This is the final part of a three-part article on how one facility manager improved the cleaning throughout his school district, while simultaneously providing a better future for his staff and the industry as a whole.

The Newport News Public Schools’ Apprenticeship Program is a structured training program geared towards making the apprentice a better all-around person, not just a better employee. For this reason, we teach things that are not strictly custodial in nature.

The program covers: Behaviors of successful people, effective communications, workplace technology skills, basic English and math, team building, customer service skills and leadership skills. This is in addition to the custodial trade specific coursework that covers: Cleaning chemistry, safety, best housekeeping practices, floor care and equipment, carpet and upholstery, restroom cleaning, above floor cleaning, green cleaning, as well as mandated training in asbestos awareness, bloodborne pathogens and Globally Harmonized System (GHS).

The program, a partnership between Newport News Public Schools, Thomas Nelson Community College and the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry, combines quality, hands-on career training with theoretical and practical classroom instruction. To fulfill the training requirements, the apprentices must complete a minimum of 144 hours of classroom instruction and 2,000 hours of mentor-supervised work for each of the two years of the program.

It’s a big commitment, but as with our CMI training, recognition and pay are linked to success. All training is free to qualified employees (see qualifications below) and conducted “on the clock” during normal weekday hours. The classes are held for the last hour of the morning shift and the first hour of the afternoon shift, for a total of two hours paid training each class day.

Upon completion of the first year, apprentices receive a 3.5 percent pay increase and position title change. Upon completion of year two, they receive the same pay raise and position change. These raises are in addition to those that may occur annually for all employees.

After successful completion of the 2-year program, each apprentice is also awarded an official, nationally-recognized Commonwealth of Virginia Certificate of Completion of Apprenticeship.

This apprenticeship program for our school division grew from encompassing only custodians, to also including child nutrition workers, clerical workers, school security officers, bus mechanics and maintenance trades. The program has produced camaraderie among cohorts and is fueling our ability to fill future leadership positions using “home-grown” talent, while improving the quality of our workforce and advancing the industry forward.

The Virginia Department of Labor and Industry sums up the program nicely, “Registered Apprenticeship – Earn…Learn…Succeed.” 

Qualifications For The Apprenticeship Program

The purpose of the apprenticeship program is to ensure the professional development of custodial services employees by providing relevant, educational and on-the-job training. It’s a great opportunity for advancement, but before participating, applicants must meet certain criteria.

Each apprentice must have their application for inclusion in the program approved by their chain of command supervisors. They must arrive on time and ready to learn, and have no more than one unexcused absence per year. Homework, as required, must be completed and students must maintain a C average throughout the program. If they have disciplinary issues on the job, they may be dropped from the program.

A high school diploma, or GED, is required to be an apprentice. But if this is the only hurdle for an applicant, a free GED program will be provided prior to their official enrollment as apprentices.

KEITH WEBB, E.F.P., is the Executive Director of Plant Services at Newport News Public Schools in Virginia, as well as a founding member of Healthy Schools Campaign’s National Green Cleaning Schools Leadership Council. Webb has received accolades including the Manager of Distinction Award in 2015, the Green Cleaning Award for Schools and Universities in 2013, the Educational Facility Professional designation in 2012, and the Facility Masters Award in 2011.

previous page of this article:
Groundwork To Launching A Custodial Training Program