If ever there was a person best placed to comment on issues of people within the UK window and door sector is is Mick Clayton of GQA Qualifications. He is the CEO and his company is the leading provider of qualifications to the window and door industry. He is in touch with a huge network of training centres up and down the UK, with each of those training centres having their own network of installers that they work with. If he says he’s worried, we should take him seriously.

“There is no upside”

There is no doubting that the industry is still enjoying favourable trading conditions. In fact I rarely see anything negative about levels of business. Whilst this is a good thing, the issue Mick addresses in a great post on MyTradeTV is the lack of installers. This is something that I have addressed here on DGB more than once, with the lack of youth a particular bug bear of mine.

During his post, it was this paragraph that stood out in particular for me:

There is no upside to this at all; it is not only individual companies which will suffer – the industry as a whole will suffer. As installers retire and new fitters don’t come through the industry will start to decline; without the qualified, experienced fitter being around to mentor and train newcomers who have a genuine interest in the industry there will inevitably be an increase in installation problems leading to costly rectification work and reputational damage for the industry. Consumers will inevitably spend their money in other home improvement sectors before they think about windows and doors.

He’s not wrong. With experienced fitters leaving the industry and very few taking their place, the industry’s skill set is becoming increasingly limited as the years roll on.

He goes on:

What we need to do is to educate young people to the fact that the window industry is a great place to be, an industry where there are great rewards and where with the right commitment from employers they can undertake genuine apprenticeships and learning which will stand them in good stead for later in life.
There are some negative, downtrodden people reading this who will refuse to believe that this industry is a good place for young people to cut their teeth. But I firmly agree with Mick on this issue. As in any industry, with hard work and dedication, there is no reason why young people in any position in the industry can get a great deal out of it.

Read Mick Clayton’s full post on MyTradeTV

Time running out

The industry isn’t going to slow down over the coming years. I know the latest Palmer Market Research report says otherwise, but I believe that’s overly negative. For the rest of this decade the industry is going to speed up in innovation. It is going to get better at attracting customers. Installation levels will increase.

Yet I see no concrete moves to make any changes which will try to attract new installers to the industry. The problems that we already know are there will continue to get worse. Industry standards will continue to fall. Lead times will continue to increase. All combined means the industry will find it harder and harder to service customers with reasonable ease.

Time is running out to turn things around. I fear we are sleep walking into a crisis, and I believe Mick thinks the same.

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