The kids are alright

Tom Butler
Tom Butler

By Tom Butler, head of sales and marketing, Glass & Glazing Federation (GGF).

We’ve spoken previously about how the glass and glazing industry has a big problem when it comes to awareness of our sector as a potential career for school leavers.

That awareness is pitifully low currently and we are faced with a long-term battle to give the sector the recognition it deserves.

Where to start? Well, in April the GGF and FENSA attended the National Apprenticeship & Education Event at Millennium Point in Birmingham. We were one of approximately 40 exhibitors ranging from colleges, training providers and big brands such as Ford, Jaguar and The Army, all looking to attract the best and brightest.

I have been in the industry since 2019. I’ve attended numerous events held by several companies that were rightly heralded as a success, and yet I have not attended or partaken in a more worthwhile day than the recent apprenticeship event in Birmingham.

We know that there is no silver bullet to solving the skills shortage that industry will be consumed by in the coming years and we’re not expecting thousands of job applications off the back of one event. But each time we take the time to engage with the next generation, who will carry the flame for an industry we are all so passionate about, it will help enormously.

The next generation

And what of the students themselves that were there on the day? Personally, I found them to be engaged, intrigued, inquisitive and genuinely interested in the opportunities our industry could provide for them.

Yes, they asked a lot about how much money they would/could be earning, but didn’t you do the same at that age? I remember precisely my first pay cheque (at £3.60 an hour) and thinking I was a millionaire.

They also asked about a healthy working environment (would you have asked about that at 16?!), training opportunities, the opportunity to be creative within their role and showed a real desire to learn new skills.

The teachers

Equally pleasingly was the response from dozens of teachers that we spoke to on the day. Every single one loved the variety of roles the industry had available and we had several requests to go and speak at careers days going forward.

There was a desire to engage with us as a sector and by actively engaging in industry events and fostering genuine relationships with educational establishments we are now beginning to open doors to new avenues and a talented generation wanting to learn.

The numbers

There were just over 2,500 school leavers who attended on the day and we had meaningful chats with 357 of them (we counted) who all received information about our industry, the GGF Skilled Pathways Scheme and training opportunities for them to look into.

Over 30 local schools and colleges were spoken to and valuable connections with training providers were made.

It’s a start, and one that we intend to build on. The GGF have already committed to attending two further apprenticeship events in the next six months in London and Newcastle.

We would love to see GGF members join us on the stand so they can see for themselves how fantastic these event are and what a positive impact they are having for the whole sector and if we continue to nurture these connections with schools and their students we will start to make headway for the industry.