Custodians in class

A new training program for custodial staff in Consumer Services is working to raise the profile of, and respect for, the people who have a key role to play in the health and safety of campus.

"People don't really notice the custodians unless their garbage can isn't emptied," said Gord Snell, assistant manager of university residences. "They see it as a dead-end job that anybody can do but there's a lot involved. Safety," he continued, "starts with cleaning."

Snell said he has been interested in providing formal training for custodial staff for some time and last April, had the opportunity to be trained to deliver the Cleaning Management Institute program, a multi-unit course involving both classroom time and hands-on learning. "Previously we relied on supervisors to do on-the-job training," he said, "but with this course, we're trying to develop a more professional group of people doing the job."

The basic training course modules cover topics as broad as the chemistry of cleaning, washroom care, and carpet and hard surface floor care, he explained. "When our staff understands the why and how, mistakes are less likely to happen, and mistakes in carpet cleaning for example could result in thousands of dollars in repairs." An advanced course with more in-depth modules is also available.

To date, 13 of 25 custodians who work in student residences and Marquis Hall have completed the course, Snell said. The goal is to ensure all staff take at least the basic course. "People want to learn how to do their job better" and passing the course can benefit those wishing to apply for higher-placed jobs.

Ensuring a safe, clean environment for students and staff is important for the university, Snell said. And during events like flu outbreaks, the role of custodians becomes even more critical. "With the training we're providing, we can positively reinforce the role our staff plays, and I do believe it's an important one."

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