Today marks two weeks in which the doors to FIT Show 2019 will open. For those three days it will be the industry’s biggest gathering of people. Crucially, it will be the biggest gathering of people with the power and influence to make changes where change is needed.
For me, there are two major talking points that our industry absolutely must tackle whilst we are all in the same room together. Of course, there are about a dozen things we can list as major issues for the window and door industry right now, but I have hand picked two that I believe are absolutely fundamental to the future prosperity of our sector.
Skills gap and youth
Building Our Skills, as some of you may already be aware, is a new initiative created and backed by a variety of people and companies in what is the first concerted effort to try and bring about a reversal of fortunes when it comes to skilled workers and youth.
As we know, our industry is being gradually crippled by a devastating shortage of skilled workers across the trade. Simply speak to any installer in the summer months when we’re at our busiest and many will tell you it is impossible to find a good supply and good, talented, reliable workers to be able to fulfil the work that is coming in. Some have told me in private that it has stopped their companies from being able to grow.
Add to the mix that 25% of all people in UK fenestration are due to retire within the next ten years without a fresh supply of people to replace them, and that will quite simply spell the end of hundreds, if not thousands of small companies across our sector over those years.
So to say that this is an important matter that needs immediate redress is an understatement. Therefore, what I implore all those with the money, power and influence in our industry is to get behind BoS and any other ideas that might be able to tackle a skills gap which will most certainly cause immense damage to certain parts of our industry in the next five to ten years. The FIT Show is the perfect place to make that happen. People need to back ideas, take action, not sit on their hands any longer and commit to trying to make a difference. So many at the top in this sector have made a great deal from it. It’s time to repay that success by helping to ensure that there is going to be a next generation of leaders.
Getting serious on green
Perhaps even more of an existential threat to the industry, at least the PVCu part, is the idea that it could be dropped by home owners in the coming years. There is now real momentum growing in all walks of life around the world to take concrete steps on climate change, including on how we produce, consume and recycle. Our industry very much has a role to play in this.
For me, PVCu due to the nature of the product is the sector at risk here. The timber and aluminium parts of our market have a part to play too, but it’s PVCu that could be in peril soon, simply because of it’s image.
Of course the “u” in PVCu stands for un-plasticized, which means the plastic element has been removed. Yet they’re still known as plastic windows. That’s a marketing issue we have to tackle, and soon. There is an enormous anti-plastic movement growing, and we won’t be able to avoid it unless we take actions to demonstrate to home owners that the PVCu window industry can go forward as a sustainable and eco-friendly part of the wider building materials landscape.
For me, I am OK with plastics being used. The issue is how they are being dealt with once used, and how that material is being put to good use once it’s first lifespan has ended. This goes for all materials to be clear. Only until now has the world really woken up to the immense damage we have all done by not taking into consideration the life of any product once it’s has been used or consumed.
At the FIT Show, I will be taking a very keen interest in what companies are doing to ensure that their businesses are contributing as little damage as possible to climate change and their local environments. As far as I see it, no company operating in our industry should now be without an environmental policy and a clear commitment to recycling.
What I would also like to see is every single systems company operating in the UK right now to commit to the closed loop production cycle. That is in short, to make sure that every single bit of profile produced for windows and doors, or any other product, finds its way back to their recycling facilities to be turned into new windows and doors again. By doing so, not only would you be cutting out immense amounts of material being sent to landfill or worse, but also investing in a future industry that will be huge in scale.
Our industry cannot afford to be ignorant of the change that is now taking place. As an industry, we don’t like change all that much. So many of us are stuck in our ways, happy with the little niches we have carved for ourselves. But if we ignore this, if we are ignorant to changing public attitudes, then we’ll find out the hard way when consumers start to ditch products on mass for ones they believe to be kinder to the environment.
Lets see what exhibitors bring to the table in a couple of weeks time.
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