Let’s say you’re a young adult who likes working with your hands and you are looking for a trade that offers lots of variety as well as satisfaction on many levels. You have friends from high school that have decided to work in the trades, and know that they started by going to a community college or technical school in order to enroll in a carpentry, plumbing, or an electrical program. Perhaps they entered a training course that was sponsored by a trade union or a trade association. With these recognized training courses they were able to learn all of the technical and practical aspects of their chosen trade, and after a period of time as an apprentice they could become qualified to practice their occupation.
You are considering which trade is most appealing to you and happen to notice a crew in your neighbourhood replacing windows in a home. It occurs to you that this might be an interesting choice for an occupation. The next obvious thing is to do a web search asking: ‘how to become trained as a window installer’. Your screen will be filled with courses that are offered almost everywhere, the only problem is that the ‘windows’ you will be installing run on computers and are made by Microsoft. If you scroll through the list of sites in your search you may find a reference to a course for home improvement window installation. This will be a one or two day course designed to enhance the knowledge of people already working as replacement window installers.
The reality is that there are no all-encompassing programs available to teach you how to replace residential windows correctly, and the only practical option is to be hired as a helper on a crew and learn on the job. This means that you will be learning skills from the other members of the crew, who have likely not had any recognized training either. That is because this specific training doesn’t exist, at least not in the way it does for most other trades. This doesn’t mean that there aren’t several exceptional window installers working in the field, but it does mean that they have had to spend many years honing their skills and they have to be very good at coming up with practical solutions to construction problems without being able to refer to a manual. Experience is a great teacher, and over the decades the top crew leaders have learned how to correctly deal with any situation in order to avoid creating a problem. Also, they likely have had the opportunity to work on projects supervised by building envelope professionals, and consequently learned new methods while using new materials. The ‘leaky condo’ epidemic in our Vancouver market forced new expertise into the industry that many forward thinking companies have embraced.
In Canada there is a course designed by our National window association that offers training for installation crews. This program is called Window Wise, and was started about 15 years ago to address the lack of training in the industry. At Long Life, all of our crew foremen have taken this course and are certified window installers. Window Wise does random inspections of our projects to ensure the correct methods are being utilized, plus the organization adds a third party warranty to all of our installations. As a business, we are also involved with local building envelope engineers to continue to refine our body of knowledge. We attend several industry trade shows each year in order to learn from others in the field, and to keep up to date with the latest materials and applications. In the United States there is an organization called the Window and Door Dealer Alliance that offers ongoing training and seminars. We are members of this group and have been given an award by them for our work in the industry.
Without a recognized training program available from local institutions it is important that individuals and businesses in our industry are proactive in seeking knowledge. It is also imperative that our crew leaders are unique individuals with decades of experience in order to maintain the high quality of workmanship our wet coastal climate demands.
So, if you or someone you know has decided to look into becoming a professional window installer, the best choice forward at this time is to contact a reliable firm in the industry and ask if there is an opening as a helper on a crew. The industry certainly needs to add many young hands to the workforce.