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Sourcing skilled labour online

March 17, 2022
By Andrew Snook

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To say there is a shortage of skilled workers available during normal times in Canada would be a serious understatement. Add in the complications brought on by a global pandemic and many companies are left struggling to fill roles through online hiring and remote interviews via phone, Zoom or one of the many other online meeting tools.

“Obviously, it’s an aging industry right now – there’s not a lot of youth in it. Some of the older people aren’t as tech savvy so we run into issues with that,” says Brett Lucier, president of Provincial Glass in London, Ont. “Doing online video interviews has been a nightmare because of the technology thing – having guys that aren’t tech savvy log in.”

Lucier has found hiring through the COVID-19 pandemic challenging over the past two years. His company has tried a wide variety of options to find skilled workers online. Some have been fairly successful, while others have not.

“Even to find them has been challenging – getting on a job bank, or on Kijiji, Indeed or social media. It has been challenging but it has come with some humorous things. I had a guy show up in a tux for a video interview,” Lucier says.

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He says the best solution for finding people through the pandemic has been tapping into his online connections.

“Honestly, word of mouth has still been the best online…just asking, ‘Do you know someone?’ on social media,” he says. “Social media has been great. There’s multiple trade business groups, so if you’re looking for a specific glazier with some experience, it’s become easier to ask that way. It’s at least a good starting point.”

Facebook has been the most useful social media tool to date for Lucier.

“We have a pretty wide net in this area. I do network quite a bit, so I have a higher number of connections to choose from, so it works pretty well,” he says.

Lucier also continues to post jobs online, but success in finding qualified candidates has varied significantly.

“For throwing up a job posting, Indeed has worked well. I avoid Kijiji and the government job bank,” he says.

One anomaly that Lucier had never experienced pre-COVID was the number of no-shows for interviews.

“You struggle to get people to apply, contact them for interviews and then, whether it was a phone call or video call, it used to be 100 percent would show up. Now, so many people are not showing up for interviews – they ghost you,” he says. “My last round I set up 12 interviews. I had a couple of really funny ones, a few terrible ones (I knew right away when I started talking to them they weren’t good), one good one, one alright one and three no-shows. Once you selected someone for an interview and they agreed to it [pre-COVID], I’d never had someone not show up.”

Even when a company is lucky enough to find an experienced candidate, that doesn’t mean that person is the right fit.

“Sometimes we find people that are very well experienced, but that can be a negative. Because the more negative experience they have, the more bad habits they have,” Lucier says. “We’ve had more luck hiring younger people with less experience – prior tool or construction experience – but have a willingness to learn. Training people coming up through the company are the best experiences I’ve had.”

Promoting the industry
While the federal and provincial governments are making some general efforts to promote the skilled trades, they certainly don’t appear to be trying to educate the general public about career opportunities within the glazing industry.

“Nine out of 10 people on the street have no idea what a glazier is. It’s not a fun, sexy trade, but it’s a necessary trade, and not a lot of kids are going into it,” Lucier says, adding that most of the people entering the trade are tradespeople from other professions. “It’s somebody that was a plumber who doesn’t want to be a plumber anymore, and he talks to the guy on site installing the windows and wants a switch – someone that knows someone in the business.”

He says that industry associations could also do more to promote the trade and provide better training opportunities.

“Plumbers, electricians and trades like that have great training programs in multiple locations, where it’s pretty limited in our industry,” Lucier says.

Glazier Nation
While many glazing contractors have been frustrated by the online hiring processes since the onset of the pandemic, one organization south of the border has gone to impressive lengths to build an online community for hiring professional glaziers all over the U.S. and Canada.

Glazier Nation is an effective online meeting place for employers and job seekers within the glazing industry in North America. The organizer’s website (glaziernation.net) allows people to sign up for weekly job reports and allows employers to post their jobs for industry professionals for free.

Some of the more popular job categories include apprentice and journeyman glaziers; glazier superintendents and foreman; commercial project managers; commercial estimators; general labourers; and fabricator superintendent/foreman, although many more categories of jobs are available to view.

In addition to recruiting hundreds of glaziers into the industry across North America, Glazier Nation also offers training and placement services to industry professionals.

The Glazier Nation initiative is spearheaded by two industry professionals: Glazier Nation founder, Matt Day, and David Schwieterman, president of Global Construction Industries, a production software provider.

Schwieterman says there are lots of places to look for sourcing skilled labour, including tapping into networks of labour contractors like Glaziers on Demand; tapping into state or provincial departments of labour; technical schools; federal veteran recruiting programs (Helmets to Hardhats, for example); third-party staffing specialists; local unions; job fairs; industry associations and more.

He says its vital that companies be consistent and have job postings available at all times.

“There’s a reason we say that consistency always wins the battle. Finding labour a month before a job starts – it shouldn’t be a surprise that it doesn’t work very well,” Schwieterman says.

