I saw a tweet yesterday for a job at Aldi which advertised a salary of £42,000 and an Audi company car to go with it. After four years it rises to a stellar £70,000. The position is an area manager, with the potential to manage three or four stores. Training lasts 1 year, with the potential to start running a store after 14 weeks. Apparently candidates needs a 2.1 degree and a hard working attitude. Aldi is of course one of the major supermarket discounters but is one of the fastest growing supermarket chains in the UK and has been stealing market share, along with Lidl, from the established supermarkets for a while now.

So why would someone looking for a job look at the glazing industry when there is a fairly cushty job going at a rapidly growing supermarket when many cannot even get near Aldi’s starting salary of £42k?

Poor pay

Lets get some perspective. The average yearly salary in the UK at the moment is £27,600. The area manager position being advertised at Aldi is over £14k higher than that.

In our industry right now we have a huge skills shortage that is only getting worse it seems. We scratch our heads as to what the problem may be when it comes to attracting new young talent. I have previously pointed the finger at the education system. In fact I wrote about it just the other day. You can click here to read that post and leave your thoughts.

But I think we also need to look at how much we offer in pay to those who currently work in our industry and those potentially looking at a career in our industry.

For example, lets hypothesise if an installer were to employ a fitter, I know many don’t but hear me out on this one. Say they did on average 8 hours of work per day, five days a week. That would be 40 hours a week, which is a decent amount for a person doing a physical job outdoors. Lets say they are paid £15 per hour. That would give them £600. Then take around 20% off for tax, that reduces take-home pay to £480. In reality it is slightly less than this when you take into account things like National Insurance contributions and the new pension schemes. But for the sake of round numbers lets keep it at £480.

Over the course of the year, that fitter would take home £24,960. That’s less than the UK national average yearly salary. That’s nearly £15k less than the starting salary being advertised at the area manager vacancy at Aldi. This is of course on the assumption that a fitter is employed by their company, so items like a van, helper and materials are likely to be paid by the company as well.

But lets be honest with ourselves, would you be willing to get up at the crack of dawn, in varying weather conditions, with often home owners who are hard to deal with, for less than £25k a year? Probably not. For anyone looking at a job in glazing, why would they work in such conditions for that amount of money, if they could work in relative comfort as a manager at a supermarket?

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Time to take a look at ourselves

Obviously the scenario above is on the assumption that the fitter is employed at £15 per hour on a 40 hour week. £15 is well above the National Minimum Wage and National Living Wage.

But many fitters are still self employed, often working on a set figure per window and door fitted. Still, knowing what I know, many installers working this way would only match that same employed scenario above, or less.

If we want to help solve our industry’s skills crisis, it is time we took a long hard look at what we pay the people to do the very hardest work. And I don’t just mean installers. Those who work on factory floors, in production, in remedial departments. Those whose jobs takes their toll on their bodies far more than it does a sales rep or company hierarchy.

Those who have a trade are the ones we rely on to deliver and install the things many of us sell. Good pay is one way to keep this demographic of our industry happy and motivated. So we have to ask ourselves: are we paying enough?

The answer is probably not. There will of course be some very well paid installers out there, but on the whole, my guess is that many are either on or below the UK national average yearly salary. If we are to attract fresh young talent as well as established talent from other industries, then we have to start looking at what they are paid. For example, we are looking for fitters at the moment, and some of them are being paid £30 per window by the companies they are working for right now. A pittance when you think about it.

Going back to the youth cause for a moment, we have to train a new generation that with hard work brings rewards in our industry. A young person starting out should not be handed a salary that should be commanded by someone who has worked hard for a number of years to rise through the ranks. But that young person should be paid enough to make them want to work hard to earn more. It should be at the very least the minimum wage, if not better, but not at the same level as a more senior fitter. Where would be the incentive for them to work hard?

The only way this will be resolved is for companies to put their hands in their pockets and up the pay offer for existing and potential talent. The chances of that however are slim to non. With rising costs and margins still recovering from the financial crisis, it’s highly unlikely. Fenestration companies would have to raise their prices, with a negative knock-on effect for home owners.

So we have a problem. We have a skills crisis created by a uni-obsessed education system, compounded by wages that appear on the face of it to be very undervalued. An industry that will be unable to improve that pay offer, and a national apprenticeship scheme that is yet to get off the ground. There will come a day when this crisis really does start to bite, and we may not be that far away from that day.

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