The urgency of the skills gap in fenestration was brought into focus this week with two separate reports indicating at the same time a ‘truly shocking’ number of job vacancies for installers against a background of a shrinking pool of workers in the sector overall.

The first report, compiled by Building Our Skills in association with ex-military employment body FrontFoot, reveals that around 1,100 installer jobs are currently being advertised on job sites throughout the UK.

“It is the clearest sign yet of the scale of the skills gap impacting the industry,” said Building Our Skills ambassador John Ogilvie. “Seeing over 1100 vacancies being advertised for installers at a single point in time was truly shocking. It is perhaps the first time we have been able to quantify the nature of the problem which we are all aware of, and of course these are only the ones that are being formally advertised; the true number is going to be much higher.

“Seeing the scale of the problem in black and white is guaranteed to concentrate the mind, and as an industry we have to think differently if we are going to start bridging the skills gap which is still growing.”

At the same time, an analysis of ONS figures by Skills Training Group shows that glaziers, window fabricators and fitters were among the worst hit by a long-term decline in people in the trade, with numbers falling from 54,100 to 34,400 in the years from 2005 to last year.

Its managing director Mark McShane said: “For many industries, young people entering the workforce early in their careers means they can learn the craft and make it a long term career – with many being business owners by the time they are 30. But, in order to encourage young people to make these choices, businesses in the industry need to engage with young people, sharing their success stories to encourage a new workforce.

“While many young people may enter into a skilled trade through college and apprenticeships, a missed opportunity may be those that have opted to continue studying for A-Levels. For these students, the general direction is to head off to university, so it’s no surprise that many may not have even considered a career in specific trades – this is where recruitment outside of the usual routes can prove fruitful.”

On the Building our Skills report, Tim O’Keefe of FrontFoot echoed John Ogilvie’s message: “During all our conversations with Building Our Skills we had been trying to get a handle on the scale of the skills gap that the Fenestration Industry is facing and seeing this figure has given us a clear picture.

“As John says, these are just the ones we know about, and if employers are able to fill these positions, they are only going to be able to do so by taking installers from a competitor, it doesn’t reduce the skills gap, it just moves the problem somewhere else; the overall numbers needed don’t go down.

“We are keen to work with the Fenestration Industry and to bring new blood to it.  We know that service personnel bring great attributes to the workplace and we are really looking forward to making an impact which will benefit all parties and reduce the shortfall in numbers currently impacting the industry.”