Make lemonade out of lemons

During the supply chain shortage, invest time in developing your workforce

This month, I invited Jared Ribble, NRCA’s director of Qualified Trainer and ProCertification® programs, to serve as a guest columnist.

“The more concerned we become over the things we can’t control, the less we will do with the things we can control.” – John Wooden

On Sept. 22, NRCA hosted a Telephone Town Hall, which gave roofing manufacturers an opportunity to explain the reasons behind the supply chain shortage and what we can expect moving forward. While listening to the town hall, two things became immediately clear to me: Taking raw materials and manufacturing them into roofing products is an intricate process, and the supply chain is out of contractors’ control.

However, there are things you can control, such as workforce development, and now is the perfect time to take action. Those who do will find themselves in the best position to thrive when materials are finally delivered to job sites.

Take a moment for a short math equation. Divide your company’s annual gross profit by the number of installers you employ. The result will tell you how much gross profit each individual installer earns for your company. It’s a large number, correct? By strengthening your workforce development, you can build a pipeline of talented workers funneled directly into your company and increase profit.

To begin, forge relationships with local high schools, trade schools and SkillsUSA. You also could offer to guest teach as many classes as your schedule allows, and if your local trade school doesn’t offer a roofing curriculum, connect the school with NRCA, the Roofing Alliance or National Center for Construction Education & Research. They have developed a roofing curriculum for trade schools and universities and help them institute it within their course offerings. This puts you in prime position to recruit the best of the workers coming through trade schools. The more the students see you, the more they trust you and will want to work for you.

Another part of workforce development is maintaining a training program. A 2019 study of the roofing industry commissioned by the Roofing Alliance showed workers 35 and younger want to work for a company that offers ongoing training. While your company is waiting for materials to be delivered, put effort into being intentional about your company’s training program.

Training with intention is dedicating someone on your staff to be responsible for implementing specific learning objectives for individual workers. This person should coordinate with human resources and foremen to identify which installers need skills development and put plans in place to establish and meet objectives.

NRCA calls these folks Qualified Trainers and offers a two-day conference to teach them how to be great at training. NRCA also offers tools like Training for Roof Application Careers, which teaches the concepts of installing roof systems. And NRCA’s hands-on training plans provide a structure for trainees to practice the skills they learned. With at least one person to champion your training efforts, you will see the quality of workmanship become more consistent. Your workers will be safer, and because you are giving them what they want, you will retain them. Put a dollar amount to fewer callbacks, lower insurance rates and worker retention.

In the same 2019 Roofing Alliance study, surveyed installers said they want certifications and to be recognized for their quality craftsmanship. They want their experience and training to matter for something, and NRCA ProCertification provides that recognition. NRCA ProCertification is a benchmark your employees can strive toward, and you’ll show them your company offers a clear career path. Training within your company helps retain your workers, but training toward the greater goal of becoming certified gives installers and foremen career paths for their futures.

Executing part of the strategies presented might yield positive results. But when your company puts into practice all three concepts in an intentionally crafted workforce development strategy, you can yield the greatest financial benefits and be in the best position to capitalize when materials are finally delivered.

Don’t get distracted by what you cannot control; rather, get busy doing what you can control. Before you know it, materials will be on job sites, and your workforce will be ready.

Reid Ribble is NRCA's CEO.

This column is part of News + Views. Click here to read additional stories from this section.


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