In this month’s column with GGP magazine, Faisal Hussain, Chief Executive of the Double Glazing & Conservatory Ombudsman Scheme (DGCOS), looks at how as a sector we need to address the skills shortage for the future by attracting, training, and retaining the best people.
In my last column, I spoke about the importance of our industry opening up about mental health and the occupational stresses that people are confronting at work every day. Research shows that a major factor contributing to stress, depression, and anxiety, comes from the unprecedented squeeze we’re currently seeing on skilled labour. The construction sector has seen a 39% rise in the number of job vacancies, the second highest level of vacancies in the past 20 years, driven by an ageing workforce and a sector reliant on migrant European labour. This severe skills gap is driving up wages, leading to long lead times, putting unrealistic pressure on those who are working and squeezing businesses that are already battling higher material costs.
Despite construction (encompassing contracting, product manufacturing and professional services) being one of the largest sectors in the UK economy, contributing almost £90 billion and 10% of total UK employment, value is being removed from the supply chain at all levels. Training can be viewed as an unnecessary expense but the reality is that entire generations of in-house skills are being lost and the core outputs of their glazing businesses are no longer easy to access.
Build the future
One obvious solution that some fenestration businesses are embracing is Apprenticeship schemes. It was recently National Apprenticeship Week which launched with the tagline: Build the Future. This concept is so resonant because in our sector a workforce is slowly retiring with few to take its place. While some of the blame for this can be placed on Brexit and COVID, one of the key contributors is that as a sector, for years now, we haven’t been appealing enough to attract enough new talent. There has also been a lack of appetite and apathy for investment in job leaver training schemes.
Keeping up with changing marketing narratives
Collectively, we need to make a career in the home improvement door and window industry more desirable. Tackling the skills shortage must start with changing perceptions. Some demographics might feel like the industry isn’t the place for them. But this is changing. Widening the talent pool for recruitment is just one of the many benefits of a varied workforce and diversifying will help stop limiting the kinds of people who typically enter the industry. Pushing back against the perceived idea that glazing is a “boy’s club” and challenging gender inequality in construction will make the industry more appealing to women, vastly increasing the number of people interested in a career in construction. I believe we’ve started this journey and in fact, women are now leading some of the biggest businesses in the industry, but there is much further to go.
External market forces are going to give us the opportunity to step up our game when it comes to recruitment, and I believe fenestration is only going to become more and more attractive. We have to move away from a ‘sticks of plastic or ‘bricks and mortar’ approach, to a service sector embedded in tech and innovation. The narrative will ultimately change too as people learn how well-paid roles are, how high job security is and how totally transferable their skills are. Decarbonisation, green, design, data, retrofit – these are all areas coming into the glazing sector that are required across most markets like automotive, travel, education etc. The world of work is changing and in turn our market is changing to one that’s more aspirational. Membership of DGCOS is helping businesses to shape their narrative. Can we help your business to shape your story?