Labor Shortage Tops Discussion at Glazing Executives Forum
Finding and keeping good employees was the recurring theme during the 8th annual Glazing Executives Forum, held Sept. 10 as part of GlassBuild America: The Glass, Window & Door Expo in Atlanta. GEF, hosted by the National Glass Association, drew about 125 attendees.
During the day-long program, attendees discussed issues faced by the contract glazing community, as well as the overall glass industry. Labor, specifically attracting new talent to the aging industry, topped concerns among attendees.
“How do we attract young people?” Jeff Meyer, owner of White Bear Glass, asked during the opening general session. During the recession, companies were forced to reduce their workforces, and “that expertise has been driven out of our industry.”
Richard Beuke, vice president of flat glass for PPG Industries, said attracting and retaining talent is “one of the biggest strategic issues facing us on the manufacturing level.”
Beuke said PPG faces high turnover among employees in hands-on production work, and has difficulty attracting engineers. “About 80 percent of our engineers are over 50 [years old]. We have to be actively recruiting at colleges for engineers. We have to get them in and get them to want to stick around,” he said.
The topic was also the subject of the “Finding and Keeping Good Installers” breakout session, and a major discussion point during the “Project Management Techniques” discussion. In both sessions, attendees discussed strategies for attracting applicants. Several recommended getting involved with the local high schools, trade schools and community colleges to educate young people about the trades. Others suggested recruiting quality applicants from other industries and training them in-house.
Learn more about current labor challenges among glaziers, from the August2013 issue of Glass Magazine.
Product and project design
Other major themes addressed during GEF included the push for energy performance and future aesthetic trends.
In regards to energy efficiency, speakers agreed the industry should prepare for tightening codes and watch for increasingly better-performing glass products. Next-generation technologies, such as dynamic glass, will continue to gain traction. Additionally, “look for more double-skin façades and more exotic glass coatings,” Beuke said.
Aesthetically, look for more daylighting, more color and thicker glass—"6 millimeter used to be standard. We are now seeing more 8 mm and 10 mm,” Beuke said.
Oliver Stepe, senior vice president at YKK AP America, added that complex geometries are a major part of the future of façade. “Technology has been the enabler,” he told the group.