A certification program for roofing contractors scheduled to launch early next year has the potential to transform the roofing industry in the United States forever, said Reid Ribble, CEO of the National Roofing Contractors Association (NRCA).
The initiative, which begins with trainer instruction later this month, will be designed to elevate the industry to the level of other trade professions with existing national standards and protocols, like electricians and plumbers.
“We believe this will be the single most transformational event for the United States roofing industry in its history, because we’re finally going to put ourselves on par with virtually every other construction trade out there. And that’s significant,” Ribble said during an exclusive interview with Roofing Contractor from the stage of the Best of Success conference in Tucson last month.
After six years in the U.S. House of Representatives, Ribble — a roofing contractor for more than three decades — said he believed it was time for roofers to change the perception of the industry both in congress and in households and boardrooms across the country. A national certification program that not only holds workers accountable for their skillset but lays out a career path will be a big step in that direction. It also could hold the key to the industry’s growing workforce shortage.
“We cannot draw enough people into this trade, and there’s a whole bunch of reasons for that,” Ribble explained. “One thing we do know is that if we make the industry more appealing from an education standpoint and make ourselves equal with the plumbers, electricians and other trades, we can make progress.”
Ribble said he budgeted $15 million and a team of NRCA administrative and educational staff to back the program, which should roll out to roofing contractors across the country beginning early next year.
The curriculum is still under development and will be audited to meet national accreditation standards. Ribble said when complete, the program will create certifications in 19 different roofing disciplines, starting with the most popular in both residential (steep slope asphalt shingles) and commercial (low slope systems like TPO and PVC) segments of the industry.
In order to achieve national accreditation, the program must pass rigorous benchmark and testing. Recertification will be required on a 36-month cycle, Ribble said, so roofing contractors will have time to adjust to technological advancements in products and installation techniques. Recertification programs will be administered online in an effort to keep costs to the contractor low.
Courses will be designed by region in order to better address specific issues such as weather and other market factors, and Ribble said there’s still room for regional or statewide training programs that are market specific for roofing contractors. He added that NRCA partners, including manufacturers and labor unions, are committed to the program and offering facilities to use as training centers.
In addition to buy-in from NRCA members and roofing contractors across the country, Ribble said the key to the program’s success will be shifting the mindset from certification that protects roofing companies to a system that protects roofing consumers.
“How do we as an industry change our brand so that consumers actually trust us?” he asked.
“The bulk of the training in the roofing industry is ad-hoc, on-the-job training,” Ribble explained. “There’s nothing that provides the consumer an examination of a particular roofer’s skill. Once we get there, we completely transform the industry.”
Retaining roofing contractors to help stabilize the industry when the economy slows is part of the vision. The initiative would also — for the first time — make certified roofing contractors a portable workforce that can respond to major spikes in roofing demand and recovery efforts following national emergencies and devastating storms like hurricanes Harvey and Irma.
The idea was well received by the audience, drawing widespread applause and multiple standing ovations.
“This is honestly the most encouraged about NRCA that I’ve felt in a while,” said RC’s 2015 Residential Roofing Contractor of the Year Tim Leeper, of Tim Leeper Roofing in Nashville, Tenn.