Fighting the tide
By Patrick Flannery
Canada needs more glaziers.
Canada needs more glaziers. Most of the problem comes from simple demographics: baby boomers represent a disproportionate percentage of the workforce, and most of them are set to retire within 10 years. This same problem faces every business in every sector (except possibly computer-related fields), but in the trades it is particularly acute. The reason? A long-term, systematic neglect of trades training in educational institutions at every level, in every province. Even in an uncertain economy, the difficulty in recruiting and training ticketed glaziers is a common thread across the country. But in some places, efforts are emerging to combat these trends and prevent skilled glazing from becoming a lost art.
In B.C., the Canadian Occupational Projection System estimates there are currently 2,340 glaziers employed in the province with 90 new jobs being added and 230 workers retiring in the next three years. This works out to an estimated total of 320 new positions being created by 2015. With baby boomers set to start exiting the workforce, B.C. Labour Market Information (BCLMI) studies suggest over the next 10 years, the B.C. glazing industry will require approximately 1,100 new glaziers.
|Apprentice training programs like this one at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology are creating hope that a new generation of glaziers will be on hand to fill the industry’s demand for workers. Photo courtesy of Jill Ramage.|
Complicating matters, on Jan. 1, 2011, the Energy Efficiency Act of B.C. was enacted and is enforcing strict requirements for commercial glazing applications. “As the glazing industry grows in responsibility on commercial projects and in the custom residential market, the need for a trained workforce is more important today than ever,” says David Langton, president of the Glazing Contractors Association of BC and partner in Kelowna, B.C.-based Competition Glass. “As tighter building codes reflect the building enclosure as a whole, energy costs continue to rise and so does the need for efficient products, including a workforce that is trained to install these products correctly. The need for an industry that is current in its thinking and practices is now more important than ever before.
“To paraphrase the old saying, ‘Education, education, education,’” Langton adds. “Year after year our membership has provided feedback that training was the number one priority.”
Debra Dotschkat, Glazing Contractors Association of BC director and general manager of Kelowna glazing contractor Glass Canada Inc., agrees. “In 2010, the GCABC board put out a survey to its members to determine the main areas of concern in the industry. What we received back was a resounding call for better education.”
|The GCABC Glazing Apprentice Program is being offered at the renowned Roofing Contractors Association of British Columbia Institute in Langley, B.C. The institute is one of a very few buildings in North America purpose-built for trades training. |
Photo by Rich Porayko.
But in the midst of all this demand, programs offering apprenticeship training are few and far between. Thompson Rivers University is no longer training glazing apprentices leaving the Finishing Trades Institute of B.C. as the only Red Seal certified provider in the province. “There is an incredibly limited pool of provider choices and because apprentices can only get through school at a certain rate, there is also only a limited group of trained glazing professionals,” says Zana Gordon, GCABC executive director. “So without another provider, not enough glaziers were being trained. The GCABC saw an opportunity to improve the way the program was being provided to the industry and realized that they needed to take control of their own training.”
“[Increasing the supply of trained glaziers] has been a goal of this association for many years, so the GCABC put its wallet where it was most needed and started providing the GCABC Glazing Apprentice Program on Jan. 30, 2012,” Langton reports.
The outline for the program was developed by the National Occupational Analysis; however, the association consulted with the B.C. Construction Industry Training Organization, then broke into groups of subject matter experts who worked with a curriculum writer to help create the learning and instructions resources.
“Experts supplied knowledge, shop drawings, safety advice, formulas, best practices and time proof reading to make sure all the information was current, accurate and clear,” says Dotschkat. “Hundreds of volunteer hours were put into this project by all involved and every minute was worth it given our final product, to which the GCABC retains all rights.”
“For six months the experts met via telephone conferences and wrote these new student and instructor manuals,” says Langton. “We are very proud of these manuals and know that they are the most up-to-date training resources for the glazing industry in North America.”
Level One apprentices work on the basics with an emphasis on safety. Successful students receive a first aid certificate, fall protection ticket, rigging and hoisting training and Construction Safety Training Systems ticket. Level Two drills down into detailed drawings and specifications, glass cutting, edge treatment, flashing, fabrication and installation of window and storefront systems. In addition to commercial glazing, Level Two also includes specific training on residential windows, doors, showers, mirrors, solariums and skylights. The Window and Door Manufacturers Association of B.C., in partnership with Home Owners Protection Office, B.C. Hydro’s Power Smart program and the City of Vancouver, is creating a guide on retrofitting replacement windows and doors that will be a mandatory resource for each Level Two apprentice. Level Three apprentices are required to learn and understand the GCABC Glazing Specifications Manual, which includes the requirements and legalities of the B.C. Energy EfficiencyAct and various building codes, bylaws, regulations and manufacturer’s specifications.
|Graduates of the SAIT apprentice glazier program are prepared to challenge the Red Seal exam, making them certified to work in the trade anywhere in Canada. |
Photo by Jill Ramage.
In order to write the interprovincial exam to become a Red Seal-certified journeyman glazier, apprentices must have a minimum of 6,400 hours of work experience in the field and three levels (18 weeks total) of in-classroom training. Modules are broken into six-week building blocks with the focus being hands-on learning. “There are only a few small trades that have an inter-provincial Red Seal. It means that no matter where they are trained, once they complete Level Three and pass their interprovincial Red Seal exam, they are journeyperson glaziers anywhere in Canada. This is unlike other types of ticketed trade certifications,” says Gordon.
