I had a meeting with Joe Martoccia of Ultraframe at the end of January, and one of the points that came up was how the old fashioned sales people who started 30 years ago are now ready for retiring. Probably a good thing. Yes they might be good at what they do, but their high pressure hard-sell tactics did our industry no good while they worked in it so hopefully by them leaving, it might help us clean up the industry a bit. But then the question about replacing them came up.

As far as I can tell, there is a distinct lack of young people, both men and women, coming into our industry. It is a worrying trend as those coming up to retirement age are leaving posts which may never be filled. Why is this?

There’s probably a few reasons. First of all is reputation. Our industry has a rather tatty one. I remember my dad saying when I was young (bear in mind he was a salesman at the time) not to get into double glazing! And this was from a guy who was working as one at the time, what does that tell you?! But, like any child, I didn’t listen to him, and now I work for him in our business! But this is a nationwide problem. How is our industry going to attract young professionals if everyone out there thinks our industry is undesirable and considered a last option? We always think about our bad reputation harming our business, but it is also harming our potential workforce as well. This has to change.

Employment is probably an issue too. Many are self-employed, like myself. Personally, I don’t mind as it makes me work harder for my money so both the customer and the company gets the best out of me. But to tell any potential new people that they would have to be self employed and that if they didn’t sell anything they wouldn’t get paid, well that isn’t going to attract them is it? Ironically, I’m all for the self-employed thing, but for the good of the industry it is only the prospect of proper employment that will attract new sales people.

The installations side plays a part too I feel. There aren’t really any dedicated, long established apprenticeship schemes out there specifically for windows and doors. It is these sorts of schemes that can reach out to the 16 year olds who don’t wish to be in education but want to develop a career over time. Whether you like the quality of the current crop of apprentice schemes out there or not, the mere fact is plumbing, plastering, building and many other trades have them whereas our industry doesn’t. I know there are steps being taken now to try and rectify this, but I fear it’s not enough. A fully funded, Government backed course teaching young men and women how to install windows and doors correctly I think would provide a massive boost to our industry and probably boost the overall image of our installation business.

Youth in our industry is important. The younger generation have grown up with the technology we use today so are best placed to make the most of it. They have also grown up with a much more educated consumer, which means using the hard-sell and high pressure tactics won’t work. Again this is a good thing as our industry doesn’t need to be lumbered with those sorts of selling techniques. What is certain is that we need an injection of youth in all areas of our industry soon, otherwise I can see a rather damaging age gap forming.