I was on the way in to the office this morning listening to an interview on BBC Radio Five Live with Ugo Monye. He was explaining that as a black rugby player, he was seen as a role model for people like Maro Itoje who now plays for England’s rugby union team and now the British & Irish Lions. It was a good interview, and the points raised about role models attracting new youth and talent to their sport got me thinking about our own situation.

Our industry is full of talent at all levels of the sector. We also have an array of business leaders who have worked their way through the ranks at various companies, or started their own businesses from scratch to rise to the top of their respective fields.

We have a youth and skills shortage in our industry. Is it now time we promote some of our most successful people as role models in an attempt to win over school leavers and those looking to get into a trade?

No shortage of successful people

The great advantage we have as an industry is that we have a wide variety of very successful business men and women who have worked their way to the top of the companies they work for, or have started their own businesses in this industry and have done a very good job of making them succeed. Our talent pool at the top of the sector is rich, in all senses of that word.

I think our industry still has an image problem with school leavers and those looking to get into a trade. I think we’re perhaps still seen as a bit of a grubby industry, one you should avoid rather than get involved with, and with a reputation alongside MPs and second hand car sales people. Internally we know this to be wrong.

I see our industry’s businesses leaders as examples of people who have made a success of being in the window and door industry. Whether it be in machinery, fabrication, installation, foils, glass, hardware, we have some very talented and respected people. I believe it to be the time that we start to use some of our leaders in the public and in the media as a way to attract young people and more skilled people into our industry.

It should be a mix of men and women as well. As far as I see it we don’t have anywhere near enough women in our industry. That is a talent pool we have ignored for far too long.

Part of a wider drive

The skills gap and the lack of youth crisis in our industry is not going away any time soon. We’re still short of quality fitters, fabricators, surveyors etc, and unless something changes dramatically, the problems we’ve got in our industry now are only going to get worse.

We should be using our industry’s leaders and most well known characters as part of a wider drive to attract young blood and new skills into our industry.

The education network has a role to play here too. I would like to see the secondary school system, sixth forms and colleges start to promote trades much more aggressively. And it’s not as if there isn’t a demand for people with trades. We’ve got a massive housing shortage, we have to get building, and that means having enough of the right people to get the job done. We need plasterers, plumbers, builders, surveyors, electricians, roofers, window installers and the like to get the job done.

Trades have long been ignored by the education system, with schools pushing very hard to get as many pupils into University to get a degree. It’s been massively unbalanced for at least a decade, if not longer. We’re now seeing the fruits of this with a shortage of the right people. Even imported labour isn’t enough to sustain the levels we need.

I believe that we should be using our most successful, brightest and best as part of a wider solution to attract youth, talent and labour into our workforce. I don’t think it is something we have tried yet as an industry, to my knowledge at least anyway. And if people can see realistic opportunities to make a successful career in windows and doors the we might be able to turn the tide a little bit.

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