I spend a lot of time listening, talking, reading and writing about the number one issue for most roofing contractors: finding decent help. Workforce development is not just topic ‘A’ for roofing; it is for all skilled trades. Simply put, today’s skilled workforce is aging out and an emerging workforce isn’t there to backfill it.

This phenomenon is known as the “skills gap,” but in roofing it’s more like a skills canyon. The remedy for this is going to require more than the efforts of individual roofing companies. I don’t have all the answers but will share a few thoughts on some of the things I’ve explored.

As I write this, I’m in Louisville, Ken., attending the SkillsUSA National Leadership and Skills Conference. I’m here to learn how many construction and other industries engage with this organization, which has grown to over 360,000 members. SkillsUSA is a coalition of career and technical education (CTE) students, educators, and administrators working in partnership with industry to support, mentor, and train the next generation of skilled workers.

The idea of building a “farm league” beginning at the middle- or high-school level seems like a good one to me, but roofing contractors have not been engaged at this level. Of all the trades on display at the SkillsUSA conference, which include many other construction trades, roofing was nowhere to be found.

The roofing industry seems to have no interest in CTE, but this is changing. Earlier this year, a group of Georgia roofing contractors led by Atlanta-based contractor, Roof Depot, set up “Roofing World” at the state-level CTE skills competition. While there was no skills competition for roofing, the contractors brought displays showing off their companies and the students were treated to a walk on a sloped roof constructed on scaffolding. The students had to stand in line (which they did during the entire event) to don a full-body harness and hike up to the top of the roof.

The contractors were amazed at the level of interest by the students, and a number of good contacts were made related to future hires and partnering with local CTE programs. There is talk of a more robust Roofing World for the 2019 event to include a low-slope roof system display with hands-on activities.

Connecting with your local CTE program is a good idea and I have learned that CTE educators are generally open to your input and assistance. These educators are very influential when it comes to student choices of career paths. You may not fill your roster with CTE graduates but becoming engaged will introduce you to young people interested in working with their hands. Some may grow up to be roofers.

There are many other opportunities to grow your workforce and your “bench,” including finding ways to attract women into roofing and the National Roofing Contractors ProCertification program that will be rolled out later this year. This year, RC’s Best of Success conference will feature several speakers addressing the issue of workforce development.

The roofing industry must consider every possible opportunity to bring new roofers on board. These are some of the things I believe will work; I would love to hear your ideas on the topic.