Caretaker/Maintenance Person

The Job and What's Involved

Caretakers are responsible for maintaining buildings and grounds. A caretaker will check that everything within the building is working effectively and efficiently. If there is a small problem, the caretaker will fix it; but if there is a bigger issue, such as an electrical or heating fault, the caretaker will organise for the appropriate person to come and repair it.

Every day will be different, but duties are likely to include:

  • Unlocking and locking the premises at the beginning and end of each day.
  • Making sure that the premises are clean, tidy and safe to use.
  • Turning the heating on and off.
  • Small maintenance jobs, such as changing light bulbs or fixing dripping taps.
  • Touching up paintwork.
  • Liaising with people who use the building.
  • Liaising with external contractors, such as plumbers and electricians.

Caretakers often work in schools, so some of the time is spent making sure that rooms are set up to suit the activity that the space is used for, e.g. dining, taking exams or parents' evenings.

Caretakers are sometimes responsible for the security of premises. This may involve monitoring closed circuit television (CCTV) and other surveillance equipment to guard against vandalism or break-ins. They may need to report some incidents to the police.

Caretakers may take on responsibilities such as the management of cleaning staff, ordering and maintaining stocks of products that are used regularly, and ordering furniture and equipment.

Other tasks may include:

  • Storing equipment and supplies safely.
  • Understanding fire safety regulations, emergency procedures and the rules for evacuating the building.
  • Ensuring disabled access to the building where necessary.
  • Basic minibus maintenance.
  • Emergency cleaning.
  • Maintaining a variety of records and monitoring meter reading.

Caretakers usually work 37 hours a week, which may include early mornings, evenings and weekends. However, some work longer hours and may be on call 24 hours a day.

Part-time work may be available.

Caretakers work both indoors and outdoors. In some cases, caretakers live on the premises in purpose-built accommodation. Others, e.g. school caretakers, often choose to live close to their place of work, so it is possible to get there at short notice.

Caretakers spend a lot of their time on their feet, bending, lifting and often climbing stairs or ladders. For some jobs, protective clothing is worn, such as gloves, overalls and goggles.

Some local authorities employ mobile caretakers who look after a number of different sites using a specially equipped van. Mobile caretakers need a full, clean driving licence.

To work in schools, caretakers will need to undergoCriminal Records Bureau (CRB).

Assistant caretakers may earn around £11,000 a year. Experienced caretakers may earn around £16,000 a year and senior and mobile caretakers may earn £25,000 a year.

There may be additional payments for working shifts and overtime. If accommodation is provided with the job, the salary may be lower.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

There are around 72,660 caretakers in the UK. Employers include local authorities, industrial companies, churches, private clubs, companies and private individuals. Caretakers may also work for private cleaning contractors.

Caretakers work in a variety of buildings, including schools, office blocks, factories and leisure complexes, or in residential areas such as blocks of flats or housing estates. Large schools and office blocks may employ several caretakers.

There are opportunities throughout the UK, although the majority of jobs are in towns and cities.

Jobs are advertised in local papers, Jobcentre Plus offices and on websites. There is a lot of competition for jobs.

Education and Training

Caretakers do not need qualifications, although some GCSE's may be an advantage. Maths, English and practical subjects such as resistant materials are useful, as are practical DIY skills.

The Diploma in construction and the built environment may be relevant for this area of work.

Most school caretakers have experience of other jobs and professions, such as building or security work.

In larger establishments, it may be possible to start as an assistant caretaker.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

The level of training varies from employer to employer. Most training takes place in the workplace, normally under the supervision of an experienced person.

Trainee caretakers may be able to work towards NVQ Levels 1 and 2 in cleaning and support services. It may also be advantageous to work towards the Cleaning Supervisory Skills Certificate offered by the British Institute of Cleaning Science (BICSc).

Training may be available covering specific areas, such as dealing with asbestos, the Care of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH), fire regulations and basic DIY skills.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

Caretakers should:

  • Be responsible, honest and reliable.
  • Be practical and good with their hands.
  • Stay calm in an emergency, e.g. if there is a break-in or a fire.
  • Have good verbal communication skills.
  • Be prepared to start work early in the morning.
  • Have some budgeting skills.
  • Understand safe working practices and health and safety legislation.
  • Have some understanding of building construction and design.
  • Be able to interpret technical information.
  • Be well organised and able to prioritise their own work.
  • Be happy to work on their own and capable of supervising other people.
  • Be reasonably fit.

Your Long Term Prospects

Within education, promotion for caretakers may mean moving to a larger school, college or university, where they will supervise other staff such as cleaners, gardeners or a team of caretakers.

For those aiming at promotion it may be an advantage to study for:

  • The Chartered Institute of Housing and the Chartered Institute of Building Level 3 Certificate in Housing Maintenance.
  • NVQ Level 3 in property and caretaking supervision, which includes the units: use resources efficiently, co-ordinate provision of supplies and equipment for caretaking operations; and contribute to site safety and security.
  • NVQ Level 4 Certificate in housing maintenance management.

Caretakers working for local authorities may move into office jobs in the housing department.

There may be management opportunities in some private cleaning contracting companies.

It may also be possible to move into facilities management, which is a growing area. There are foundation degrees available in facilities management.

Get Further Information

The British Institute of Cleaning Science (BICSc),
9 Premier Court, Boarden Close, Moulton Park, Northampton NN3 6LF
Tel: 01604 678710

The Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB),
Englemere, Kings Ride, Ascot, Berkshire SL5 7TB
Tel: 01344 630700

The Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH),
Octavia House, Westwood Way, Coventry CV4 8JP
Tel: 024 7685 1700

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