Roofing contractors and manufacturers have a lot to be optimistic about. The roofing industry continues to see increased sales year over year, with reported sales growth of 15 percent in 2016 and 13.5 percent in 2017 for privately held roofing contractors.

However, a skilled labor shortage in the industry is leaving contractors unable to grow their businesses to meet the rising demand. The National Roofing Contractors Association (NRCA) estimates that contractors could have accepted 10 to 20 percent more work in 2018 if not for a lack of employees. That lost work is estimated to have been worth between $3.6 and $7.2 billion.

In addition to missed opportunities for more work, the shortage is also leading to increased project costs. According to the contractors surveyed for Roofing Contractor’s 2019 State of the Industry report, 74 percent said labor costs have climbed, with the average increase being approximately 13 percent.

At the Asphalt Roofing Manufacturers Association (ARMA), we are all too aware that the labor shortage impacts the manufacturer companies that make up our membership as well as the roofing contractors they work with. An RC webinar sponsored by ARMA addresses causes of the shortage, which extend well beyond the roofing industry, and recommendations to combat this challenge that are applicable to contractors and manufacturers alike.

Increasing Industry Awareness

There is a wealth of career potential in roofing for individuals with various skill sets and levels of education. The demand is industry-wide — new construction and reroofing, low-slope and steep-slope, residential and commercial — which means that growth and success in this field can be found no matter what area someone is interested in pursuing. Opportunities are particularly flush in asphalt roofing, which accounts for 80 percent of residential roofs in the U.S.

Unfortunately, these career prospects are being met with a lack of enthusiasm. A 2016 study from the National Association of Home Builders found that only 3 percent of surveyed 18 to 25-year-olds want a career in construction, and 43 percent said no salary amount could persuade them to consider it. There is also a preconceived notion that higher education and skilled labor trades are mutually exclusive, which impacts the skilled labor pool as the number of people pursuing a college degree grows (two-thirds of graduating high school students in 2019).

This is one factor contributing to the labor shortage: a lack of information about how much career potential there is, not just in the field but across all areas of roofing. Contractors need entry-level roofers, but they also need office and managerial staff. Manufacturers need individuals with advanced degrees in engineering and materials science to run their innovation labs, and also rely on skilled labor at every point in the supply chain.

Increasing awareness of the various career paths in roofing is one way your business could potentially overcome its labor shortage. For example, there has been a huge emphasis placed on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education in schools. Look into opportunities for your company to partner with a local school or attend a job fair to discuss how STEM education is compatible with a career in the roofing industry, as well as promoting the opportunities available in skilled trade.

Another way to increase visibility is having an active social media presence. Companies without social media accounts can automatically be dismissed by individuals doing research about possible employers. Being plugged in to the right social channels is a great way to build a brand and make the industry — and your business — more accessible to customers and potential employees.

Invitation to Learn More

Check out the webinar ARMA and RC created to discuss the labor shortage in greater detail, including key data from ARMA about challenges and initiatives. Click here to register and view on-demand.