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Graduation day in Edmonton

A new generation of glaziers

August 17, 2011  By Jill Ramage

Feelings of pride, accomplishment and teamwork were abundant at the June
9 graduation celebration for the first-ever cohort of glazier
apprentices at SAIT Polytechnic’s satellite campus in Edmonton.

Feelings of pride, accomplishment and teamwork were abundant at the June 9 graduation celebration for the first-ever cohort of glazier apprentices at SAIT Polytechnic’s satellite campus in Edmonton. Sixteen skilled graduates will now set out to address the glazier labour shortage in Alberta, which is exactly what the program was intended to do.

Industry supporters, SAIT Polytechnic staff and faculty, and proud graduates pose for a photo following the speeches and lunchtime celebration.


It all began as a collaborative effort by the Glass Trades Association (GTA) and industry stakeholders in central and northern Alberta over three years ago with the intention of growing the trade. Starting with a survey of local employers and then approaching Calgary-based SAIT Polytechnic and Alberta Apprenticeship and Industry Training (a branch of the provincial government), the six-week-per-year, four-year program was quickly approved and classes have filled beyond original expectations.


Watching this first group of graduating apprentices take time to celebrate their achievements and success with lunch, speeches, and networking was especially rewarding to all of the supporters in attendance. Whether SAIT Polytechnic staff and faculty, government apprenticeship representatives, or the many dedicated industry partners, it was clear to see that everyone is passionate about their trade and has contributed to the cause in one way or another.

Community collaboration
Lynn Allan with Alberta Glass Company and the GTA had originally stepped up to get the ball rolling on the idea of the program in Edmonton, and also planned the graduation event. He comments, “The amount of support this program has received is tremendous. Whether it’s time, expertise, or equipment, the participation just goes to show how much everyone cares about the success of our trade, and today’s graduates are proof of that.”

Dedicated instructors, including Calgary-based Ed Dalzell, Brian Risbey and full-time Edmonton instructor Craig Stafford, were extremely proud to see their students complete the program (Gene Aquilini, also of Calgary, couldn’t make the event). As members of the industry, they say it is rewarding to witness the success of students with whom they spent many hours sharing their knowledge.

The apprenticeship program, which has already been well established and is highly regarded in Calgary, covers the basics of glass pattern cutting, fabrication, and installation, with an emphasis on safety. Offering the program in Edmonton allows employers in the area and in other provinces and territories a great opportunity because they don’t have to lose employees by sending them away for training. It also benefits students who get to take their training close to home. Student Mike Hoffmann says, “I’ve worked in the commercial glass industry since high school, but going away for training was not really an option because it’s hard to afford and I’d have nowhere to stay.”

Another excellent incentive for students who complete the program is that they receive their Journeyman’s Ticket, making them eligible to write their Red Seal Interprovincial Certificate Exam so that they can practise the trade anywhere in Canada.

Looking to the future
In addition to the success of establishing the program and celebrating its first group of graduates, it was clear that attention must continue to be paid in order to keep momentum and progress forward. A sentiment expressed in the informal discussions taking place at the graduation event was that skilled trades in general, and the glazier trade in particular, must encourage workers to have confidence in their skills to attract them to and keep them in the industry.

Following the graduation event lunch, the glazier apprentices and other attendees listened to messages of encouragement and support regarding the future of the trade from SAIT Polytechnic staff, Alberta Apprenticeship and Industry Training, and other industry representatives. 


SAIT Polytechnic’s apprenticeship program, local and provincial advisory committees, and the ongoing work of associations continue to help change mindsets, making sure education is perceived as viable and helping to grow the trade.

The results can be measured. In 2000, there were just 56 registered glazier apprentices in Alberta. Now in 2011, there are over 350. So far in Edmonton, 80 program seats have already been filled and there is currently a waitlist. Jim Brady, co-owner of Desa Glass and president of the Glass and Architectural Metals Association, attended the event, demonstrating his support and involvement. Brady says, “The trade takes care of us, so we take care of the trade.” He also indicated that, due to the success of the glazier apprenticeship program in general, industry is working with SAIT Polytechnic to develop the framework for a continuing education master glazier program, ensuring that education keeps evolving and remains relevant to current and future demands.

Apprentices can also feel encouraged and reassured about their futures in the industry, as emphasized by industry and government representatives at the event. According to a recent Construction Sector Council Forecast, the labour force for glaziers in Alberta is expected to expand by more than 22 per cent by 2019.

Russell Bridgeman, senior construction manager at PCL Construction Management, knows first-hand that these graduates will be putting their skills to good use. “They will be a huge help,” Bridgeman says. “We had a couple slow years but construction projects are definitely on the rise, especially those that include glass for exterior designs and for energy efficiency. We need workers that know how to do it right: keep the heat in and the cold out and minimize leakage. The devil’s in the details.”

It is safe to say that the efforts of all partners in this initiative have contributed to brighter futures for students such as Mike Hoffmann. “As a young guy coming in, I definitely learned a ton from my instructors and from this overall

Educating a new generation of skilled glaziers meets industry demands for a better-prepared workforce and eases worries about corporate succession and the survival of the trade.

Location:       Edmonton, Alta.
Length:          Four years
Cost:              approx. 2,600
Faculty:         SAIT School of Construction
Certificate:    Recognition of  Accomplishment

From the SAIT website: “Train as a glazier and learn to read and interpret drawings and specifications, determine the materials required and install all types of architectural aluminum windows, doorframes and hardware. This program trains you to install and replace glass, aluminum and related products in residential and commercial buildings.”

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