Making roofing great again

NRCA is taking steps to change perceptions about the roofing industry

As I write this column, the stock market is falling nearly every day, and COVID-19 has been deemed a pandemic.

I mention this because of the “follow the herd” mentality that has affected the stock market. As the known risk for COVID-19 became better understood and the cases began to show up in more places, people reacted by selling off their investments. Add to this the computerized algorithms that automatically trigger the sale of stocks when they hit a specific price point, and you ultimately end up with a massive sell off that drops the stock market by thousands of points.

This got me thinking about other areas of life that are affected by a herd mentality. I think the workforce is certainly one of those. For example, immediately following World War II, it was common for high school graduates to directly enter the workforce. The herd followed, and manufacturing and construction entered a type of renaissance. A smaller percentage of people went to college than is now common.

Then, all the talk shifted to higher education. And the herd followed again. During the past several decades, the herd’s focus has been almost solely on higher education. The trades diminished as career choices.

I am not opposed to higher education. I sent both of my sons to college because I felt it was important. I, like so many other parents, followed the herd. Despite my best efforts to persuade my sons to join my roofing company, they chose their own paths—paths made easier because their father had a career in roofing and could afford to help them. Too many others don’t have that opportunity and instead graduate college carrying so much debt it’s difficult for them to get ahead.

There are consequences of this rise in college debt. According to an article in The Atlantic, people are getting married nearly a full decade later than during the past century. The average man now waits until nearly 30 years old to marry, and the average woman waits until 27. And Business Insider says among adults 18-34 years old, only 29% were married in 2018 compared with 59% in 1978. Consequently, people are older when they have their first child. They are older when they purchase their first home. They are waiting longer to retire. All this negatively affects the economy.

Maybe it’s time for the herd to head in a different direction. For instance, there is almost no place you can go and not see the impact of the trades, especially construction. We live in houses built by tradespeople. We shop in buildings built by construction workers. We fly between airports built by workers in the trades. We educate our children in buildings built by construction workers. We drive on roads and cross bridges without a thought given to who built them. We live, work and sleep under the roofs provided by men and women who apply their skills to make our lives better and safer. Yet as noble, needed and high-paying as our work is, many roofing companies simply cannot find enough legal workers to meet demand.

That’s the reason NRCA has partnered with several roofing-related organizations to bring you Roofing Day in D.C. Although this year’s event has been cancelled because of COVID-19, the importance of meeting with legislators has not changed. So many problems we face in finding workers are the result of ineffective policies at the federal level. NRCA is leading the roofing industry to better communicate practical and pragmatic solutions to the growing workforce gap.

My six years in Congress showed me how important this effort is, and it goes well beyond educating Congress. At its core is relationship building. NRCA Chairman of the Board Nick Sabino talks of the relationship he has developed with his congressman, Rep. Brad Wenstrup (R-Ohio). Wenstrup has met with Sabino not only in Washington, D.C., but also at Sabino’s company, Deer Park Roofing Inc., in Cincinnati. Relationship building is an essential part of trust. Once a relationship is built and trust occurs, members of Congress become more open-minded.

Please begin building your relationships with members of Congress. You can make a difference and hold more power than you imagine. And as we enter an election cycle where every House member, one-third of the Senate and the president are all up for re-election, your voice matters more than ever!

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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