Fostering Technical Expertise in the Next Generation

One of the biggest issues facing the glass industry is whether or not we are doing enough to address technical challenges. It’s an interesting and important question to consider.

Performance demands in commercial glass and glazing continue rising, and architectural designs grow increasingly bold in major projects. Meanwhile, highly glazed buildings must continue to prove themselves sustainable and resilient over the long term. Meeting these needs requires deep technical knowledge, manufacturing and glazing expertise, and high service levels throughout the value chain.

Do we have what it takes to deliver?

I believe the answer is yes. For as long as I’ve been a part of this industry—nearly 30 years—I’ve had the opportunity to work with countless incredibly talented people at every turn. I know firsthand that we can deliver on the needs of both today and tomorrow.

But “tomorrow” may be the most important part of that last sentence. I think the biggest challenge we face regarding technical knowledge and expertise is how we foster the next generation of experts and get new blood into the industry. We all know that recruiting is a challenge—whether on the production side or the installation side—and I think it’s incumbent upon all of us in the industry to showcase that fenestration is an industry where you can build a fulfilling career.

I wrote a bit about this subject earlier in the year. As the glass industry moves forward, we must do everything possible to cultivate a new generation of professionals to help our businesses succeed. Some of this will involve getting more familiar with younger workers—what interests them, motivates them, and more.

Because there are good jobs and opportunities in every corner of the fenestration industry, and we need to get young people to see the potential. Glass can—and should—be exciting. Whether it’s using drones for surveying purposes, new machinery for installing glass, testing visual mock-ups, or evaluating next-generation technologies like building-integrated photovoltaics or electrochromic glass, our industry is deploying first-class technology in every part of what we do.

On the factory side, there’s also an opportunity to change the stigma about what people associate with factories or manufacturing in general. Today’s glass plants are safe, clean and filled with advanced technology. Advanced automated processing lines are a wonder of modern technology—but they won’t be able to accomplish much without an educated new generation of production workers who can successfully operate and maintain such equipment.

Connecting with younger workers and recruits and advocating for our industry will be some of the most important things we do in the coming years. It will take proactive outreach, investment in good training/mentoring programs, and a truly collective effort from today’s glass professionals.

Joe Erb is a national account manager for Quanex.