Proper facility maintenance helps schools realize many benefits. Clean educational facilities attract students, staff, and even much-needed donors. Maintaining hygiene also helps create a barrier against communicable disease outbreaks that lead to extended absences and negatively impact learning. Cleaning is also the best form of preventive maintenance, which ultimately saves time and money for often underfunded schools.
In the past, many schools had dedicated training departments led by a qualified instructor to offer ongoing learning and certification. However, over the years, many of these departments have been dissolved, and training frequently falls on retirees who train their replacements.
“The transition away from organized facility management training has led to large inconsistencies in quality, methodologies, and standards in the educational sector,” said Dell Birt, school site operations director and plant manager.
In researching which organizational body set the highest industry standard in facilities management, Birt discovered ISSA’s Cleaning Management Institute (CMI) and its Custodial Technician Training and Certification program. Developed more than 50 years ago, the CMI program covers several modules of important cleaning topics ahead of a certification exam. Today, it remains a sought-after method for advancing the development of front-line custodians and facility directors.
In addition to focusing on effective cleaning techniques and technologies, CMI stays up to date on key research and developments, such as the emergence of communicable diseases, to ensure its trainees know how to maintain the safety of facility occupants and visitors. The program offers basic and advanced levels, and both on-site and online course options for added flexibility.
Birt completed the program and was recognized with the Certified Custodial Technician (C.C.T.) designation. He feels that the knowledge participants acquire can be tailored to meet the needs and budgets of different types of sites and organizations. He also appreciates that the program emphasized safe and effective cleaning practices, which are especially applicable for today’s age of superbugs.
“ISSA CMI is the most superior certification program as it is structured around better feedback from many trades and industry professionals to establish its best practices. That is why most major organizations require a current ISSA CMI certification to apply for their facility management positions.”
Through completion of the CMI Custodial Technician Training and Certification program, Birt has realized several benefits for himself and the facility he oversees, including:
- Better career opportunities. Being ISSA CMI certified allowed Birt to make progress in just a few years that would normally take about six to 10 years. The certification also gave him a leg up when interviewing for roles. While his strong work ethic and communication skills certainly played a factor, he credits formal training as an invaluable differentiator that helps fast track someone to a facilities director role.
Similar to educators, facility directors are often rewarded when they take the time to pursue advanced degrees, certifications, or continuing education units. With more than 40 certifications, Birt has nearly every major facility and cleaning-industry-related certification, and notes that ISSA CMI is the only one he would pursue and pay for out-of-pocket without an added pay incentive.
Birt is the first among his peers to receive certification from CMI and believes that the formal training, combined with his on-the-job experience has helped him gain a reputation of a true expert in his field. Soon after becoming certified, he was consulted for advice, began to mentor new hires, and was instrumental in updating his facility’s procedure manual.
- Improved processes. Upon starting a new role at a school, Birt already had an efficient operation plan ready as a result of his learnings from the program. He was quickly trusted to make major changes, including modernizing equipment and retraining staff members to correct improper or obsolete methodologies. By managing everyone’s time more efficiently, the school has been able to reduce labor and product costs.
- Enhanced safety. By retraining employees on proper techniques, Birt has corrected ineffective use and handling of products and incorrect or unsafe equipment operation. The site is now dramatically safer due to reducing the opportunity for workplace-related illnesses and accidents.
- Improved cleanliness and employee morale. Birt has received feedback that the site is functioning at its highest standard ever, even compared to years when the school had a facility management team four times the size of the current team. Employees take pride in making the school a cleaner and more aesthetically attractive environment.
“CMI certification is worth it in every way. It increased my value as an employee and helped me to progress quickly to my current role,” Birt said. “I would encourage everyone to pursue that edge, as it can open up greater opportunities, higher wages, and enhanced job satisfaction.”