Anna Gerretzen shows that opportunities can exist for cleaners who embrace lifelong learning to move into cleaning management.
A Level 2 cleaning certificate was just the start for Anna. She is now putting the final touches to her Level 5 Leadership Diploma thanks to support from work-based learning provider, Careerforce, a business division of Te Pūkenga.
The Team Leader at Palmerston North City Council is also a Careerforce registered assessor for countless cleaners across the region.
Anna’s upskilling began during her time as a hospital cleaner where the level 2 and 3 cleaning programmes were strongly encouraged as part of the job. There she was also enrolled in the contagion and specialised infection control cleaning programme and the supervision strand.
Five years ago, Anna was employed as a Depot Cleaner for the Council, where she was promoted to Cleaning Coordinator, and then to Cleaning Team Leader with a team of eight.
Anna was asked to become a Careerforce Registered Assessor four years ago and works with cleaners who are completing their level 2 and 3 certificates. Assessment is the formal process for recognising the skills of learners.
“The learning really makes a difference to the trainees…”
“I have supported many colleagues who have achieved Level 2 cleaning certificates, and there are many more currently in the middle of their Level 3. I have also just received four new cleaners to be assessed from another company.”
Anna says that the learning really makes a difference to the trainees doing the programme.
“As an assessor, I see that Level 2 and 3 learners are very keen to have their skills recognised. Some of them are surprised that they can get a qualification. It really does empower them, and they don’t see themselves as ‘just’ a cleaner anymore.
“But it’s also being recognised as skilled labour and establishing a higher level of pay and credibility amongst the workforce around pay equity that drives them.
“Some do struggle with literacy and numeracy, but we are able to support them to find ways to assess them verbally. Being able to give their answers verbally makes it a whole lot easier.”
“I have surprised myself as to my own capabilities and as an inspired learner”
Palmerston North City Council suggested she further her own studies and enrol in the workplace-based Level 5 Leadership Diploma programme through Careerforce which she describes as a combination of challenging and easy.
“It has helped me break down barriers about tertiary study and I have surprised myself as to my own capabilities and as an inspired learner,” says Anna.
“It does make you think about what it is you are doing, how this is helping and what the benefits are for my team and myself both professionally and personally.
“It has made me think a lot more. Rather than go out with all guns blazing, I find I am thinking things through a lot better. It’s about becoming a little bit wiser, and a lot about problem solving,
“It has helped me run the team more smoothly, and delegating, understanding what the team can manage and what they can’t manage, ensuring that everybody is getting through their work.
“Also thinking about what we can do to make their jobs a little easier. Have they got the right gear? and finding solutions that make the job easier.”
The Leadership programme is very well supported
Careerforce Leadership and Management Assessor Regan Cotter has been supporting Anna, “Regan is absolutely amazing. He is very supportive and understanding and gives me that encouragement to keep me on track.”
Anna also thanks Palmerston North based Careerforce Workplace Advisor, Elaine Dittert. “She has also been excellent – It has been great to have her helping me out.”
“My employer gives us time off for study. They check how are I am doing and if I want to take extra time during the week for study, which has been really awesome.”
Anna looks forward to finishing that last module and reflects, “This will be a fantastic result with a recognised Level 5 NZQA qualification that acknowledges the work I have done.”
Careerforce assessors play a valuable role in overseeing the formal assessment process and provide mentoring, either within their own workplace or independently. Assessors work with learners to ensure their skills, experience and hard work are recognised in line with NZQA requirements.