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Recruiting Young Talent in the Glass Industry

How glass companies and schools are working together for workforce development  

two construction cranes amid crowd of students

Above: Outdoor equipment on display at a recent Trades Night event hosted by the Associated Builders and Contractors—Inland Pacific Chapter. Trades Night Photos by Richard Chan | River Rock Images, courtesy of ABC—IPC. 

Workforce development, including recruiting and retaining young people, is increasingly important to the glass, construction and manufacturing industries as finding and keeping labor continues to be a top challenge for companies. In 2024, the construction industry as a whole will need to bring in an estimated 501,000 new workers on top of normal hiring to meet industry demand, according to data from the Associated Builders and Contractors. 

Recruiting the next generation requires individual companies—and entire industries—to reach future workers directly. Career fairs at schools or organizing facility tours with students are two ways to engage with students and discuss a career in the trades with them. 

In Washington state, two organizations are working to connect with next generation workers through events targeted toward students interested in learning more about this career path. 

This article will explore two separate events. The ABC Inland Pacific Chapter held a Trades Night event in October 2023 in Washington, which was a career fair for students and their families interested in working in the trades. Likewise, NGA member company Allegion/TGP hosted a tour of its facility in Washington for high school students and their teachers as part of Manufacturing Day to show them what a day in the life of the trades looks like.

A Guide to Recruiting At High School Career Fairs

Recruitment Guide & Giveaways

The National Glass Association remains committed to helping companies raise awareness of the glass and glazing industry, particularly among high school students and young people.

Visit the NGA store to download a free digital copy of A Guide to Recruiting at High School Career Fairs, as well as to purchase stickers, postcards and other giveaways that you can use at your next career fair.

insulation demo for students
A student learns how to spray insulation foam at Trades Night.

Trades Night

Trades Night table with giveaways
A student visits a table at Trades Night in Spokane.

In an effort to introduce skilled trades to students in elementary, middle and high school, the ABC IPC Trades Night event, held Oct. 12, 2023, at Ferris High School in Spokane, Washington, brought together more than 40 employers, educators and training partners to offer students and parents a look at construction trades-related jobs and opportunities.

This event, which was held in conjunction with the local business community and the Spokane School District, was an opportunity to show students of all ages and backgrounds that manufacturing and construction industries have many opportunities for a fulfilling career, stable pay and a work-life balance, among the many other positives of those industries.

Sarah Cottam, president and CEO of ABC IPC, says that participating in events like Trades Night can be a great way for companies to interact with the up-and-coming workforce.

“You get back what you put in. The more interactive your hands-on component is and the more involved you are with attendees the better the experience will be for everyone,” says Cottam. “People want to learn and a lot of the children within our community are unaware of the options they have for their future. You could be their future; make sure it shines.”

To ensure your company has a successful experience at a career fair, Cottam says it helps to display and demonstrate the equipment your company uses, like physically drive a roller, operate a crane or spray insulation foam. For indoor vendors, demonstrations like installing a window, using casting kits from a concrete company, or drilling things together with some type of prize for their hard work is a great way to get the students involved and interested. Cottam says “the options are endless, and so is the fun.”

AllStar Glass Vice President Jodi Martinez is also on the workforce development committee for ABC IPC. Martinez says companies interested in participating in a career fair should attend one or two events first, just to observe, then volunteer. This will help you make sure the event is something you want to be associated with. While there, get a feel for the audience and the organization of the event, visit other company vendors and get ideas of good displays and bad displays. Ask for help and/or advice from other companies and organizations who have participated in these events. Martinez says that showing up is half the battle, so being prepared for it in advance will help with your success as a vendor. 

“Consider participating in these events even if you are not currently hiring at your company. We should all be actively recruiting for future glaziers no matter what company they work for. We need to promote how awesome our beloved glass and glazing industry is and events like Trades Night are the ideal place to do that,” says Martinez. “The outreach, connecting and ‘planting glass seeds’ happens organically once you are there at the event, in the classroom, attending the meeting, or volunteering for committees. You have to start somewhere right? Start small, but start.”

From the school’s perspective, Ferris High School Principal Andrew Lewis says career fairs help students see that pursuing the trades is a career choice, rather than something you do if you have no other options. These events help students see that people in the trades are professionals and very skilled.

