Tackling the barriers
Cleaning a hospital is a bit like painting the Sydney Harbour Bridge. It’s a never-ending job. And it’s critical to the function and integrity of the structure.
Spotless is responsible for keeping Bendigo Hospital clean as a whistle, inside and out. That means all areas of the hospital – including 11 operating theatres; clinical and diagnostic areas; the emergency department and waiting rooms; wards and patient spaces; as well as the external building and grounds.
There is plenty of work available for the local community. But when English is your second language, the recruitment and training process can be very challenging.
Spotless wanted to stem the high turnover of their cleaning staff. They could see their multicultural staff were doing an amazing job, but they were not reaching many potential new staff because the recruitment process was prohibitive.
A tailored recruitment and training solution
That’s where Loddon Campaspe Multicultural Services (LCMS) and its Learn Local came in with tailor-made pre-accredited training to address the challenges.
Online advertisements were the first barrier to attracting workers from a migrant background. And the training was difficult for non-native English speakers to understand. Both recruitment and training needed to be simplified and incorporate bicultural support to convey the responsibilities of working in a hospital.
Petra McLoughlin from GROW Bendigo got Spotless and the LCMS together to create a solution.
Peta says, “we really challenged the corporate model of recruitment and we’ve now got a sustainable model that has become the exemplar.”
Leeanne Elvey from Spotless says the support from LCMS to new recruits has been wonderful.
“They support them in every way,” she says. “When (the new recruits) turn up for their first day, they’re in their uniform and off they go. They don’t have to sit at a computer for three or four hours because they’ve already done the training.
“They’re not just thrown into this great big place and handed a mop and bucket. They’re a lot more comfortable and have more confidence through the onboarding process,” says Leeanne.
“We also have a supervisor onsite 24/7 – so at any time of the day or night…if something goes wrong or they’re not comfortable, there’s always someone they can call on.”
Robyn Matthews is the team leader of the LCMS Learn Local adult education program.
“I think Learn Local is just amazing. It’s unique to Victoria and it gives us the flexibility to tailor education to community members. Whether that’s with an educational pathway, an employment pathway, or just helping people who want to improve their English,” she says.
“Many in the refugee community have spent their life getting through one day at a time and just surviving,” says Robyn. “And now they’re here in Bendigo and we say, ‘what do you want to do?’ – and that’s often the first time they’ve ever been asked that question.”
“I went to the hospital and met with Petra and Spotless representatives, and they told me what they’d come up with and what their plans were and asked me if I could help them to create a course that would have those educational pathways bringing community members into the hospital as cleaners.”
To best prepare the class members for work at the hospital, other modules have been introduced to give students more of the skills they need. The new modules include learnings in taxation, superannuation, and workplace rights and responsibilities.
What do you want to do?
Than Gay is from Burma and had never been asked that question. Not once in the eight years she and her sister spent in a refugee camp in Thailand.
“I always felt sad and not happy,” says Than. “We cry and we cannot speak English, it was very difficult.”
But Than is feeling positive now. She is one of 60 culturally and linguistically diverse community members in Bendigo who have completed the Learn Local program. She now has her first job, working for Spotless as a cleaner at the hospital.
“I’m very happy with this job,” says Than. “It changed my life. It’s very good.”
Than is very grateful for the support she received from Robyn on her pathway to employment.
“My favourite teacher, her name is Robyn,” she says. “Every day, if I need her, I go to her. She helped me with everything. She said I can go to English class every Thursday. I like to find a job, and she said ‘okay, Spotless’ and I follow her.”
Delighted with the program
Petra says that Spotless is delighted with the results of the Learn Local program. “Spotless were losing staff from their entry level positions. And now they’ve got loyal, local employees.”
Spotless rosters three shifts of cleaners every day for the hospital. The terms of employment are permanent part-time, and the range of start and finish times gives staff the flexibility that suits their circumstances.
Robyn explains that Spotless have been very accommodating, willing to identify and acknowledge barriers to employment and to then take action to address these. Creating shifts that allow mothers to work during school hours was a game changer.
The first ‘Start Working in Cleaning’ pilot program was run in 2021. There have been four rounds to date, and almost every participant is working either with Spotless or another employer. The next program already has eight eager participants on the waitlist.
Spotless is happy to have a workforce of people who want to work and who come to work on time and ready to go. The hospital is delighted to have its round-the-clock need for capable cleaning staff fulfilled. And the new recruits have employment and opportunity, where they’d previously only known disadvantage.
With the LCMS - Spotless program resulting in such positive outcomes, plans are now underway to tap into Petra’s contacts in the food processing organisations around Bendigo and for LCMS to develop an appropriate Learn Local course to get more of the community into safe and stable work in this industry area.
Everyone involved in the Learn Local program agrees it’s another brilliant example of a community designed solution to a local employment and training dilemma.