“Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.”— Henry Ford
Ford’s powerful statement conveys the ongoing sentiments of NRCA and its partner organizations as they address the industry’s labor shortage—one of the most difficult and long-standing challenges facing roofing businesses.
The sobering facts
The Census Bureau projects that through 2030, the U.S. population will grow at a greater rate than its workforce, which means there will be greater demand for goods and services than people able to deliver them.
As first reported in Barron’s, the U.S. will face a shortfall of 8.2 million workers between 2017 and 2027.
Also, according to the Roofing Alliance’s most recent demographics report, “A Study of the U.S. Roofing Industry and its Workforce,” the labor shortage in the roofing industry is more severe than previously recognized. The study reveals 90% of U.S. roofing contractors faced labor shortages during 2020 with the West being the region most severely affected by a lack of skilled workers.
“Our industry is losing around 32,000 jobs per year because of retiring workers; if we want our trade to thrive, we need to develop a workforce that includes young tradespeople in our career and technical education system,” says Nick Sabino, founder and president of Deer Park Roofing Inc., Cincinnati, and NRCA’s immediate former chairman of the board. “Millennials and Gen Zers often shun the trades based on misconceived notions, such as there’s no upward mobility, clear career path or money to be made. We need to reposition the roofing industry as the entrepreneurial opportunity it truly is starting today.”
In less than two years, Gen Z—generally defined as those currently under the age of 25—is expected to make up one-fifth of the U.S. workforce, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. With 40% of workers estimated to retire by 2030, the construction industry knows it needs this generation to choose to work in construction and, preferably, roofing. Unfortunately, often the prospect of working in construction or roofing is met with a lack of enthusiasm. A 2016 study from the National Association of Home Builders found only 3% of surveyed 18- to 25-year-olds want a career in construction, and 43% said no salary amount could persuade them to consider it.
The reality is there is a wealth of career potential and opportunity in roofing for people with various skill sets and levels of education. To be successful in the long run, the roofing industry must position itself as an industry that offers rewarding careers as it adapts to the influx of Millennials and Gen Zers entering the workforce or looking for career changes. The demand is industrywide—new construction and reroofing, residential and commercial, manufacturing and distribution—which means growth and success can be found in any area someone is interested in pursuing.
To help address the roofing industry’s workforce shortage, NRCA has launched a members-only workforce recruitment webpage, nrca.net/workforce-recruitment. The webpage contains tools and resources designed to help NRCA members recruit, engage, onboard and train entry-level and transitioning employees to the roofing industry. The webpage showcases the opportunities to work, earn, learn and advance in the roofing industry; skilled training and certification opportunities; safety and technological advances; earnings potential; and the multifaceted career opportunities available across all sectors of the industry.
NRCA’s online toolkit contains seven downloadable handouts in English and Spanish for members to use at job fairs, when speaking at CTE events and high schools, and when meeting with counselors and educators to promote career paths in roofing. The toolkit also provides resources for how to engage with CTE schools; talk with guidance counselors, parents and students; wage information; job descriptions; training and certification resources; and information about technology, diversity and sustainability.
Members also can access descriptions and links to other organizations NRCA partners with to advance the roofing industry’s workforce, including the Association for Career & Technical Education;® Department of Veterans Affairs; National Center for Construction Education and Research; National Women in Roofing; and SkillsUSA.®
In summer 2020, NRCA also launched an independent, industry-based website, careersinroofing.com, that provides resources for new, entry-level and transitioning employees. The site promotes roofing career paths and opportunities in the field, shop and office as well as manufacturing and distribution fields. The site provides information about the experience needed for specific jobs within the industry, wage information, and additional resources and training opportunities so roofing becomes the trade of choice for Millennials and Gen Zers. In addition, the site provides sections directed to parents, educators and counselors so they understand the career opportunities available in the roofing industry. A job bank for members to post job openings will be added in the spring, and NRCA regularly adds information about technology, sustainability and diversity, all of which are important to younger generations.
NRCA also continues to advocate on behalf of the industry before elected officials in Washington, D.C.
“NRCA is focused on increasing federal funding for CTE programs to help maximize workforce development opportunities for employers, including advocating for Congress to provide increased funding for Perkins Basic State Grants in fiscal year 2021,” says Duane Musser, NRCA’s vice president of government relations.
As reported previously in Professional Roofing, these grants, which are available to all 50 states and the District of Columbia, provide critical funding to educational institutions, employers and students who need training to help close skills gaps in the current workforce.
