Of all the things one may find in a successful roofing contractor’s toolkit, a pool of well-trained and motivated workers would always be considered one of the most treasured. Being armed with great technical expertise and having a fantastic client base is not worth much if you cannot execute the work.
The roofing industry runs on roofers.
Most of the buzz for the past several years relating to roofers and the emerging generation of roofers has centered on the influx of immigrant labor, primarily from Mexico and Central America. I will suggest, however, that there are some other considerations to be made, especially in regard to our next generation of roofers.
First of all, they will have to be better trained than ever before. Homeowners and building owners continue to demand more in the way of quality of workmanship. This translates to a more professional approach to roofing work and certainly includes a safer, better-organized worksite. This may make finding and keeping great roofers even more difficult than it already is, but it is very good for the industry.
Next, with the availability of immigrant labor, we may be missing out on an opportunity to pick up some quality workers who are being separated from their chosen fields. In my hometown alone, automaker Ford recently shuttered its plant, idling over 2,000 auto workers. They may have been auto workers, but I will wager that some of them could make drop-dead awesome workers in the roofing industry.
These workers, as well as all potential members of the roofing industry, must receive appropriate training to do the kind of work demanded of roofers. Training in an industry as fragmented as roof contracting may always present a challenge. There is nothing wrong with passing down skills from one generation to another, but developing a culture for more formalized training suffers in this atmosphere. And formal training is what our next generation of roofers will need to succeed - not only for themselves, but for their employers. Training opportunities for roofing contractors and roofers are available by way of local, state, and national trade associations. Some roofing manufacturers have seen the need and have begun to develop programs that contractors can use with their own in-house training programs.
Roofing contractors who want well-trained roofers must make it a key part of their firm’s culture and mission. If you want to build a team of world-class roofers, you have some dues to pay. Gone are the days when you can sit around and bump your gums about how there aren’t any good roofers out there to hire. That may be, but there is nothing to stop you (short of your own lack of skills or knowledge) from creating some well-trained roofers.
If you are looking for formal training options, your manufacturer contacts and the National Roofing Contractors Association (NRCA) are good places to start. Educational seminars abound at conventions like the International Roofing Expo (IRE) and Roofing Contractor’s Best of Success Conference, which is profiled in this issue on page 128.
I can hear you now: “I do all the training and the next thing I know they are down the street for a lousy quarter an hour.” It is your job as an employer to find and hire the kind of people who want to learn a craft and who will be willing to stay with you through thick and thin. And remember that you must be loyal to your people before you can expect your people to be loyal to you.
Want the roofing industry to grow and advance? Start with your own roofing business. Realize that it will not happen overnight, and do your part to build a better class of roofers.