The program is being offered at the award-winning Roofing Contractors Association of B.C. facility. The RCABC will administer the widely respected Construction Safety Training Systems course to all apprentices enrolled in the GCABC Apprentice Training Program. Controlled by the B.C. Construction Safety Association, the CSTS equips Level One apprentices with practical skills and proven prevention strategies to stay safe on the job. “It is a web-based program consisting of 15 training modules,” Gordon explains. “The program is designed to provide individual workers with a solid base of knowledge about workplace safety. The emphasis is on workplace hazards and how to avoid them. Participants watch narrated video clips of construction sites and common hazards and are guided through the correct response in each situation. Web-based training allows participants to learn at their own pace and to test their knowledge through interactive questions and scenarios. The course is very comprehensive and covers personal protective equipment, workplace hazards, WHMIS, fall protection, ladders and scaffolds, environmental conditions, the law and defensive driving. There is no one else offering this to glazing apprentices.
“The apprenticeship program is about the industry and ensuring that we have safe, qualified, trained, skilled workers in the field,” Gordon continues. “Any training program can only be as good as the industry that is involved in it. I am very impressed with the level of support from the association membership. This group of owners has recognized the need to invest in their industry and their future.
We recognized the group of subject matter experts as Volunteers of the Year at our annual general meeting on Dec. 6, 2011. I could not have done all this without their input and support. The staff at RCABC has been extraordinary in their assistance and advice.”
“The launch of the Glazing Apprentice Program is the fulfilment of an exciting new step for the GCABC and the glazing industry as our Level One students attend our new school with an amazing curriculum to learn,” says Dotschkat. “This has been an exciting process for all involved and we cannot wait to see our first Red Seal journeypersons complete this new program and welcome them into our industry. Thank you to all involved from the board, SMEs, members and our executive officer for going above and beyond to make this a reality.”
According to a forecast by the Construction Sector Council, the demand for glaziers in Alberta is going to rise 22 per cent over current levels by 2019. Ten years ago, the Glass Trades Association and the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology saw big problems on the horizon with only 56 registered glazier apprentices in the whole province. These groups pulled together construction companies, glazing contractors, window fabricators and other stakeholders from academia and government to launch a new glazing apprenticeship program in Calgary with instructors Ed Dalzell, Brian Risbey and Gene Aquilini. The success of that program led to its expansion to SAIT’s Edmonton campus and a full-time glazing instructor there, Craig Stafford. In June of last year, the Edmonton campus celebrated its first graduating class of 16. The graduates are now qualified to challenge the Red Seal exam, and the SAIT programs have brought the number of registered apprentices in Alberta up to 350. Jim Brady, co-owner of Desa Glass and past-president of the Glass and Architectural Metals Association, says, “The trade takes care of us, so we take care of the trade.”
In 2008, the Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities commissioned a report by Tim Armstrong, a former deputy minister in the Ontario government, to investigate the impact of expanding compulsory certification of trades in the province. Armstrong determined that the benefits of such an approach would outweigh the drawbacks, saying in his report, “I have concluded that there is a strong probability that registration and completion rates in compulsory trades are and will remain greater than those in the voluntary trades. Accordingly, the resulting overall increase in health and safety training should result in better health and safety performance in compulsory than in voluntary trades,” and “There is a lack of hard evidence as to whether consumers have greater protection when trades are made compulsory. Instinct, supported by experiential evidence from a number of stakeholders, supports the inference that the tendency will be for enhanced consumer protection if work is performed by a compulsorily-certified tradesperson. As to economic impact, compulsory certification is likely to lead to higher wages within the affected trade. However, the net cost to employers is almost certain to be lessened when certain offsetting items are factored in: productivity gains, retention benefits, reduced risk of skill shortages and improved health and safety performance, leading to lower WSIB premium costs.” All this led Armstrong to recommend the creation of a College of Trades for Ontario with broad authority to regulate and certify tradesmen.
Following another report by the chair of the Ontario Labour Relations Board, the Ontario College of Trades was created by the Ontario College of Trades and Apprenticeship in 2009. Under the Act, the College is empowered to issue licences and certificates of membership, protect the public interest through investigation and discipline mechanisms, set standards for training and certification, conduct research and collect relevant data to support future apprenticeship and certification policies, and remove barriers and increasing access for internationally trained workers. Since that time, the College has been set up with an organizational structure and elected an eclectic board of governors consisting of people from all walks of life. Union leaders, small business owners, public servants, working tradespeople, CEOs of large corporations – the Ontario College of Trades board is a real cross-section of Ontario’s working population. It is chaired by Ronald Johnson, a former MPP and deputy director of the Interior Systems Contractors Association of Ontario.
The College is divided into four sectors: construction, industrial, motive power and services. Architectural Glass and Metal Technician is a non-compulsory designation under the construction sector. Its five board members, appointed on Feb. 15, are Steve Laird, Marc-Andre Leclair, John Rempel, John Bastedo, Greg Bracken and Anthony Menecola. One of the first jobs of this group will be to review the existing journeyperson-to-apprentice ratios in the trade and make recommendations to either maintain the status quo or change them. These reviews are scheduled to begin in the fall of 2012, and industry stakeholders can make written submissions for the panel’s consideration.
Governments, associations and educational institutions across the country are slowly stirring in response to the labour crisis facing the trades. We can only hope it is not too late to prevent a permanent loss of knowledge and ability in Canada’s glass industry.