Although the federal government’s budgetary issues will make securing increased funding for CTE increasingly difficult, NRCA continues to advocate for increased CTE funding, and the issue will be a major focus for Roofing Day in D.C. 2021, the roofing industry’s biggest advocacy event, which will be held virtually March 23-24. In the meantime, NRCA encourages members to contact their lawmakers in support of increased funding for Perkins CTE programs via an NRCA Action Alert available at roofingadvocacy.nrca.net/actionalerts.
Workforce recruitment and development always has played an important role within NRCA.
“And as the shortage of workers increases, we recognize it’s now more critical than ever,” says Rod Petrick, president and owner of Ridgeworth Roofing Co. Inc., Frankfort, Ill., and NRCA’s chairman of the board.
“At the same time, we also have learned our efforts are more effective when we partner with trusted and like-minded organizations in the field. Collectively, we can do far greater work.”
Throughout 2020, NRCA continued to advance the roofing profession through its business partnership with SkillsUSA.
SkillsUSA is a partnership of students, teachers and industry professionals working to ensure the U.S. has a skilled workforce through its educational programs, events and competition that support career and technical education in U.S. classrooms. SkillsUSA has more than 360,000 annual members nationwide in middle schools, high schools and colleges covering more than 130 trade, technical and skilled service occupations, and is recognized by the Departments of Education and Labor as integral to career and technical education.
“NRCA’s partnership with SkillsUSA is critical in expanding the industry’s outreach and footprint in the career and technical fields by establishing roofing as a core curriculum in schools, ultimately helping NRCA members address workforce shortages,” Petrick says.
And through this partnership, NRCA will have roofing recognized as its own trade in the SkillsUSA Student TeamWorks Competition for the first time in its history. Before NRCA’s involvement, the SkillsUSA Student TeamWorks Competition included framing walls, installing flooring and sheathing, and installing plumbing and electrical components. However, NRCA and SkillsUSA now are designing plans to include a 4-foot-wide by 2-foot-deep roof off the side of a structure 3 1/2 feet off the ground to introduce roofing and its challenges to students. NRCA will provide CAD flashing details for this roof system design (headwall apron flashing and metal edge flashings), as well as specifications. NRCA also will provide the scoring criteria and judges.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, NRCA had planned to attend SkillsUSA’s annual National Leadership & Skills Conference in Louisville, Ky., in summer 2020 and participate in the Meet the Employer event but will do so virtually in 2021. And moving forward, NRCA will work with SkillsUSA to integrate a commercial roofing component into its annual competition.
Another benefit of the SkillsUSA partnership is access to SkillsUSA’s list of architecture and construction schools, including access to their faculties, which is a great resource for NRCA and its members. And because of this access, NRCA was able to connect with local Dallas-area schools in February 2020 and invite students to the International Roofing Expo® where they saw multiple products, programs and people.
Any member wishing to connect with a local CTE school and/or faculty can call NRCA for contact information.
“Reaching prospective workers is an invaluable resource,” says J.J. Smithey, president of Frost Roofing Inc., Wapakoneta, Ohio. “I encourage members to be proactive and contact their local schools; the instructors are hungry for roofing information and will gladly welcome you into their classrooms.”
In early 2019, NRCA partnered with the National Center for Construction Education & Research to establish a workforce development solution for the roofing industry. NCCER is a nonprofit educational foundation that develops standardized curriculum and assessments with portable credentials and certifications for skilled construction professionals.
NCCER and NRCA are creating a career path for roofing workers to follow from education to certification. To that end, NCCER’s 20-year-old roofing curriculum is being revised and expanded with the help of three NCCER technical writers, 15 subject matter experts provided by NRCA, and NRCA staff experts who assist with internal reviews to ensure the curriculum is accurate from a technical and safety perspective.
Consisting of two levels, the enhanced curriculum will prepare individuals to take NRCA ProCertification® exams. NRCA ProCertification is a national certification initiative through which experienced roofing workers who demonstrate substantial roofing skills and knowledge can become certified in specific roof system installations. The NCCER and NRCA partnership will help increase consumer confidence that these certified craft professionals have the knowledge and skills to do the job well.
“Since the beginning of this project, NRCA has been a guiding hand in the redevelopment of our roofing curriculum,” says John Esbenshade, NCCER project manager. “NRCA has connected us to thought leaders throughout the country, and once the curriculum is on the market in 2021, new and inexperienced workers will benefit greatly as a result of this outstanding partnership.”
Level one, which includes modules such as Introduction to Low-slope Roofing; Introduction to Steep-slope Roofing; Roofing Safety; Drawings in Roofing; and Substrates, Decks, Roofing Insulation is expected to be available by summer. Level 2, which is more system-specific, will be ready by year-end. All 22 modules also will be translated into Spanish.
