In his latest column, Jon Vanstone, Chair of Certass, explains why there’s still room for greater diversity in glazing and now is the time for the sector to evolve…
The lack of diversity in the window and door industry is no real secret. It creates a lack of role models limiting our ability to further our collective aim of attracting people from all areas of society to our industry.
People want to see themselves in others and be inspired by the potential of what they can achieve and who they can emulate. As a Brazilian football fan, you would want to play like Pele, as a New Zealand rugby fan, you want to emulate the All Blacks. Who out there is flying the flag for youngsters to aspire to be part of the glazing industry?
For a school-leaver, window installing is a good, solid career path and with our growing skills gap, there are great opportunities for them in the future if they start learning the tools now. It’s a relatively low-cost and low-risk start-up opportunity for them to be their own boss and run a company, plus there is loads of support available to them.
The youth of today come with an energy that is out-of-sync with our sector. Technology usage is second nature and they see the world as a connected sphere, where prejudice is abhorred and integrity is paramount.
For them to join our market we need to break down barriers and embrace technology as a central facet of our work. Once we’ve done this, we need to reimage our perception so that when they have those rare discussions at home about careers, construction in general – and glazing in particular – is considered a good option.
It isn’t just for the young that diversity is lacking, we also need to have wider appeal.
In the UK, 16% of working-age adults are disabled (deemed so by the Equality Act 2010), and our industry needs to deliver permanent paid employment to this section of society that we seem to actively forget. Our lack of inclusion of disabled people in proportion to their position within society means that people of disability struggle to see roles available to them and the problem, therefore, continues to worsen.
The advantages this group of society offer are massive and employing disabled people will bring fresh ideas and expertise to those companies that create the right environment. It was great to see Howard Trotter, of Birmingham window & door manufacturer Shelforce, talking at FiT Show 2019 about how Shelforce has benefited from ‘maximising their unique and diverse talents’. Leading the way in employment diversity, 75% of Shelforce’s team are disabled workers, and Howard’s message was to encourage other companies to take up this inclusive approach to recruitment.
I would recommend to those who are interested in improving their business and workforce to look at the raft of information within the Government websites and especially the
Disability Confident Scheme.
We’ve seen an increase in the number of women in the boardroom in the glazing industry. A few names come to mind, including Epwin Window Systems’ Clare O’Hara, Samantha Nuckey of Window Ware and Tina Moorhouse at Oakland Glass. It was also very pleasing to see Alan Burgess hand over the reins at Masterframe to the very talented Carol Slade, at the beginning of this year.
This has certainly started to cascade down the supply chain, as I know that many fabricators out there now have more women working in the factories than ever before. I hope this trend continues and we see more women working on the tools in installation companies. Although it’s not just the glazing industry that has had this issue – other trades, including electric and plumbing, have struggled to attract women.
Success in our industry needs to be open to all, and even though we enter another year of economic and regulatory instability, we must embrace the positives of fixing our structural faults. Too often glazing only pays lip service to fixing our problems, but given all that will change in 2020, surely we are at the perfect starting point to evolve into a better industry for society.