We're all in this together

It's no secret the roofing industry is facing enormous hurdles attracting new workers. Is it because high school students are choosing colleges over vo-tech or trade schools? Is it because roofing is regarded as too "dirty" of a trade? Is it because the roofing industry at large doesn't offer a clear career path?

The reasons clearly are varied, and the answers are complex. NRCA is trying to help roofing contractors—and all members—address the worker shortage, but all construction trades are facing a similar challenge. And this could mean no matter what the roofing industry does, it may not be enough.

According to the Conference Board, a global, independent business membership and research association, 2017 will be a difficult year for contracting companies looking to hire new talent.

Brian Schaitkin, senior economist at the Conference Board, told Bloomberg BNA it takes 16 days on average to fill open construction positions—the longest period since the height of the housing boom.

Bloomberg BNA reports: "The Conference Board's research shows that shortages range from a low of 10 percent for drywall installers, ceiling tile installers and tapers to a whopping 96 percent for construction and building inspectors."

And if President Trump succeeds in pushing his infrastructure spending measures through Congress, the construction industry may be suffocated by the resulting burden of work and an inability to complete it.

Bloomberg BNA asked Tony Kempf, vice president of Garney Construction, Kansas City, Mo., for his thoughts about the impending infrastructure spending. Kempf said the spending could exacerbate the labor shortage.

"I think we will definitely see a continued strain on the industry," he says.

It's small comfort to know other industries are feeling the same pain points. But for now, it seems the best approach is to continue training workers, offer a solid benefits package and career path, and actively recruit through job fairs, online job posting services and word of mouth.

Ambika Puniani Bailey is editor of Professional Roofing and NRCA's vice president of communications and production.


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