GLAAS INC. Sets Women Up for Success in Glazing
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In response to the ongoing glass industry labor shortage, Australia’s glass industry association, GLAAS Inc., developed a program to recruit and train women for careers in glazing, says Patrick Gavaghan, the organization’s national project manager.
The new project is part of the Australian government’s “Launch into Work” initiative, an outcome of the 2014 G20 summit, held in Brisbane, Australia. The summit committed G20 countries to reduce the gender gap by 25 percent by 2025, compared to rates in 2012. “Launch into Work” partners with employers and industry associations, like GLAAS, to provide preemployment training for women in the labor force.
As in the U.S., Australian companies have had difficulty attracting women into the glass industry, says Gavaghan. “The challenge we had as an industry was that most of our female glaziers came to us from family businesses,” he says. “There was never much from outside the industry, where we get many of our other apprentices. The initiative is about bringing in more people in from outside [the industry].”
To create its pool of potential participants, GLAAS partners with a government recruiter, which is supplied by the association with a profile the recruiter can use to select a minimum of 20 women. GLAAS then presents the women with an introduction to glazing, outlining the basics of the job and its benefits, says Gavaghan. Participants who remain interested in pursuing the training then take basic introductory tests, including a background check and drug test.
From those who pass these initial tests, the association selects 10 for the program. The preemployment glazier training, provided by a public provider system for trade qualification, includes four or five of the professional modules included in the country’s trade certification for glazing. The formal qualification takes about three years to complete.
GLAAS secures industry apprenticeships for the graduates, well before they finish the training. It’s a win-win, says Gavaghan, as the workers are guaranteed employment, and employers are guaranteed interested, trained labor. “When we place them into the employer, that means [the employer has] got a glazier who is interested in the industry, she’s happy with it. She also comes to the employer semi-skilled, so she hits the ground adding value.”
Gavaghan emphasizes the many benefits for women in joining the glazing industry. After certification, glaziers in Australia work for a company for two to three years, and then have the opportunity to become independent contractors, says Gavaghan, completing contract work with their original company, among others.
This elastic career trajectory could be helpful for women, he says, especially those thinking of starting a family. “You can go into the trade, run for two to three years, and then take time off, for maternity care, or whatever you want to do, and then come back to that trade with very minor updating required,” he says.