He adds that companies should keep those job postings consistent to find that “diamond in the rough.”

“Say someone is out there looking for a job but you’re not actively posting a job at that time. You could lose the potential to have a great candidate that is between jobs at another employer, so I really try encourage companies to always have a job posting out there,” Schwieterman says.

When it comes to effective job postings, less words and better content is key.

“What that may mean is people like videos. They don’t want to read through a big article all the time,” Schwieterman says. “So, when you have that job ad on Glazier Nation’s Facebook page, make it have that viral feel so they want to click on it to read more.”

Another key aspect to consider is promoting job security within the company and any other reason why a potential employee should come work for them, not just the requirements of the job.

“Everybody out in the field wants to know about the backlog. I’m not going over to the company unless I know more about the jobs they have coming up – how long this job is going to be? These are just key things to put into your social media post or your job listing,” Schwieterman says.

Telling potential applicants about the opportunities to grow in the company and the benefits of working in a particular city can also be advantageous.

Profit-sharing opportunities and bonuses are also items to note in your postings, he adds.

In the case of Glazier Nation founder, Matt Day, it would be difficult to find an individual responsible for recruiting more people into the glazing industry. Day says he uses several key steps for recruiting.

“It’s like a business. If I want my business to have sales, I need to have marketing lead generators that my salesman can close on. And if I want to be able to be a good recruiter, the number-one thing I have to have is an active website where I’m engaging people to come to my website to apply – not just ‘Look at my company’s portfolio or what we do,’” he says.

Day says he keeps his job postings on glaziernation.net promoted months ahead of time for projects to help ensure the right people, and the right number of people, are recruited to work on a project. It also allows him to have ample time to help recruit more local people to a particular job, which is key to ensuring a project is as profitable as possible.

“The amounts you make on your jobs by hiring local is where you make money and lose money in the glass industry,” he says. “If I’m bringing in a guy from Dallas and I’m going to D.C. with him, my costs go up 20 to 25 per cent. And if you’re talking a two- to three-million-dollar job, that’s massive. Keeping those job posts local when one comes in, that’s the biggest game changer for me.”

Glazier Nation has also built up an impressive following on social media promoting the industry and available work in the U.S. and Canada. The Glazier Nation Facebook page has more than 26,000 followers.

“What’s good about the social media from our angle is I can tell you exactly how many glaziers I have in a city, because we’re been keeping up with these analytics for five or six years,” Day says. “Houston, Texas, is our biggest. It’s got over 400 glaziers in the group. Dallas is another strong area – also Toronto, Vancouver, New York.”

The Glazier Nation Facebook page showcases the jobs posted on glaziernation.net to its audience. How effective is the combination? Day says he’s been able to recruit 40 glaziers over a single weekend. One drawback of using social media is that it requires additional tools for vetting the applicants to ensure they’re good fits, he adds.

Another way Glazier Nation is assisting companies is by helping them learn how to market a job post and optimize the wording of their job postings. When glass companies post on Glazier Nation’s Facebook page, the organization helps them build a profile on glaziernation.net as a free service. They will also help job seekers create their profiles on the site to assist them in their search for their next project.

Glazier Nation has also created a place for labour subcontractors to lend their workers out at a premium, to assist companies in finding qualified candidates.

While all of these tools have been helpful, Day says word of mouth is still the number-one way to recruit people in the industry.

“Word of mouth means you have to have a solid reputation. You have to pay your guys. You have to keep your guys safe. You have to be no-nonsense. You have to make it so you can move up in the company for the people that come on with you. By far, if you don’t want recruiting issues, word of mouth has to be your strongest proponent,” Day says. “The only reason I’m a good recruiter is because I know glaziers, but glaziers know the most glaziers. Glaziers work five to 10 years in the trade, and they have cell phones with contact lists for five or 10 years and they’ve got just page after page of glaziers. So, if you’ve kept your glaziers happy, a lot of the times having a glazier and bringing them in when they’re very well networked, right there is your whole recruiting program.”

Going offline still an option
Some companies have turned to embracing local trades unions to find their skilled workers. This was the best solution that Angelo Cairo, president of Stouffville Glass in Stouffville, Ont., found to address his labour issues.

“I have posted online many times with Indeed and printed ads for the Toronto Sun, when people actually went to the skilled help section to look for a job,” he says. “I have noticed that over the last decade the availability of searching for help through online avenues offers us no solutions to hiring skilled trades. Short of following a glass truck and offering a job to the person or hanging out at suppliers’ shops by the shipping doors, I don’t know what else can be done. Since 2017, we joined the union for this very reason as the skilled labour shortage began to be much more prevalent in the non-union (open shop) settings. Now by joining the union, we have more control over having a diversified workforce of pre-apprentice, apprentice and full journeyperson status, all with a call to the union describing the skill set desired. I believe this is the only way today to offer quality skilled workers that are safety minded as well.” •