Glaziers overcome labor shortage through training, technology
Despite the growing workforce crisis in the construction industry, many glaziers report they do find enough employees. However, they often find just enough bodies to fill positions, not trained workers who can take on any job in the field.
With the construction industry at a loss for experienced employees, glaziers such as John Heinaman, president of Heinaman Contract Glazing in Lake Forest, Calif., say training becomes a must.
Heinaman says he pairs greener workers with skilled employees to learn all areas of the job. “We rely heavily on our experienced folks,” he says. “The foreman on each job has the responsibility to help train workers on his crew.”
Training becomes just as critical for project managers as it is for field workers, says Steve Burnett, president of Walters & Wolf Curtain Wall in Seattle. Walters & Wolf pulls many new employees from college and university construction management programs and runs a thorough training and mentoring program to keep them at the company.
“We work hard at having an internal training program,” he says. “People come into the company and we ensure they get a broad range of training in all phases of operation.”
Burnett says the training programs encourage employees to stay with the company. “Our [training] is key to retaining anyone, because you’re meeting their needs with their career, allowing them to follow their aspirations. It’s a win-win for both the company and individual.”
Training in the newest technologies also helps with labor issues by allowing for fewer on-site workers, says John Shum, vice president of operations for Sierra Glass & Mirror Inc. in Las Vegas.
Sierra brings in representatives from their suppliers to give presentations about the newest products, from sealants to glass, and Shum says he holds a curtain wall class quarterly for employees. “We spend quite a bit of money to keep experienced guys up-to-date on new technology and new techniques,” he says.
Shum says his crews have been trained heavily on working with unitized systems and the company now bids all its projects as unitized. “Fields can be reduced by two thirds with unitized systems. It’s a huge saving on field labor,” Shum says.