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Union and nonunion glaziers alike rely on training to overcome shortage of experienced workers

Joe Clabbers, president of National Glass and Metal Co. in Horsham, Pa., looks to the glaziers’ and ironworkers’ unions to find quality, trained workers. Andy Gum, president and owner of Thomas Glass Co. in Columbus, Ohio, tries to attract applicants and then trains them in house.

Either way, managers at union and non-union shops all report difficulty finding skilled employees, resulting in more available projects than they have workers to complete.

“There are fewer people that want to be in the trade, and that is a problem that’s only going to get worse,” Gum says. “We are able to sustain a pretty solid-core workforce, but it becomes difficult when you try to build that. For every five we hire, we keep one."

Being a non-union company, Gum says he has to provide applicants with good wages and consistent work to attract and keep them.

Tony Baca, president of Southwest Glass & Glazing Inc. in Albuquerque, agreed, adding that non-union shops require effective training programs because the majority of applicants don’t have prior job knowledge.

“You can’t just go out and run an ad for experienced glaziers. You have to bring in new people and train them yourself,” he says.

Union shops can draw from the local chapters to find skilled workers, says Gary Evans, vice president and owner of TSI/Exterior Wall Systems in Landover, Md. “You have to nurture someone to teach them a highly specialized sub-contractor category,” he says. “We pull from within the union and make them project managers.”

However, Clabbers says, most already have work. “The unions are a source to go to if there are people there; but when there’s nobody, you have to try to go with what you have,” he says. “When guys become available, you try to pick them up.”

As a result, training programs become critical for union shops as well. “The guys that come to us, we refer them to the union,” Clabbers says. “So, in addition to our training, they’re getting classroom training and specialized training at [the union’s] training centers.”


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