The Professional Housekeeper

I was chatting with my good friend, Jim, earlier today and reflecting on what it takes to produce a professional custodial technician.


Many years ago I was having breakfast at a church convention and one of the ministers, at the church that the convention was being held at, asked me if I had thought of obtaining the needed education to obtain a Professional Housekeeping Certificate?

I noted his kind admonishment and, considered that I already believed that I was a professional housekeeper…in many ways.

I am a full believer that custodial staff, as with any craft, can never have to much training and that certificates verifying that training are important.  However, for a person to become a professional in any field, first, requires a mindset that seeks to improve in all aspects of the discipline.


Having attended the Association of Physical Plant Administrators, week long seminars on four different occasions, I can attest that inspection of what you expect in cleanliness of a facility is vital to the success of the cleaning operation.

Also, facilities management and custodial operations have to agree on the recognized and measurable standard of custodial services that they are expecting.

It is imperative that custodial craftsman has cutting edge technology and are trained in best practices of Housekeeping Operations.

Also, and of extreme importance, is the development of the human being and dedicated career employee, that is fulfilling the indispensable service of building services maintenance.


So often, I have witnessed managers and administrators and University Leaders, treat custodial staff with a gratuitous or condescending manner.

The, common feeling, that anyone can clean, or that there must, obviously be little training or measurement in the work of…the old…or the uneducated or those lacking in motivation…and that ‘our cleaning person is…quaint… and colorful… and skilled in the art of getting out of work’…is sadly still the norm for relations with the community that is served by the skillful custodial employee.

I often pointed out that many of our staff held Bachelor’s Degrees and several Master’s Degrees.

I have admonished both Chancellors and University President’s that they did not fully realize the depth of education and ability that was at their disposal in the Building Services ranks…and that all they needed to do…was think outside the box…a little…to obtain assistance that would be vital to the recruitment and retention of our wonderful students.

For the over 25 years that I served as manager in the Building Services Department at Southern Illinois University I noted, on every occasion that was afforded to me, that the University was fortunate to have the most professional Housekeeping Staff in the State of Illinois and across the nation.


SIU’s Building Services Staff are career employees.  I have witnessed their dedication on numerous occasions, when the custodial budget was cut…as much as a million dollars, that they would not let slip the cleanliness of their University.

I know of many Building Services Staff that skipped their breaks and lunch to ensure that the University Buildings that they were responsible for…remained highly above average in cleanliness…for the students that they loved and respected.


Housekeeping is so often, a seemingly easy cut, for administration, as they attest that they must hold harmless the ‘Academic Mission’ of the University.

The custodial professionals, that it was my high honor to work with for over thirty-two years…accepted the need for budget reductions…but their importance to the ‘Academic Mission’ of the University was paramount.


Housekeeping  Professionalism is a mindset and it’s importance to the mission of the institution that it serves is as important as any component of the facility.

Something that is lost on many administrators is that Building Services Staff are so dedicated to the Community that they serve…that they will subsequently struggle to achieve a high standard of cleanliness even when they are told by management to not do so.

I saw many work slow downs during budget cuts…but the custodial staff…would not take part…because of their professional career dedication to the University and it’ s ‘Academic Mission.’


Cherish your dedicated Professional Building Services Staff!



4 responses

  1. Your words resonate what many BSW’s feel about our dedication to SIU. Thank you for expressing and sharing to others what we’re all about and what some of our educational backgrounds are. We strive to make SIU look as best as we possibly can with the time and personnel we may have. We all want SIU to be successful for generations to come. Thanks again.

    1. It is my honor to do so, my friend. 🌞

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