A co-ordinated and consistent approach to training and education

Building Our Skills held a conference at Liniar House in Derbyshire on November 7 in a bid to raise awareness of the growing skills crisis and to discuss ways in which companies in the fenestration industry can attract and train people.

Welcoming delegates, and introducing the speakers, brand ambassador John Ogilvie said: “For some time now, many employers and the industry media have been acknowledging a growing skills gap and bemoaning the problems this is causing.

“Fenestration is largely unknown among those thinking of a career – educators don’t recognise it, and parents don’t aspire for their children to join it. We need to change this.”

Building Our Skills, he said, is a strategic initiative designed to give the industry a single voice and to help bridge this skills gap.

Joanne Taylor from Fit For Trade set about painting a picture of the fenestration as it stands, including: 200,000 young people aged under 20 have left the construction industry since 2009; 175,000 reported EU workers have left the construction industry since 2016 (not necessarily due to the effects of Brexit); and a third of fenestration tradespeople are aged 50+.

“Our industry is good at working with itself, but not others,” Joanne said.

This inadvertently led to poor promotion, demonstrated by a set of trade Top Trump cards, designed to broaden the horizons of students looking to start a career. Under the ‘max salary’ category, a tiler could expect to earn £38K, a fence installer could expect to earn £40K, and a window installer could expect to earn no more than £25K – matched only by fork lift truck drivers and network pipe operatives (whatever they are).

This theme was continued by Richard Ellam from a charity linking employers with education, who said that research has shown that a greater engagement with the world of work leads to an increase in salary at a younger age.

His charity – Education and Employers – provides a platform to help connect volunteers with schools.

Richard said that employers could do a number of things to help promote their industry to prospective employees, including sitting on boards of governors to encourage and ensure there is greater engagement between the world of work and education, as well as contributing to careers fairs.

Tracey Jackson from Howells Glazing gave a detailed presentation about the ways in which her company engages with education, including offering careers advice, a mentoring service, and work experience, as well as offering all employees an opportunity to go on an NVQ course – an obligation she said does not cost much in time or money.

“We need to make manufacturing a go-to career, not something where people end up because they can’t do other things,” she said. “Unless we tell them, they won’t choose our industry.”

Glass Times will be covering more of Howells Glazing’s work in more detail in future issues.

Delegates also got to hear about the importance of practical training from GQA Qualifications’ Mick Clayton, an overview of Building Our Skills from Chris Globe, and details of a new formal sales qualification for the fenestration industry from Sales Doctors’ Boyd Mayover.