Does a Skills Gap in the Glazing Industry Exist?

According to the 2018 Glass and Glazing Industry Outlook report by Key Media & Research (KMR), nearly 90 per-cent of glazing contractors in the U.S. say the skilled labor shortage has affected their ability to find quality craft workers. Half of all respondents to KMR’s nationwide outlook survey say it has had a “big” effect. According to the report, the skilled labor shortage also ranks as glaziers’ biggest concern this year among ten key categories.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) Occupational Outlook Handbook projects that glazing employment from 2016 to 2026 will increase 11 percent, compared to a 7-percent average increase across all occupations.

Many states across the country are addressing the potential skills gap. U.S. Department of Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta addressed the skills gap at the Governor’s 2018 Future Ready Iowa Summit in April 2018. The goal was to spread information about how the state can close the national skills gap through education.

Montana has a workforce project called RevUp Montana. It emphasizes placing high school students into short-term degree, apprenticeship and certification programs to fill the skills gap, which the program’s director told the Flathead Beacon, is being caused by a monumental workforce demographic shift.

As baby boomers age out of the workforce in large numbers, employers are looking to a pool of new workers to fill the jobs left empty.

On the last day of February 2018, there were 196,000 job openings in the construction industry according to BLS’s Job Openings and Labor Turnover Summary. That’s up from February 2017, but down from 252,000 job openings on the final day of January 2018. In February 2018, 362,000 people were hired and 312,000 people left their jobs within the construction industry.

BIM Improves Project Efficiencies

Building Information Modeling (BIM) has been a buzz word in the industry for the past decade. In 2011, 13 per-cent of people in the building industry were aware of and using BIM. That number rose to 62 percent in 2017, ac-cording to the National BIM Report 2017 published by NBS. The number of industry professionals who were neither aware of nor using BIM decreased from 43 percent in 2011 to only 3 percent in 2017.

Scott Adams, director of virtual design and construction at Ghafari Associates, led a webinar called Leveraging BIM and Virtual Reality (VR) for Project Efficiencies, hosted by Engineering News-Record, in order to address some of the ways BIM is being underused.

“BIM is not just a 3-D software. One of the goals of BIM is to make it easier to illustrate models, but using it only for the 3-D aspects is not taking full advantage of its abilities,” said Adams. “It’s also not just a production tool; that process doesn’t happen overnight. Using BIM should bring value to all parties throughout the life cycle of the project.”

According to Adams, BIM allows people in each step of the process to share modeling, ensuring that misaligned under-standing can be corrected before the problem becomes costly.

Seventy-three percent of a building’s budget goes toward operation and maintenance. If used properly, BIM documents the story of the building, and can be useful even after the project is complete.

“As an industry, we’re falling short in getting BIM to the client,” said Adams. “We need to pass on the model to those who are responsible for the continued management of the building—only 26 percent of companies are doing so now, according to the National BIM Report 2017. The industry has to move past focusing on construction only to see the true savings of BIM. This requires collaboration by all par-ties during all stages of a project.”

According to the report, 72 percent of clients don’t understand the benefits of BIM, and only 33 percent trust what they’re hearing about BIM.

“Only 42 percent of projects are using Construction Operations Building Information Exchange (COBie). Fifty-eight percent aren’t because the client isn’t specifically asking for it in the contract. What we should be doing is asking the question and informing the client about the benefits of long-term information, and maybe offer up training about it,” said Adams.

Apprenticeships Help Fight Worker Shortage

Apprenticeships and training are a major way the industry can combat the alleged skills gap and subsequent labor shortage.

“Putting the debate aside as to whether or not there really is a ‘skills gap,’ some of the reasons reported as to why employers are having trouble recruiting the skilled workforce they need, and difficulty with the retention of that skilled workforce, have already been recognized by the IUPAT and the rest of the building trades in their crafts, including glazing,” says Anton Ruesing, director of the IUPAT Finishing Trades Institute. “Reports indicate that a lack of diversity in the workforce, the absence of ‘soft skills’ training, technology development outpacing training and other external factors like the toll the opioid crisis is taking on the construction industry are among the main factors contributing to the perception of a skills gap.”

In addition to participation in the North America’s Building Trades Unions’ goal of having 20 percent women in the workplace by 2020, the IUPAT continues to build and train a diverse workforce.

“The IUPAT FTI offers ongoing training to maintain the skills of the IUPAT workforce and meet the changing technology in the field. It uses industry standards and industry certification programs to prove that IUPAT members have the skillset to meet the needs of the industry. Moreover, the Painters and Allied Trades Labor Management Cooperation Initiative (LMCI) provides construction management courses, including ‘soft skills’ training that develops emotional intelligence and people skills. The LMCI is also working with the IUPAT on surveying its membership to gauge the impact the opioid epidemic is taking on the men and women of the trades with the goal of making a positive impact through a number of new prevention and treatment initiatives.”

Ruesing says that these measures have been well received by the companies for which IUPAT members work.

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