At Veka Academy, Workforce Development is on the Syllabus

November 15th, 2017 by Trey Barrineau

Veka welcomed 20 members of the fenestration industry this week to Veka Academy, a two-day educational initiative the company launched two years ago.

Veka’s Steve Dillon, left, and Kevin Seiling led this week’s Veka Academy in Fombell, Pa.

Hosted at Veka’s North American headquarters in Fombell, Pa., near Pittsburgh, it’s designed for entry- to mid-level sales, production, engineering, purchasing, marketing and management personnel who are interested in learning more about the door and window industry.

The course mixes classroom learning and hands-on experience. Topics covered by Kevin Seiling, Veka’s vice president of engineering and new product development, included testing and labeling, Energy Star, U-values, impact, condensation, colors and green building codes. Participants also got a behind-the-scenes look at Veka’s extrusion process during a two-hour plant tour.

Additionally, Veka Academy gives attendees an overview of Veka, which was founded in Germany in 1969 by Heinrich Laumann, who is still active in the company. That included an in-depth look at the Veka Essentials program, which provides design and engineering, sales and marketing, and customer care to window and door manufacturers.

Market Update

As part of the classroom sessions, Jeff Faulk, a divisional sales manager with Veka, gave an overview of the current market for fenestration products in the U.S.

Faulk said the U.S. economy is improving steadily, but labor issues are starting to hurt many industries.

“It’s a real shortage at this point,” he said.

More contractors are reporting longer-than-usual construction delays, and 93 percent say it’s because of labor shortages, Faulk said.

“It’s hard to get people right now,” he said. “It’s hard to get them to stay. If we can get them through year 1, we’re good. But sometimes we’re having to bring in 20-30 people to end up with 10.”

Window installers are also getting harder to find, Faulk said.

“That’s a major bottleneck,” he said.

Steve Dillon, Veka’s marketing director, thinks the labor shortage is linked to problems with the U.S. educational system.

“There’s too much focus on four-year schools,” he said. “But the tide may have flipped. We just had 50 kids here from local vocational school, and they said their numbers are way up.”

Overall remodeling spending is up, but window sales are flat. An exception: Windows with a certification label from the American Architectural Manufacturers Association (AAMA). Sales for those products are up 3-4 percent, Faulk said. Another plus for companies like Veka is vinyl’s growing market share. It’s expected to represent about 71 percent of all windows sold in the U.S. in 2018.

And patio doors are expected to see a strong rate of growth as more homeowners jump on the indoor-outdoor living trend.

Residential housing has recovered nicely from the darkest days of the great recession, Faulk said, and more than 50 percent of all new construction is happening in the South. That region is also going to drive short-term construction gains thanks to post-hurricane rebuilding in Texas and Florida. 

Vinyl in Commercial Applications

Matt Matlack, manager of commercial systems, gave a presentation on Veka’s commercial program. Matlack said the company wants to move vinyl beyond residential and into the commercial because of the material’s strong marketing penetration. 

Matlack said vinyl is starting to move into the storefront realm, in addition to the inroads it’s already made in the multifamily market and modular housing. He said vinyl can be a good fit in low- to mid-rise buildings.

Vitro Talks Intercept

Bill Davis, Vitro’s new productivity manager and technical services engineer for the company’s Intercept stainless steel spacer system technology, gave a presentation on what’s new with the glassmaker. He said Vitro is working on a new product, Solarban 700, which will be the latest addition to its line of low-E coated glass.

“Vitro employs several scientists who are constantly working on new low-E coatings,” he said.

This article is from Door and Window Market [DWM] magazine's free e-newsletter that covers the latest door and window industry news. Click HERE to sign up—there is no charge. Interested in a deeper dive? Free subscriptions to [DWM] magazine in print or digital format are available. Subscribe at no charge HERE.

Tags: ,

Leave Comment