Is our industry competent?

Jon Vanstone, chair of Certass, starts his new monthly Glass Times column with his view on competency in the industry.

A recurring question in government and industry forums is: is the glazing installer competent? Current impetus is from the introduction of Each Home Counts Quality Mark and the Grenfell disaster.

Those who see the market as a true vocation are significantly different to those aiming to simply make a few quid. Your average local installer is part of the community and running a family business. Any call-back makes a significant dent in their finances, so their professionalism is top-notch.

The glazing sector qualifications authority, and its financially supported affiliate, is desperately trying to influence BSI and government to make vocational qualifications mandatory by means of the PAS consultations. This would be at the exclusion of the experienced worker route under which most glazing installers comply, who already bring significant skill to industry.

This exclusion is in contradiction to many other sectors, and something which Certass is campaigning seriously against. It has already been dismissed in the energy sector by MCS, roofing sector by Roofcert, and electrical industry by EAS.

Advocates for mandatory vocational qualifications use the gas industry’s qualified workforce as an example, but that model has proven that qualifications alone do not work, hence the heightened inspection rates mandated by HSE in the new gas contract that was awarded to Capita this month.

Experienced worker exclusion would have a sizeable impact and there is no evidence in other sectors to suggest that going ahead with it would do anything other than turn installers off from the programmes designed to raise confidence in our sector.

With an industry skills shortage, the responsibility falls on the influencers to do more, especially those who extract a sizeable financial toll on the market.

It’s time to stop and look at ourselves. The problems of the industry are not always at the consumer’s door, but rather in the institutions who are expected – and should – drive forward positive influence. The time has come to unite and prove ourselves publicly to be the quality tradesman that we already are and find ways of making compliance easy for the competent installers.

Certass TA has pledged to take on this responsibility but it’s likely that we will be a lone voice. Its funding structure means that policy is designed around industry demands, and no one company has enough influence that it gains a board seat.

So, is our industry competent? Overall, I would say yes, but we do need to modernise and diversify. The real question is: are our industry influencers competent to represent us? Or are they leading us up a darkened alley to the benefit of the few?