There’s been schemes, groups, initiatives and all manner of other efforts. But the skills and youth gap is worse than ever. Our industry has done a great deal of talking within itself about the problem. We know with incredible detail the range of issues that have caused the problem we find ourselves in.
However, if we are to really get serious about trying to attract youth to the fenestration sector, then we have to get out of our seats and into the education sector.
Go to where youth is
For as long as I have been in this industry we have always been talking about the lack of youth and talent in fenestration. A brain drain of talent leaving our sector to go elsewhere, coupled with people retiring, and a lack of new people coming in to fill those gaps.
I have been writing about this for just about the entire length DGB has existing, and have warned that at some point all of this would bite hard. We are at that point where things really are biting hard, with installers, fabricators, systems companies, hardware and glassmakers all short of the staff they need to be able to expand and grow.
Our industry has always done a pretty good job of talking to itself about the problem. Analysing the causes, knowing the effects and problems. But one thing it has not done well in is to rectify the problem.
We have had various ideas, groups, initiatives and so on. Lots of talk, very little action to back it up in the main. Not that everyone remains stagnant. I spoke to VEKA at the NFA Winners Event last Saturday and they explained that they regularly held talks in schools and colleges to put their name in front of young talent and inspire youth to come to our sector.
But as a whole, we’re not doing nearly enough. Social media posts aren’t enough. Group therapy sessions about the problem aren’t enough. If the UK fenestration really wants to get serious about trying to solve the problem then we’re all going to have to get off our backsides and get in front of the kids that we’re trying to attract.
That means going into schools and colleges and talking to assemblies where the subject is careers. Or going to career fairs at schools or other institutions. My friend online Calum Williams has organised a talk at a school in January through Building Our Skills and Inspiring The Future. He will talk to the next generation of young people we are desperately going to need.
We need more of this. We need CEO’s of larger companies to tell their story of how they made their way to the top. We need installers to show young people how rewarding and well paid a career in fenestration can be. We need fabricators to explain that what we do is a craft and nothing like what is portrayed in White Gold.
Use the platforms kids use
When it comes to engaging with young people, the fenestration sector has to go to where they are. They don’t read magazines or newspapers. They don’t watch TV. They use their phones and tablets and they use social media. Whether you believe that is a good thing or not is irrelevant. The fact is that apps like TikTok, Instagram and others are where they are, so that is where we must go.
Video content is one of the other major tools we have to be doing more with. YouTube has brought out its shorts platform, where creators can post videos of up to no more than one minute long, which is the same basic principle on other platforms and is incredibly popular with young people.
I often hear the claim that this has made young people lazy. I don’t like that at all. We’re tarring all young people with the same brush when that is simply not right. Remember when we all complain about the good companies being tarred with the bad brush due to the actions of some rogue companies? Let’s not do it to the generation we’re trying to come work for us.
Whether you’re a young person, middle-aged or older, a person is motivated if you can engage with them effectively and get them interested in the subject matter. I fully believe that the fenestration sector has plenty to offer any person of any age. Career progression, above-average earning potential, job satisfaction, even exercise for those that go into the world of fitting. There is lots to show off to people, we just need to go to them to make them see it.
That means committing to making video content on the platforms people use. We cannot expect them to come to us. If we wait for that we’ll be waiting forever. The time is now to be as proactive as possible. Get in front of many people as possible and shout loud about the benefits of a career in fenestration.
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Well said but we need to cut the red tape and make it easier for companys to take on young people .alot of customer I speak to about this say they would be happy to subsidize there child employment if they end up with a trade .