A career in roofing is never an easy path, whether it’s staying safe on the roof or running a business with an ongoing workforce shortage. For Letitia Hanke, owner of ARS Roofing, Gutters & Solar in Santa Rosa, Calif., those difficulties were just the beginning.

As a black woman in the roofing industry, Hanke has faced both sexism and racism in building ARS Roofing. But she persevered, and not only has she celebrated 25 years in roofing, she earned RC’s 2020 Residential Contractor of the Year honor and is giving back through her nonprofit LIME Foundation.

In her second Best of Success presentation – and her first in-person presentation – Hanke shared her unique perspective during the 2022 Best of Success in Scottsdale, Ariz., providing value insights into how roofing companies can build a dynamic and diversified workforce.

“If we’re willing to be mentors, and we’re willing to give up our time for people, we can make a change and build our workforce,” said Hanke.

She said with vocational training slowly disappearing from schools, pressure to attend a four-year university, and contractors stretched too thin to train inexperienced workers, the next generations are not exposed to the opportunities available in the trades. This in part inspired her to begin the NextGen Trades Academy, where she and about a dozen other contractors train young people getting started in the trades.

But roofing contractors don’t have to start their own mentorship programs to make a difference in their job market. Hanke said it’s a matter of having the right mindset and taking the issues facing the next generation into consideration when hiring new workers.