It has been years since I’ve had a sense that business was anything but good. Maybe “great,” or “really good.” But lately my anecdotal and non-scientific research points to a period of malaise. There’s still plenty of roofing work to do, but the deficit in the workforce seems to have reached a point where growing a roofing company is not so much about finding or selling the next job as it is completing them so you can move on to the next.

The roofing industry isn’t the only one struggling to grow in the face of a diminished workforce. Virtually all construction trades are reporting issues with finding, training, and maintaining qualified trade workers. And that’s a problem for you as the competition for trade workers is coming at you from all directions.

The issue isn’t limited to trade workers as roofing contractors are reporting shortages of managers, salesmen, administrators, and estimators. But roofers are the ones most needed to keep the industry growing.

Where do you find candidates to fill all the empty slots at your roofing company? That’s a critical question for today, but please permit me to ask you to consider another one. The roofing industry struggles with a workforce deficit in part because we haven’t focused on building up our workers by offering them formal training or clear career paths. So, here’s the question: How do we change? How do we begin building a pipeline of professional roofers, as well as candidates who may want to become professional roofers?

When it comes to materials and business systems, the roofing industry has grown by leaps and bounds. But when it comes to our workers, the way we recruit and train them is decades, if not hundreds, of years old.

That makes change very difficult.

A career in roofing is very competitive in most markets. Telling the story and marketing it to potential candidates is, however, an expensive proposition. Not only would it be expensive to mount a nationwide marketing campaign, who would drive and fund it?

It gets worse. Most marketing campaigns start out with a business plan that includes a budget and a specific set of expectations. Changing a decades-old paradigm is not only going to be expensive, it is going to take a very long time. Measuring the results may likewise take a generation.

The good news is, there are many roofing contractors, manufacturers, distributors and trade associations working on advanced training systems, and marketing is part of every effort. As we have reported, the National Roofing Contractors Association (NRCA) is actively rolling out its ProCertification ™ program in addition to its many worker training programs. The NRCA also recently announced a partnership with SkillsUSA to begin the process of introducing roofing into the career and technical education community. I am convinced these, and other efforts, will pay dividends. Over time.

The roofing industry must consider every possible opportunity to bring new roofers on board. Offering candidates great training options and a clear career path is vital to succeed in this very competitive marketplace. I understand the “ox is in the ditch” now, but the difficult work of building the future roofing workforce awaits. And that leads to one last question: If not now, when?