“Ferris strongly believes that our students are best equipped to choose a pathway that fits their skills and interests when they are informed of many options. So, we work to inform our students of as many options as possible. Trades Night helps students see the many diverse opportunities in the trades fields,” says Lewis. 

Lewis adds that students who express interest in the trades are often made aware of Ferris High’s Career and Technical Education programs both in-building and at the NewTech Skills Center with which Ferris partners. At the Skills Center, students can get an early start on building skills and working toward certifications while in high school.

“Expect to talk a lot and to teach ages from three to 30 about your trade and company. With it being held on a workday and mid-week, we all have to go to work in the morning, so expect to be tired, your feet will hurt and the next day is a sluggish start,” Cottam says. “But with that said, know that being an active part of raising awareness of the trades as well as showing our community that success looks different for everyone is so fulfilling. I promise it is well worth it.”

students tour manufacturing facility
Mount Si High School students tour TGP’s facility. Photo courtesy of TGP.

Manufacturing Day

On Oct. 11, 2023, as part of MFG Day, Allegion/TGP hosted a tour of its facility for Mount Si High School students and their teachers in Snoqualmie, Washington. The Manufacturing Institute, an affiliate of the National Association of Manufacturers, organizes MFG Day, which aims to shine a spotlight on modern manufacturing careers by encouraging companies to host events for students, parents and teachers. Twenty-two students attended Allegion/TGP’s event to get an inside look into a manufacturing facility.

Devin Bowman is Allegion/TGP’s general manager and has been organizing TGP’s MFG Day events for five years. He says participating in events like MFG Day is a very important way to give back to the community by providing an opportunity for students to learn about different employment opportunities available to them post-graduation. It is also helpful because, as a company, you can benefit by attracting future team members who add value to your business and culture.   

“I think those who participate in a Manufacturing Day event for the first time will be pleasantly surprised at how easy it is to host the event and that it is actually a lot of fun. The students who choose to participate are genuinely interested in learning about the opportunities at the business they visit. This is evident by the level of engagement demonstrated through thoughtful questions and active participation throughout the event,” says Bowman. 

“In regards to challenges, during the pandemic, we continued to host the event virtually, which while it was better than nothing, it did not provide the students the ability to walk through the production floor and view the products being produced first hand. Aside from that, the school administrators we work with to coordinate the event are extremely helpful and make the process easy.”

However, Bowman adds that organizing events of this nature does take a lot of time to put together due to conflicting schedules, so early planning is essential. Bowman typically starts planning in the summer, but waits to actually reach out to schools until school is in session. He also says that companies should not be discouraged if they don’t hear back from school districts their first year participating, as it can take years to cultivate those relationships. 

Hope Todd was a senior at Mount Si High School during another MFG Day tour of Allegion/TGP’s facility in 2019. Now, she is an assembly team lead for the company.

“Attending MFG Day at TGP was a new experience for me. It was my senior year and I was still figuring out what I wanted to do as a career. When we arrived, we had some guest speakers from TGP that spoke about their careers here; they ranged from engineers, programmers, to supervisors and more,” says Todd. “Those individuals talked about how they got into the position and some of their work background. That showed us everyone takes different paths to careers. My path at TGP started that very day.”

Todd went through the interview process and passed her welding test, starting her internship with TGP early due to the COVID-19 pandemic. After graduation, she went into a full-time welding position and after three years, her knowledge of TGP products allowed her to become an assembly team lead.

“My knowledge and understanding of manufacturing were very limited before MFG Day. I knew I wanted to do something with the trades, but didn’t fully know what, as I was still trying to figure out what I wanted to do after my senior year,” adds Todd.

If you or your company are interested in participating in, or hosting, a Manufacturing Day event, visit the Manufacturing Institute’s website for more information at Educational resources, including workforce development and manufacturing careers advancement, can also be found at 


Rachel Vitello

Rachel Vitello

Rachel Vitello is the Assistant Editor & Researcher for Glass Magazine and Window + Door. 


Tara Lukasik

Tara Lukasik

Tara Lukasik is Managing Editor of Glass Magazine and Window + Door Magazine. Email her at