Architectural cladding installers are raising the roof for opportunities

Shawn Huff, 27, high atop a building in the field
Shawn Huff, 27, high atop a building in the field

It may take a specific type of person to do the job, but the cladding field needs just that as this industry looks to expand the workforce.

Architectural cladding is the installation of wall panels as a way to cover and insulate walls, but can also include work with roofing, soffits, and otherwise exterior materials such as eavestrophing and downspouts. The catch, however, is that it tends to happen in slightly adverse conditions.

“If you think you can get over the heights and the winter, then you’ll fit right in,” said Shawn Huff, a 27-year-old cladder who knows firsthand what it takes to work in the field.

As frightening as the initial impression might sound, the heightened experience isn’t something to fear with the right training. Now, with a good dozen companies coming to the table, that training is well within reach.

Blaine Laschuk with Temple Metal Roofs was at the forefront of those uniting efforts because he knows how beneficial this sort of education could be for the industry.

“The only school there’s been is to learn from your dad, and in a lot of cases, that’s just a lot of watching,” Laschuk explained. “We’re seeing people choose to go into heating, air conditioning, and venting fields likely because there’s more training involved.”

In 2023, a great deal of effort was placed into developing a course that helps to better prepare potential entrants into the field. Now, with the finishing touches being put on the curriculum, it emphasizes the importance of easing into the job itself by placing importance on the first steps.

“The first part of the training will focus on vocabulary before moving into the preparation stages,” Laschuk said. “You need to make sure everything is installed correctly, and there’s a lot to learn before even getting to the point where you’re putting on a piece of metal. That’s the easy part after the preparation.”

The training will also serve the purpose of drawing in a younger demographic by making the benefits of the occupation seem more attainable. With how the current landscape is set up, many often have the chance to jump into other trades before getting a chance to understand the potential for a career in cladding.

“Right now, the average age is closer to 55,” Laschuk explained. “It’s hard to find people to just step into these situations where you’re up really high in winter conditions.”

Being on the younger end of the demographic, Huff sees the importance of bringing in the younger group.

“It’s really nice to have someone come in at a younger age because it sets them up so nicely for the future,” Huff explained. “It’s also a huge advantage for them, because they’ll get the training before some even get started in the field.”

Not only will that training program benefit those who step into the industry, but Huff also says it’s not nearly as daunting as originally thought.

“The training itself was very lenient, at least in my case,” he said. “You aren’t expected to be a professional immediately. They know that it will take time, and that everyone learns at a different pace.”

That in itself is a major plus for those who might be entering into the new training program, and that seems like the point. This now adds that additional level of education in addition to any internal training done.

Claude Simard from Claude Simard Metal Systems Ltd. helps to conduct internal training in his own company but welcomes the idea of that additional push for more people to find their way into the new training program.

“We’ve done internal training for as long as we’ve been in business,” Simard said. “We’re really interested in getting access to that training program to help further that process.”

The most important part of the training process, however, is that this program will be delivered by those in the industry. This allows for the direct passing down of knowledge from the experts, which will make those learning more comfortable in their situation.

“The Manitoba Construction Sector Council (MCSC) makes sure that all of our courses are developed by the industry, for the industry,” explained MCSC Executive Director Carol Paul. “The industry determines how that course will be delivered.”

This also makes the idea of taking a leap into a high-demand occupation a bit less extreme, which is an important first step for both potential students and those looking to teach.

“This can be that step for someone who is looking at a career that will provide stable employment, a living wage, and opportunities for advancement,” said Paul. “When people are looking for work, this is the place to go and with the training and opportunities to make a great wage at the beginning, it’s really attractive.”

That sentiment in general holds true for someone like Huff, who even at 27, is already nearing his fourth full year in the industry.

“It’s great, and I can absolutely see why people love it once they get into it,” said Huff. “I got into the industry through a family friend, and I can’t say enough good things about the process and training that got me to where I am today.”

To learn more about opportunities within the architectural cladding industry, visit MBCSC.com.

Hear more about architectural cladding from the experts in MCSC’s Trade Talk series: https://youtu.be/C2WzJ3FLcSA?si=QSWLmLi1XwD3FOMs

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