Posted Wednesday 25 January 2012
When people go to work each day in a clean and tidy space, be it an office, classroom, library or canteen, it's easy to forget that the previous day's debris has usually been efficiently cleared away by a dedicated team of cleaning staff.
Though their efforts are mostly unseen and often go unnoticed, Kingston University has been recognising the important role that these workers play and has singled out one particularly dedicated member of staff for his ongoing efforts to keep its campuses spick and span.
Long-serving cleaner Sean Byrne, quite literally swept up at a recent presentation ceremony when he accepted an award to mark 45 years working at the University's Kingston Hill campus. "I have cleaned the Law School since I started here," he said. "The lecturers are wonderful people and have always appreciated me. Just arriving at Kingston Hill lifts my spirits."
Mr Byrne has combined his role at Kingston University with that of a dustman for more than 30 years before moving into the recycling sector. "Juggling the two jobs has become a way of life for me," he said. "As well as the enjoyment I get from my work, the hours suit me and I make a good living."
One of 148 cleaning and caretaking staff from the University's facilities management company, KUSCO, to attend the presentation ceremony last month, Mr Byrne not only collected his award for continued service but also celebrated the completion of the first stage of a British Institute of Cleaning Science (BICSc) training programme.
Kingston is the first university in the United Kingdom to take part in the shared scheme of vocational training which results in staff receiving BICS practitioners' licences. The certificates were awarded by Kingston University Vice-Chancellor Professor Julius Weinberg, along with representatives from KUSCO and BICSc.
Recognising and rewarding the ongoing efforts of staff is the mark of a good company, according to Mr Byrne. "You can never stop learning different ways of doing things and the chance to achieve a qualification that recognises the skills that I have brought to my job is a wonderful thing."
Vice-Chancellor Professor Julius Weinberg said universities were about developing people and providing them with choices. "It is important that our support staff, no matter what they do, have chances to undertake training, learn new skills and develop. We are a university, we celebrate learning," he explained. "It's fantastic to be able to recognise people for their hard work. All our staff, including Sean Byrne, are very dedicated to the University," KUSCO general manager Martin Chalker added.
Cleaning at the University is very different to when Mr Byrne started work on campus at the tender age of 16. "We didn't even have a uniform, we just had to wear our own clothes," he said. "Now, with our uniforms and name badges we look a lot smarter and we feel like we are doing a proper professional job."
With the next part of the skills' training now under way for all the teams, there will be another presentation in May this year. In the meantime, Mr Byrne plans to continue his work for both the University and the Council. "I find cleaning therapeutic. It's definitely relaxing in comparison to being out on the bins in all weathers," he said. "You meet all kinds of different people including fellow staff, lecturers and students. Everyone is just so lovely - they all take the time to talk to you and make you feel part of the University family."