As many installers struggle to keep up with consumer demand, Anda Gregory, managing director of the GGF Commercial group of companies – which includes FENSA – answers five key questions on the fenestration skills shortage…
How high a priority is addressing the skills gap for the GGF Commercial group of companies?
It is absolutely a high priority. One of the main issues that our FENSA Approved Installers – big and small – have at the moment is keeping up with high levels of demand that continue from homeowners because they can’t find enough skilled people to do the work. It’s a huge cause of frustration for them and, if we don’t collectively take action to try to bring more people into our industry and provide them with adequate training, the situation is only going to get worse.
What are you doing as an organisation to address the skills shortage?
We’re supporting the Building Our Skills initiative to bring more young people into the industry. We’ve also set up the FENSA Training Academy in partnership with Total Support Training to provide a range of training courses for installers at various stages of their careers. We’re also about to launch a new PAS 2030 readiness training course through Trade Engine which will be part-funded as part of the Green Homes Grant scheme.
Education secretary Gavin Williamson recently said that “too many people wrongly [believe] that studying for a degree at university is the only worthwhile marker of success”. Do you agree with this statement – and if so how, in your opinion, has this issue impacted on the fenestration sector?
I agree that this is a huge problem for our industry. Too many parents encourage their children to go to university in pursuit of a professional and/or office job afterwards, even if they’re not academic and would really excel in a trade, or in manufacturing. As we all know, people can build fulfilling and well-paid careers in our industry and there’s a lot of opportunity, but there is still a negative perception of our industry being full of cowboys or ‘wide boys’, and a snobby attitude toward manual labour. We need to do more to dispel these myths and show that there are other routes than university to a rewarding, successful career. Having a skilled trade is a great option.
You sit on the GQA board as a FENSA representative. How is GGF Commercial/FENSA working with GQA to support the current fenestration recruitment drive?
Firstly, our sponsorship of the Inspiring the Future campaign within Building Our Skills. This is a really important initiative as it’s a way of reaching young people to encourage them to consider our industry as a career. We have an industry full of passionate people who love it – that’s clear at any industry event.
This initiative is a way for us all to go into schools – and it’s even easier now we can do it virtually – and speak about how brilliant our industry is, why it’s a great career, what different career paths there are, etc. The more people that sign up to do this, the more we’ll get the word out and start turning around the misconceptions about the window and door industry. We have to all be ambassadors and evangelists for our industry to make the change that’s needed with the skills gap.
We’re also supporting each other in building other partnerships that will help provide training and qualifications for people who are new to the industry, or simply want to expand their skills or need a refresher.
You’ve mentioned speaking to school leavers about a career in fenestration. Will you take part in this personally, and if so, what will you say to the younger generation to convince them to consider a career in fenestration?
I’d start by asking what they see when they look at a window – not through a window but at it. I’ll explain that the glass is made of sand, and that windows play a really important part in each of our lives without us even realising it – from keeping us warm and dry in our homes, to cutting out noise from outside so we can get a good night’s sleep, to keeping us safe and secure. And with changing technology windows will be doing even more exciting things over time. Just look around at your cities and towns and you’ll see how glass is used to build the big, impressive buildings like the Shard and Walkie Talkie in London.
We have such clever technology already that windows and doors play a really important part in helping the environment. Windows and doors have energy efficiency labels like fridges and washing machines through BFRC energy ratings. If everyone upgraded their windows and doors to higher bands, it would help make the world better environmentally.
I’d then go on to explain the different types of jobs and how they’re all really important. For example, if you like being outside and using your hands, you could become an installer, if you like technology and science, you could work in an innovation department for a flat glass manufacturer or systems house. If you’re not academic there are loads of well-paid roles available where you will learn a valuable skill, whether it’s manual or within sales or customer services.