As I was saying …

Building bench strength

During my recent travels, I've had the opportunity to lead several focus group discussions with (mostly) NRCA members, asking them to share what they think are the biggest issues facing the industry and the things that keep them awake at night.

Invariably—and almost unanimously—one of the first responses is the workforce. And the issues are plain: The industry needs to do a better job of recruiting, training and retaining its workers for all types of roofing contractors and at all levels of the companies they represent.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates the construction industry will need to add 200,000 net jobs during the next decade. The obvious question is: Where will these folks come from? We have not succeeded in recent years at attracting the 18 to 22 year olds who used to form the core of the industry's workforce. They're being counseled to go to college even though one-third of them won't graduate. And with U.S. immigration policy in disarray, finding workers outside the U.S. has become increasingly difficult. We no longer have a readily available labor force.

But the problems don't end there. NRCA members report they need estimators, project managers and office workers not to mention the future senior managers and owners of their businesses. Where will these folks come from?