BEACHWOOD, Ohio — Tremco Roofing, its service subsidiary WTI (Weatherproofing Technologies Inc.) and the Missouri Department of Corrections (MODOC) are launching ELEVATE, a new vocational training program piloted in a state prison that prepares Missourians for careers as commercial roofing technicians after release. Besides providing productive employment to program graduates, ELEVATE is designed to address the chronic construction labor shortage.

In early 2020, the MODOC and Tremco/WTI began a partnership focused on delivering roofing and building maintenance training to incarcerated individuals. The Western Reception, Diagnostic & Correctional Center in St. Joseph was chosen for the two-phase pilot training program integrating live stream instruction, self-paced learning, and on-site hands-on training. The inmates were interviewed then officially invited to begin training and offered employment with WTI upon release. The course work began with OSHA 10-hour safety certification training. Once safety training was completed, courses on roofing systems, roof maintenance and roof restoration and repair were completed.

To complete phases one and two, the inmates participated in an on-site event attended by Missouri's Governor Parson, Tremco/WTI leadership teams, and members of the MODOC. The inmates were presented with their earned OSHA 10 certificates and safety equipment before heading outside to complete hands-on repairs and material installation. It was a chance for the inmates to show off some of the new skills learned during the training.

"We developed this program because of our commitment to elevating the roofing industry — people, students, professionals, and people who need a hand up, not a handout," said Tremco's Executive Vice President Mardee Billingsley, who attended the on-site event.

While Tremco Roofing/WTI has offered training and support to job seekers involved in the criminal justice system elsewhere, the MODOC partnership marks the first time it has provided training inside a prison, before release. The Missouri program graduates have access to a wide range of support and services, which can include help with everything from work clothes to transportation. 

"You're now part of our family, and we're going to make sure we take care of you," says Tremco/WTI Quality Resource Coordinator Maleah Evans, a facilitator for the ELEVATE program. "We've always been a second-chance company. We always want to give people the opportunity to change their lives and do better."

The partnership creates a win-win-win situation. During today's nationwide skilled labor shortage, Tremco/WTI gains well-trained employees who are eager to work. Students gain the opportunity to walk out of a prison and into a job, overcoming one of the most challenging barriers to success that people face after incarceration. Missouri gains because the program can save taxpayer money while increasing post-incarceration employment, which helps reduce recidivism and makes the state safer.

"The foundation of the ELEVATE program rests on three pillars," said WTI President Tom Cummings. "To restore hope, that can be turned into opportunity. To restore confidence, through commitment, learning new skills and creating new value for the individual. And to restore support, by working together as a team to overcome obstacles we may face on the roof or in our lives."

ELEVATE is just one program of Tremco Roofing/WTI's RISE (Roofing Individuals Succeed through Education) initiative, which also offers an online bachelor's degree in Construction Management at no cost to the employee; a collaboration with SkillsUSA, a national organization working with middle school and high school students, to provide curricula for our nation's future skilled work force; and a federally sanctioned, non-union roofing apprenticeship program.