Many associations, manufacturers and community colleges offer cleaning “certification” programs that teach the how-to’s of cleaning — operating a floor machine, cleaning a restroom, and caring for carpet. These skills are essential to a janitor, but what about the next step in the career ladder — supervisor or manager?

Currently, there is no industry-focused management training program. Ron Goerne, cofounder of 1.2.3 Training Systems, Bloomington, Ill., CEO of Service Resources, and former building service contractor, and John Vogelsang, manager of custodial/grounds at Illinois Central College (ICC), Peoria, Ill., are hoping to change that. They are partnering with ICC to offer a two-year associate degree in management training focused on the cleaning industry.

The program would teach skills necessary in managing a cleaning staff or department, and would require college courses such as math, science and humanities. The premise: an individual holding this degree would be ready to perform at a supervisory level at most janitorial companies or in-house cleaning departments.

Cleaning curriculum
The associate degree is aimed at those who are already certified in the basics of cleaning from a college or equivalent program (one such program is available at ICC). Or, experienced janitors may want to further their education in order to move up to management positions within their organizations.

The existing ICC certification program has met with limited success over the years and is currently being revamped (see sidebar).

“The career placement director goes out to local high schools to encourage those not going on to college to consider taking courses at ICC. But he can’t encourage anyone to sign up for the janitorial certificate program because the parents come back saying ‘no kid of mine is going to grow up to be a janitor,’” says Goerne.

Offering both a certification program and an associate degree, however, provides ICC students with a way to visualize a career path in cleaning.

According to ICC’s Agricultural and Industrial Technologies associate dean, Michael Sloan, any cleaning-related college program will have to demonstrate more career potential in the future in order to attract enrollees.

“For example, at ICC, we have a Culinary Arts Management Associate Degree. These people are not doing the cooking, but they’re training those who are, they’re deciding the menus, etc. A custodial management program could be similar — training those who are currently doing the cleaning,” Sloan explains. This type of program trains people to be managers or even the basics necessary to starting a business.

To earn an Associate in Applied Science Degree at ICC, a student must earn 64 total credits. Of that total, 23 are general education classes: English, communications, social science, mathematics, laboratory sciences and humanities. Sloan even has entertained the possibility of tailoring these courses to related janitorial experience. For example, the program could require chemistry because of the extensive work with chemicals.

The remaining 41 credits are currently being developed by Goerne, Vogelsang and Dee Tarvin, also of 1.2.3 Training Systems, as well as Steve Spencer, facilities specialist, State Farm Insurance, Bloomington, Ill. All classes would provide students with the knowledge and skills they need to be effective managers in a janitorial company or department. A few subjects already in mind include workloading; blueprint reading; cleaning as it pertains to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED); change management; and process management. Classes can be for one, two or three credits. The curriculum-planning committee will be looking for input from other industry leaders and associations and possibly establish a committee.

The program could be offered as early as next fall and possibly be available online. Goerne and Vogelsang have been looking into Caterpillar University’s e-learning programs, which offer one- or two-hour courses on the Internet. This course method allows students to learn at their own pace, and take courses from home or at hotels, when traveling. Thus, cleaning professionals from outside the Peoria area could enroll in the associate degree program.

Earning credibility
Goerne and Vogelsang believe that offering an associate degree will improve the industry. They are inspired by the passion of other building service contractors and in-house service providers that have given their heart and soul to the cleaning industry, says Vogelsang. They just want to give something back, too.

“I wouldn’t call it a legacy, but I do want to leave something behind,” explains Vogelsang. “I want the industry to be better than the way I had it.”

And they feel the industry is in need of improvement, especially at the managerial level.

“Just a couple weeks ago at a seminar, the 25 people in attendance made up of BSCs and in-house service providers were asked: ‘How many square feet is your building?’ No answer. ‘How many restrooms and fixtures?’ One person thought she had 12,” says Goerne.

These people knew how to strip a floor, but they lacked basic bidding and estimating principles, which is management-level knowledge, he explains.

Most managers are employees who have moved up the ranks, but have never received professional management training. Right now there aren’t any avenues open to staff workers to pursue this janitorial management training. Industry certifications cover the basics of cleaning. The Building Service Contractors Association International’s CBSE certification incorporates some business elements beyond cleaning such as human resources, but membership in the association is required in order to qualify for the certification. And even the most rigorous of programs don’t compare to what the associate degree program could offer, says Goerne.

“Current programs are like using a [standard wet] mop to mop the floor versus using microfiber. It’s not even close.”

By providing more education options to the industry, Goerne and Vogelsang believe that the industry will also earn the respect and credibility it is sorely lacking.

“The only way to get credibility is through a university or by partnering with an engineering firm [for earning LEED certification] as some large companies are already doing,” says Goerne.

“Once [the public] sees that people are getting a background and are educated in cleaning, it will elevate the industry,” adds Vogelsang.

Hiring graduates
Other BSCs are recognizing the potential a graduate of this type of degree program can bring to their company.

“The more knowledge someone has relative to their profession, the better they’ll perform,” says Terry Woodley, vice president, Woodley Building Maintenance, Kansas City, Mo. “If someone applied for a job with an associate degree in English and an associate degree in janitorial, I’d choose the one with more relative experience.”

Even facility managers recognize that the industry is hurting because janitors do not receive an industry-specific education. They feel that an associate degree can help.

“Do people who do the general cleaning need an associate degree? Probably not. They need to be trained, yes, but the person who is doing the training needs to know how to [train] and run the operation,” says Spencer. “They’re hiring people with a degree in music to everything else. What qualifies them for management? I told John, you set that curriculum right, that person who comes out of there should be ready to be your replacement.”

Goerne and Vogelsang still have a lot of ground to cover to ensure the program is ready for the 2006 school year. But with the help of other industry leaders, by this time next fall, a new group of students may be cracking their textbooks and prepping to become your next manager.

Certifying Clean

The first step in the road to establishing an associate degree program is to revamp Illinois Central College’s Custodian Training certificate program for the January semester.

According to Ron Goerne and John Vogelsang, the current certificate program is outdated. For years, the class went unnoticed and when students did register, they often slept through it, or didn’t understand English and learned nothing, says Vogelsang. Today, the class is filled with students with behavioral problems and not all of the students who complete the course are suitable for work with a cleaning company or department.

The new certificate program will still be hands-on and teach the how-to’s of cleaning, but it will have better training materials and an updated curriculum.

Dee Tarvin, cofounder, 1.2.3 Training Systems, is heading up this portion of the education strategy. By using easy-to-understand, color-coded training materials, instructors will be able to more effectively teach non-English speaking or reading, and challenged-persons, as well as students who don’t know much about cleaning.

Classes now can be tailored directly to organizational needs. For example, one class in the program would be geared toward “restroom specialists.” This is a common staff position in many cleaning companies. Other classes would be aimed at other common positions — floor care and vacuuming, for example.

Those with a certificate will have an advantage over other job applicants. Not only have they learned how to clean, but they also have demonstrated that they are interested in career advancement, says Vogelsang.