As we continue to marvel at the insane amount of business that continues to flow through the fenestration sector in this country, its worth bearing in mind that in a variety of other sectors, including those with links to this one, the outlook and current situation is very different. Many are losing their jobs in other parts of the economy and the latest figures on the number of vacancies being posted isn’t encouraging.

The situation in the window and door sector however is very different as we know, and we are facing a very different problem to the one many others are facing and that is too much work for too few people.

For me, there is a very obvious solution here. UK fenestration should seek to become a beacon of opportunity and job creation.

Helping others to help ourselves

I don’t think it’s unreasonable to assume that most of us across most parts of the supply chain are vastly busier than expected right now. Even compared to the same time in previous years when COVID wasn’t changing the world. At our place, we spoke the other day about needing to double everyone we have right now. We could do with another surveyor/service engineer, more staff for admin, another fitting crew, another sales rep. Everything is at full tilt to the point where we’re probably over-trading.

This is a positive problem to have. Companies have more work than they can cope with. What do we all do about that? We can either continue to struggle on as we are, under-staffed, over-worked and massively stressed. Or, we can seek to take on new members of staff to ease the burden of work. Become more efficient, being able to process more work, whether its quotes, installations, fabrication or production. Personally, I prefer the latter and I know many of you guys will do too.

We are operating during a golden period here and we have to make the most of it. We do that by expanding and hiring. And with the current situation outside our sector looking pretty dicey for many other sectors, we have a chance as an industry to become a shining light amongst the gloom elsewhere. I would like to see us become more vocal as a sector, to approach and engage with those losing their jobs in other sectors to show them that a new career path in fenestration could be a really good option for them right now.

This is a two-way approach that can help both sides. An industry that is creaking under the weight of too much work being helped to manage better. Whilst at the same time providing new employment opportunities to those who have lost their previous job during the pandemic and resulting recession. It would require some joined-up thinking and a collective effort across the supply chain to formulate a plan to make this happen. But given the immense pressure we’re all under right now, and the quickly rising number of people needing to find work, I think its effort worth expending.

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Focus on youth

An immediate luxury for a fenestration company in need of new people is someone with experience. It would alleviate pressure almost instantly. However, that approach isn’t future-proof.

If we’re going to seek to expand the number of people working in this sector it has to be based around youth and young people. The generation that is just starting out their work-life or perhaps young people who have found themselves out of work in other sectors. We have to set in motion a plan to bring in a vast swathe of youth and skill which will enable our sector to train and perfect a generation that will work its way through the sector for decades to come.

We need people like Rhys from Heath Windows and Doors:

It makes me genuinely happy to see young talent succeeding in our sector like this. Proof right here that not all young people have to be tarred with the typical stereotypes. I know that Heath Windows are investing in youth more broadly across the business and when time allows I’m hoping to bring you a special feature on the business and their approach to youth and expansion.

It’s not just in installations where we should be aiming to attract youth. It needs to be across the board. There are some fantastic opportunities at the fabrication level, at sysco level, in glass, in hardware. The list goes on.

The pandemic continues to throw up opportunities in ways perhaps we could not have foreseen. But right now we have a chance to engage the 16-25 age bracket, the ones most likely to have lost their jobs in the last 6 months, and provide new employment paths whilst at the same time future-proofing our own businesses and easing some of the pressure on the supply chain.

I would urge the industry to look at what it can do to reach out and make the most of this opportunity.

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