Training matters

Working in a constantly evolving industry requires ongoing training


Quality materials and equipment, up-to-date technology, seamless operations, and a strong sales and marketing team are all elements that help make your roofing business successful. But all these components won’t matter much if you are not committed to worker training.

Failing to adequately train potential leaders of your company and the industry can result in you missing out on revenue growth opportunities.

Why is training essential?

Training always has been synonymous with the roofing industry because of the high degree of skill and care needed to complete the work. But like anything else, training methods evolve. Training practices that worked for one generation might not be as successful for the next group of workers.

For instance, many of your older workers probably learned on the job by observing one person demonstrating how to do a task in a certain way. But modern workers want and need more out of the training process than just being given a set of directions. They’re asking why things are done the way they are rather than simply accepting a process as is. Building owners also are demanding more when it comes to the quality of roof systems, so it’s crucial manufacturers and contractors keep up with those expectations.

Blending on-the-job experience with formal training programs and certifications can improve quality and safety while also boosting profitability. A successful program delivers better-performing roof systems; develops a knowledgeable, efficient workforce; reduces manufacturer and contractor liability; and leads to better pay and increased profits.

Better roof systems

Better-performing roof systems equate to happy customers and increased profits. Roofing workers are one of the last sets of eyes and hands on a product as it goes into service for a building owner or homeowner. When workers are pushed to move quickly and cut corners to get a job done efficiently, the result can be subpar-performing roof systems and products, potentially lessening their lifespans and increasing callbacks.

Each roof system component works together as part of a larger whole, so it is important to include training related to the complete system; for example, including proper substrate, insulation and the waterproofing membrane. With proper worker training, common mistakes, such as an improperly welded membrane, incorrect product installation and using noncompatible materials, can be avoided.

Many roofing workers continue to learn on the job, which is effective to a point. But additional formal training supplements the gaps, especially when it comes to installing new materials and studying newly emerging techniques. Being in a training session takes away the pressure of time constraints associated with training while finishing a real job. Plus, during formal training, new workers can get real experience and make mistakes without consequence, which certainly wouldn’t be the case if they learned on the job.

A knowledgeable workforce

As workers gain experience and technical knowledge, training should shift to focus on advanced techniques and include an emphasis on coaching and mentoring to increase a crew’s overall competency. Spending the time now to help experienced workers develop mentoring skills needed to shape and train a new generation of workers can help set up your business for success down the road. Continually investing in your workers by offering training opportunities throughout their careers, no matter their levels of knowledge, only hones their skill sets, making tasks easier and more efficient.

Reduced liability

Manufacturers often issue material warranties and/or system guarantees that depend on proper installation for the products to perform as intended. Incorrect installation as a result of improper worker training not only can lead to various issues for a building owner or homeowner, but it also creates problems for you and the manufacturer as you both may be liable and have to spend more time and money correcting errors.

No matter how high quality a product is, if it’s installed or handled incorrectly it won’t do the job it was meant to do. Implementing best practices learned through training translates to fewer problems and callbacks, as well as a better reputation for the manufacturer and contractor.

Better pay and benefits

Training inevitably increases the skill levels of employees, who then will deliver exceptional results. These skilled workers help improve the roofing industry’s reputation, which means building owners and homeowners may be willing to pay more for the final product.

Additionally, well-trained workers are likely to be more efficient and less likely to make careless mistakes, which can reduce overall costs while increasing profitability for your company. In other words, spending the money on training now can help save money for your business later.

A manufacturer’s training partnership

The changing workforce combined with new technology and evolving building practices spurred Johns Manville, Denver, to open a 7,500-square-foot training facility in Rockdale, Ill.

Roofing companies come from all over the world to undergo hands-on training at the manufacturing facility, which primarily focuses on the safe, efficient installation of roofing products and roof systems.

Areas of concentration at the facility include materials origins and installation techniques, safety practices, improving productivity and learning new technologies.

To supplement on-the-job learning and continue to build a skilled workforce that allows roofing products and systems to perform at their best, Johns Manville’s Roofing Institute is used to support NRCA’s Qualified Trainer course. The course is targeted toward lead foremen, superintendents and other key employees with the goal of arming them with the tools needed for training, mentoring and coaching new workers.

The program involves developing lesson plans that will help incoming workers understand their skill sets and progress them to where they need to be. The course also emphasizes how to encourage new workers to ask questions throughout the training process so they understand the reasons why they’re told to do things a certain way. Questioning the process helps develop skilled workers who think critically during every job and become better and safer installers.

The facility also serves as a testing location for NRCA ProCertification™ candidates. NRCA ProCertification involves demonstrating skills and knowledge through online tests and in-person assessments that allow workers to achieve NRCA certifications in different roof system applications and disciplines.

The program encompasses a balance of knowledge and hands-on skills and focuses on certifying individuals rather than companies. A standardized certification is critical for allowing roofing workers to provide the best performing roof systems to customers.

Allowing NRCA to use the Rockdale training facility was a natural fit for Johns Manville. The partnership provides a space that is large and flexible enough to grow as the program evolves, giving it the best chance of success.

Johns Manville believes training and certification programs such as those offered by NRCA also help improve the image of the roofing industry and are a step in the right direction for creating positive change and a strong workforce.

Success in the long run

The roofing industry always will continue to offer new and technologically advanced products and systems, which means there always will be room for improvement when it comes to installation and the adaptation of various skills and techniques. Staying ahead of the curve and preparing your workers for what lies ahead through consistent and effective training will mean more growth, profitability and success for your business in the long run.

Jonas Houchin is application and innovation engineering manager for Johns Manville, Denver.

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