Though the supply and demand of glass has increased over the last 5yrs, the employment opportunities for those wanting to enter into the glass business has declined by more than 1,400 workers - a decline of over 40%.
That's the observation of Open Universities Australia. On the one hand, business is booming, especially in developing housing communities in Newcastle, the Hunter region and outer Sydney. yet, not only has there been a downturn in employment rates, industry training of a new generation of glass and window specialists has declined also.
Some have speculated that those who would normally enter into this area of the skilled labour force have pursued other careers with better wage prospect. The average entry level wage is around $41,000 per annum. The starting salary for an entry level plumber by comparison is 55,000.
These differences in salary may be a large factor in the shrinking number of young people entering into the glazier trade. If your aptitude and training lead you toward a career in the trades sector generally, it should not surprise us that they will weigh up the annual income of the various apprenticeships and career paths.
I saw this happen many years ago in the dairy industry in NSW. While agreements were being made between big supermarket chains, state governments and co-ops, the man on the land was losing his sons to the city.
We all applauded the possibility of cheaper milk (which never happened) while the dairy industry lost dozens of farms, along with the families that had run them for generations.
That said, it may not be all bad news for the glass and glazing services industry.
Another explanation for the drop in employment may also be the splintering of the industry into specialist fields such as automotive, decorative, stained glass, boating and housing sectors.
Spokesperson for Koala Glass, one of the few truly full service glass and window services in NSW, said that,
“with advances in technology, it is feasible that you can specialise radically in a field which was once all encompassing.”
This may not be bad news. While the levels of employment in NSW may have dropped in the last few years, it does look like the broader industry employment rates will rise between now and 2017.
From basic window installation and repair to advanced engineering and manufacturing in motor racing car windshields, the glass industry may appear to be splintering from its traditional forms, but it’s overall growth looks promising.
The NSW Government's’ Certificate III (MSF30413) in glass and glazing reflects this shift in expertise through its vocational training and outcomes.
Basic qualifications for an accredited glazier still include the development of skills in glass function, processing, architecture and installation, but as a result of specialisation in the fields, we are also seeing training delivered in:
- Residential glass services
- Commercial glass installation
- Stained glass
- Lead lighting
- Nautical glazing
- Glass and fenestration design
- Environmental glass specialists
This last aspect has become increasingly important as pressure is applied across an ever-widening circle of industries.
With the increase in climate friendly business practices and the almost oppressive amount of health and safety requirements on the glass industry, it is possible to take our eye of the actual state of the sector, its business owners and employees.
You may have the greenest business on the planet, but if you don’t have a workforce to man it, you don’t have a business.
Let’s hope that with the increase in specialisation, we also see an increase in the number of skilled workers entering into this most practical and ancient trade.