As I was saying …

The need for training

At our annual Midyear Meetings held July 12-16 in Chicago, NRCA leaders expressed their frustration with being able to find and keep qualified workers. This isn't a new development, of course, but as the economy continues to improve, the problem only gets worse. And the issue doesn't appear to be limited by geography; it's everywhere.

Here are a few things we know:

  • The average age of an entry-level union apprentice roofing worker is about 30.
  • According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 57 percent of the roofing field workforce is Hispanic.
  • The industry has a high rate of turnover in the first few months of employment.
  • Workers who are injured on the job are most likely either to be new to the job or more than 45 years old.
  • Current immigration policy makes it extremely difficult to hire people legally from outside the U.S.
  • There are about 160,000 roofing workers in the U.S.; about 22,000 of them belong to the roofers union.
  • According to surveys we've conducted (and validated by others), people entering the building trades expect to be trained and to have a clear, understandable career path.

Now, there are lots of conclusions that can be drawn from this, but it seems to me one is indisputable: We need to have a comprehensive, nationally recognized training program for roofing workers.

We are competing for labor, of course, with other building trades. And many of those other trades have well-established training programs (think electricians, plumbers and sheet metal workers). We'll never be able to compete effectively if we can't at least match the competition.