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Fenestration Forum – Where will our future workers come from?

Mind the millennials

June 6, 2017  By Brian Burton

Looking ahead, the architectural glass industry will encounter a number of significant human resource challenges over the next decade. Near the top of the list is the fact that almost 250,000 skilled construction workers are expected to retire over the next decade. It’s also possible that some workers in their 60’s may also choose to reduce their commitment to working full time, or contemplate early retirement. This larger trend will have at least some long-term impact on glazing and glass-related industries.

Meanwhile, the market demand for new construction, remodelling and commercial construction is expected to remain high in most parts of the country over the same period, meaning most companies will need to augment their workforce or replace skilled workers who may retire or cut back on hours. This means you should be contemplating action to attract and retain new, younger workers.

That means creating a workplace that appeals to millennials. According to market forecasters, this term refers to younger workers who were born between the years of 1980 and 2000. In Canada, the best guess is there are somewhere around nine million millennials. In 2015, they passed baby boomers and generation X as the single largest generation in the workforce.

Of course, they are your customers of the future as well, so the more you know about this demographic group, the better.


There is a lot of debate among forecasting professionals about millennials: who they are, what they want and how they will impact the market and the workplace. One characteristic that demographers do agree on is the fact that this millennial generation is that quite different than the ones that preceded it. Typical millennial employee expectations include regular and frequent internal feedback on performance and progress. As a group, they seek job flexibility and an ability to remain engaged, looking for positions that provide a sense of purpose. Job opportunities where they can utilize state-of-the-art technologies are preferred. Millennials tend to look for collaborative cultures rather than competitive workplaces.They are also looking for variety in the form of career challenges, the opportunity for personal development and the chance to move up the corporate ladder. These younger workers generally place more emphasis on establishing a balance between their day-to-day jobs and their other interests. They are also very well connected and put a high value on both their own personal freedom and their ever-present personal technology.

In many ways, the expectations of these new, younger workers are actually a blessing in disguise for the construction sector. When you think about it, construction sites offer many of the elements millennials say they are seeking. Glaziers work outside, away from the direct control of supervisors. The purpose of the work is clear and the rewards for success immediate and obvious. The chance is there to use lots of interesting technology, including spider cranes, drones and BIM software. Work/life balance can be more of a challenge with the demanding schedule of a construction project, but if you get millennials to buy in to the work, this can be overcome. Millennials expect to be treated like shareholders rather than employees.

As a starting point to making changes that might make your company more attractive to millennials, you might ask your existing employees – especially ones who are retiring or thinking about early retirement – what you could do better to create a more engaging workplace. You might be surprised at the feedback you get from someone who is familiar with your organization from long experience working there. You can also learn a lot from hiring a Millennial for the summer or on contract.

You might even find it worth the investment to go outside your company for professional help with these changing human resource needs.

Brian is a construction writer from Ottawa Ontario who served on the CSA’s Fenestration Installation Technician Certification Program Personnel Committee. You can contact Brian at or learn more by visiting Burton’

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