Boca Raton, Fla., has been named a finalist in six categories for this year’s American Business Award’s Stevie Awards, including “Best Overall Company of the Year.”

Additionally, the franchisor received International Business Awards finalist honors for “Most Innovative Company of the Year in North America” and “Environmental Responsibility Program of the Year in North America.”



EPA Determines Rules For Green Disinfectants

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) outlined the guidelines manufacturers will have to meet under the green disinfectant and sanitizer pilot program. Products will be able to use the Design for the Environment (DfE) logo on labels and in promotional materials after completing a two-part review process under which products would have to complete the DfE review and then complete a review by EPA Antimicrobial Division.

The pilot program also will encompass a track that allows registrants to make certain limited factual statements of environmental preferability in regard to disinfectants and sanitizers.