In July, Reps. Lloyd Smucker (R-Pa.) and Francis Rooney (R-Fla.) introduced "Workforce for an Expanding Economy Act" (H.R. 6536) in the House of Representatives. The legislation seeks to establish a pilot visa program to provide temporary immigrant workers for U.S. industries that have openings in occupations that do not require a college degree in accordance with economic demand. NRCA strongly supports the legislation as a key component of ongoing efforts to address the roofing industry's chronic workforce shortage.
NRCA recognizes the need for innovative initiatives to address roofing industry employers' workforce development challenges. Employers have experienced difficulty finding qualified candidates for job openings for many years despite offering competitive wages and engaging in strenuous efforts to recruit new employees. The problem results from an aging workforce and other long-term demographic trends in society. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects employment in roofing will grow 11 percent between 2016 and 2026, and there is widespread agreement within the roofing industry that the high level of workforce demand cannot be met by native-born workers alone. With unemployment now at its lowest level in 17 years according to BLS, the difficulties for employers are growing daily.
For many years, NRCA has been a leading advocate for immigration reform that responds to the workforce needs of businesses. In 1999, NRCA helped found the Essential Worker Immigration Coalition (EWIC), a coalition of business organizations formed to work with Congress to develop immigration policies that meet the needs of businesses. Along with other EWIC members, NRCA supports immigration reform that strengthens border security, improves workplace enforcement to combat illegal immigration, provides an avenue for workers to enter the U.S. legally in response to economic conditions and addresses the problem of the existing unauthorized workforce in a balanced manner. These reform components are critical to eliminating illegal immigration while meeting U.S. security and economic needs.