“NCCER is proud to partner with NRCA to enhance the training of roofing professionals,” states Boyd Worsham, NCCER president. “The roofing industry is an essential sector of construction—every facility, from school to church to home, has a roof, yet it is a craft area that is frequently underrecognized. In addition to expanding our curriculum, we also aim to highlight the critical role of these craft professionals in our society.”
“NRCA is excited to partner with NCCER because of its strong commitment to workforce development that is inclusive of low- and steep-slope roof system installation,” Sabino adds. “The partnership also will raise awareness for careers in roofing, enhance installer professionalism and increase the number of NRCA ProCertified® applicators in the industry.”
Spearheaded by NCCER and its Build Your Future campaign, NRCA collaborated with NCCER in October 2020 for its eighth annual Careers in Construction Month—a campaign to increase public awareness, inspire the next generation of craft professionals and positively influence the perceptions of careers in construction. NRCA members participated by talking to high school students about roofing career paths and hosting career days and open houses.
NRCA participates in NCCER’s Build Your Future Hard Hat Heroes program, which is NCCER’s military recruitment division that provides a way for veterans to receive NCCER credentials for the skills and training they received while in the service. NRCA promoted the initiative on its website to show its support for all military branches while also gaining exposure for roofing as a trade of choice. NRCA also was included in outreach to veterans through an email campaign and in an advertisement in the December 2020 issue of G.I. Jobs, which has a monthly circulation of more than 75,000 veterans and transitioning military personnel.
Connecting with veterans
Veterans, transitioning military and military spouses are a talented pool of professional, dedicated and driven individuals with highly relevant and valuable skill sets that often go untapped. In mid-2020, NRCA partnered with veteran-owned Oplign LLC, Virginia Beach, Va., to enhance and support NRCA members’ efforts to recruit transitioning military personnel and veterans. Oplign is a labor market data analytics company that uses artificial intelligence and machine-learning technology to align job applicants with job openings. Oplign aligns candidates with employment opportunities, and companies can optimize their labor demand to their markets’ talent supply by using Oplign’s technology.
“Oplign is excited to support NRCA. The veteran labor pool continues to be an untapped source of dedicated, talented workers,” says Mike Grow, Oplign’s CEO. “If we can increase the ability of architects, engineers and roofing professionals to connect with transitioning military personnel and veterans, we will feel like we’ve added tremendous value to both communities.”
In the year ahead, NRCA and Oplign will work together to provide workforce recruitment resources, educational tools and training materials to NRCA members that identify how roofing employers can build effective veteran recruitment and sourcing programs. In addition, Oplign will offer discounted subscriptions to NRCA members for its advanced services.
“We see this partnership with Oplign as an invaluable resource for our members,” says McKay Daniels, NRCA’s COO. “This opportunity will help our members recruit, engage, onboard and train transitioning veterans to the roofing industry.”
Regardless of how you choose to engage and collaborate in your community, there’s no better time than the present. As a result of the pandemic, 64% of U.S. workers say they are looking for new job opportunities or will consider moving jobs if approached by another company, according to a recent study from Ceridian HCM Holding Inc., Minneapolis, a human resources software and services firm. The study found younger workers are most likely to be on the move, with 76% of those under the age of 30 either looking for or open to new opportunities. And many are looking to stay longer once they find the jobs they want in the pandemic era; 62% of U.S.-based respondents said job security is a bigger factor now when considering a change.
This corresponds to another generational study conducted by consulting firm XYZ University, Minneapolis, which found Gen Zers, who were born into a world of financial change and conflict, want stability. Because of that desire, Gen Zers respect those who make smart personal financial decisions, such as going into the trades. That highlights an important difference between Millennials and Gen Zers. Millennials typically prioritize their work as their main source of fulfillment and are less likely to compromise. Gen Zers typically are willing to find lucrative work and recognize the trades are a viable route for that, the study added.
“Regardless of all the studies and statistics, we know we won’t see change overnight, but if we continue collaborating and working together on all workforce levels, the current trend will shift, and over time, younger generations will consider the roofing industry as a viable career option,” Sabino says. “But it has to start with us.”
Contractors need entry-level workers in the field, as well as estimators, salespeople, accountants, and office and managerial staff. Manufacturers and distributors need individuals with advanced degrees in engineering and materials science, electricians, IT specialists, marketing experts, human resource professionals and skilled labor. And the industry needs to make its needs known. But how? Here are some ideas to consider: