Coming from a large family, I’m related to folks with a wide variety of personality types, body types, and ages. It’s wonderful belonging to such an eclectic tribe. The life lessons I receive from family are likewise diverse.
You might think I would learn mostly from the elders or those who have acquired advanced educations. Or maybe from those who were born with one talent or another, like the opera singer or one of the artists in the group. But my most memorable lessons come from the ones who are “differently-abled.”
I’ve learned that the description, “disabled,” does not apply to anyone I’ve ever met, including the people in my family. Some of them get around on walkers and others get around on wheels. A few of them don’t hear so well and others, like me, never did all that well in school.
Many things define the people in my family, but “disabled” is not one of them. Whatever any one of them lacks in one area of their physical being is made up in other ways. Sometimes it just takes “grit” for them to get things done.
So, what does this have to do with roofing? It’s just a continuing discussion of “Topic A” in the roofing industry: workforce development.
Every worker is not an ideal candidate for roofing work. Some elements of the work are too challenging for many. Roofing is outside work, dangerous, and requires a lot of heavy lifting.
There are tools and systems on the market now, or could be developed, to overcome all these obstacles and could be developed to encourage some “differently-abled” workers to enter the roofing trade.
Take the “dangerous” out of roofing work and the field of potential candidates widens. I believe roofing contractors who embrace a strong safety culture have many advantages over their competition and have an even greater advantage in attracting younger workers who consider a career involving dangerous work to be a non-starter.
Take “heavy lifting” out of the equation, or find ways around it, and you may possibly double the number of candidates for roofing work. Exoskeletal (wearable) devices may make working on a roof possible for women and others of smaller statures. Under development primarily for the military, physical rehabilitation, and manufacturing, exoskeletal devices will ultimately become available for roofing workers.
I believe roofing manufacturers who focus on mitigating heavy lifting may find an edge. If, for instance, a bundle of shingles weighed half of what they do now, then there are a lot more folks on the planet who can throw them on a conveyor or walk around with them on a roof.
As to roofing work being outside, there are ways around that with tent systems on the market today. But roofing is still roofing and even differently-abled people must still be able to deal with the weather.
The point of all this is that as the working world continues to change, leaders in the roofing industry must find ways to continuously attract workers into the trade. While these may be tough problems to overcome, there are opportunities for contractors and others to develop solutions. And history has shown that solutions come from you: roofers and roofing contractors.