The suggestion to participate in the Erasmus+ project came from our school’s project coordinator. My specialty is cleaning services, and my thoughts went to Finland, since it offers the greatest opportunity to learn and gain knowledge that I can bring back to Estonia. Kuopio was the definite destination, but I got to choose which hotel I wanted to do my work practice at and where I wanted to stay the nights. The time frame was from 24 September to 7 October 2017.
All of my ticketing and information had been arranged so well that all I had to take care of was myself. It was my first time travelling outside the country by myself, so I felt a bit anxious. Despite that, I arrived without any mishaps. I had familiarised myself with the route using Google Maps, and once there, I just had to follow it.
I stayed at the hotel of the school, Savon ammatti- ja aikuisopisto. During the first two days, I was able to get acquainted with the school and participate in classes. On the first day, I told the students about my school, and they told me about their town, what places I should go to, what I should eat, and what I should buy as souvenirs. It was very interesting and informative. On the second day, I participated in lessons for my vocation. For a cleaning services teacher, it was like paradise – the school taught about cleaning from every angle, and they had so many different tools and opportunities! For example, cleaning an office or a hospital or a business, as well as cleaning management. I got very many good pictures and proof that cleaning education is still very much in its infancy in Estonia. We have the potential to increase pride in our work and bring in new perspectives. In Estonia, people still don’t typically choose this profession, since it is considered embarrassing, like “you can always be a cleaner” and that you don’t need any schooling for it. My strong conviction is that training is necessary for cleaning services and that opportunities need to be created for it. Compared to the Finnish school, the work I do seems crude in comparison, since I have limited access to materials. I was especially jealous of the wide selection of textbooks.
I spent the next 8 days at Spa Hotel Rauhalahti. It was great that everything was organised and ran like clockwork. In the morning, there was a car waiting for me outside the building, on the dot; the hotel reception was also already expecting me, and they directed me through the correct door, behind which the hotel hostess was waiting. I familiarised myself with the hotel, I was offered food and coffee (it was like that every lunch), and then I was appointed as someone’s job shadower. The hotel was situated on a large property, where they had both suites with guest apartments and a hostel. I was able to stay in each building for one day, and during different shifts – on the morning and night shift. I was able to observe and partake in different tasks and saw how a hotel manages its cleaning.
A difference from Estonian hotel cleaning practices is that the Finns work in pairs a lot. It is more fun, faster, and more efficient. Typically, the employees had attended trainings and were able to explain why they did things a certain way. They were also curious about the differences between Estonian and Finnish hotel cleaning practices, and I pointed out that the biggest difference was that in Estonia, work is done individually. Thinking about it more once I was back in Estonia, I found another big difference – in Estonia, a lot of emphasis is put on external beauty and appearance, while in Finland, the focus in on cleanliness. As an example, in Estonia it is very important that the duvet cover and pillowcases be put on so that the seams are on the inside. In the Rauhalahti hotel, they paid no attention to that, since the difference between the two is so unnoticeable, and the customer likely wouldn’t notice it. At the same time, they focused on the cleanliness of the bathroom and surfaces, which would also go unnoticed by the customer.
For cleaning the swimming pool and the wet rooms, you need to have a certificate that proves that you have passed the necessary training, since the cleanliness of these rooms affects a lot of people. They cut no corners when it came to cleanliness; microbial filth is usually invisible, and you need to be conscious of that when removing it, even if, to the naked eye, nothing seems to change. Here, the country has engaged in cleaning education, since Finns appreciate the importance of cleanliness.
In conclusion, I can say that this kind of learning by working is extremely important for teachers. Such experiences are invaluable; they can only be gained by personal participation. I definitely wish to go back to the Savon ammatti- ja aikuisopisto school and delve deeper into the content being taught there, since they have a lot of good ideas about cleaning training that we could incorporate. For example, instead of teaching cleaning services, the focus could be on teaching the skills for being an office custodian, a meeting organiser, or customer centre custodian/manager, since those vocations seem trendier and more interesting. That’s how they do it in Finland.
Thank you, Erasmus+ programme, for such an invaluable experience!
Janne Toom is Teacher of household and cleaning services at Rakvere Vocational School