Editorial: Will this industry walk the talk when it comes to training?

We need ideas to encourage the next generation.
Patrick Flannery
November 29, 2018
By
Fenestration B.C. has shut down its Red Seal glazier training program and the Provincial Glaziers Association of Alberta has put its Master Glazier program on hiatus, in both cases due to lack of enrollment.
Obviously, there is some kind of disconnect between what is said in public about the need for skilled workers and the actual situation on the ground.

Demand in our industry is strong. Contractors tell me all the time that their primary challenge is finding good people to do all the work on offer. Yet when the rubber hits the road, companies in this industry seem unwilling to make the slightest investment to address this issue. The PGAA Master Glazier courses cost around $750 each and were offered after hours. That’s the cost of a client dinner with a bit of drinking afterwards.

The trope that it doesn’t make sense to train workers because they will soon leave is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Your only hope to retain good workers, or even find out if they are any good, is to show them you take your business and your employees seriously. If you think training and losing workers is expensive, try not training them and keeping them on.

Maybe you have done that and maybe the equation still comes out on the side of using unskilled workers overseen by someone who knows what they are doing. Sure, we’d all like our inboxes to fill up with fully ticketed journeypersons ready to work at or below union wages every time we are hiring. While we’re at it, we can wish for free beer at the bar. It ain’t happening. I think this industry has quietly accepted a situation where we hire workers barely able to do the job, pay them the least we can get away with, cream off the occasional star, pay them a bit more as a supervisor then task them to keep the rest in line.

If that’s the reality, fine. You know your business and how to make money in it. But we need to acknowledge that the above approach will never generate a pool of qualified tradespeople who can be relied upon to produce quality work. And we need to acknowledge that without such a pool the advance of technology, quality and corporate growth in this industry will be slowed because the innovative business owners of tomorrow come from the skilled workforce of today. I get it; those are big picture problems and you have company to run. And, what the heck, it’s not as if Canadian skyscrapers are falling down.

But I guess I’m a dreamer. I can’t help but wonder if there is some system that will attract competent young people to the trade, give them the training you want and see them rewarded with fulfilling and lucrative careers as glaziers. So I’m going to go ahead and host a discussion of this topic at Top Glass on April 17 in Mississauga. I’ll be joined on stage by a panel with representatives from the Finishing Trades Institute, the German embassy and the new Architectural Glass and Metal Technician program to kick around ideas for how our recruitment and training in the trades might be improved. Hope to see you there for this thought-provoking conversation. •

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