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The UK glass sub-sector is varied, ranging from large mass production and fabrication plants to specialised studios designing glass vases. It covers:

  • Manufacture of flat glass
  • Shaping and processing of flat glass
  • Manufacture of hollow glass
  • Manufacture of glass fibres
  • Manufacture and processing of other glass including technical glassware

In addition, it also includes the following industries: glazing and curtain walling; manufacture and installations of windows, doors and conservatories; automotive glazing; and architectural stain glass and stain glass conservation. Glass is a multipurpose product that is used widely on a daily basis. With modern computer use in business and the development of automated systems, many changes have taken place within glass manufacturing.

There has been a decline in the numbers employed in the sub-sector, but this seems to have slowed. In the last three years, employment levels have stabilised.

Key statistics:

  • There are an estimated 168,000 people employed in the sub-sector, across 21,600 workplaces.
  • Workers in the sub-sector tend to be full-time and directly employed, rather than on a contract basis.
  • Work is often shift-based, especially in lower levels jobs.
  • 92% of the workforce is employed full-time.
  • 84% of the workforce is male.
  • 97% of the workforce is white.
  • 10% of workforce is 16-24 years, 24% 25-34 years, 25% 35-44 years, 26% 45-54 years, 12% 55-64 years and 3% 65 years and over
  • 10% of the workforce considers themselves to have a disability.
  • 21% of the workforce has a Level 1 or entry level qualification, 22% a Level 2, 24% a Level 3, 7% a Level 4 and 12% a Level 5 qualification.
  • Annual turnover for the sub-sector is currently around £3.7 billion.
  • There are 1,801 sole traders in the sub-sector.

Jobs in the sub-sector range from: glass blower, cold end worker, glass engraver, stain glass maker, craft glass worker, glass processor, autoclave operator, batch plant operator, glass fibre maker, furnace controller, engineering manager, service engineer – windows/doors/conservatories, surveyor, installer, lead design engineer, glass technician

Generally, the skill needs for the future will be in higher level management and technical operations. There will be a continuing need for health and safety skills in the sub-sector. It will become more important for people to be multi-skilled and able to work across several areas of the business.

Skill shortages in the sub-sector include:

  • Employability skills, such as team-working, having a good attitude, and using initiative
  • Craft and Technical skills, such as glass cutting, laminating and computer-aided design (CAD)
  • Management and Leadership skills

Skill gaps are most prevalent in production and technical jobs.

The largest occupational groups in the sub-sector are:

  • Process, Plant and Machine Operatives
  • Skilled Trades Occupations
  • Managers and Senior Officials

There is a shortage of technicians, maintenance and electrical engineers.

The majority of companies in the sector (83%) are located in England, with 11% of the total in Scotland, 2% in Wales and 4% in Northern Ireland. Some major regions include the North West, Yorkshire and the West Midlands. 70% of employers in the sub-sector employ between 2-9 people, 20% employ 11-49 people, 8% have 50- 199 employees and 2% of companies employ more than 200 people.

Nearly two fifths of businesses have contracted and seen the size of their workforce reduced, but some have experienced growth during the recession. The outlook for the future is much more positive, with a third of businesses forecasting expansion.

The proportion of glass companies reporting vacancies has fallen to 6%, which is still higher than the sector average.

Source: Proskills AACS LMI report 2010 and The 2009 Employer Survey – Glass and related industries