ATLANTA — An estimated 15,000 attendees, including 6,094 student competitors, arrived at Atlanta’s World Congress Center in mid-June for the 2023 SkillsUSA National Leadership Skills Conference and TECHSPO to compete in more than 100 hands-on and leadership skills-based competitions.

SkillsUSA, founded in 1965, is a national membership association serving middle school, high school and college students preparing for careers in trade, technical and skilled service occupations, including roofing and other construction trades. The organization partners with students, teachers and industry leaders to ensure America has a skilled workforce.

While previous SkillsUSA competitions included representation of several construction-related trades, it had long not included roofing for various reasons, according to the organization, but that changed three years ago.

In 2020, the National Roofing Contractors Association [NRCA] became an industry partner and supporter of SkillsUSA to bring job training into careers and tech education, or CTE, schools nationwide. Participation in the skills competition requires each vocation to have students enrolled in CTE programs focused on that trade. In addition, any new skills competition proposed must be vetted by a committee to ensure it follows the standards of SkillsUSA competitions.

The NRCA partnered with the National Center for Construction Education and Research [NCCER] to overhaul the roofing curriculum for CTE schools and is recognized by NCCER as the “subject matter expert” for roofing. The organization said that NCCER is also recognized throughout the CTE community as the qualified source for construction course curricula.

Working together, the organizations drafted plans that take students through a course of study and hands-on experiences that, at the end of required classes and trade experience, qualify them to stand for the professional certification through the NRCA’s ProCertification program.

NRCA Chairwoman Lisa Sprick and CEO McKay Daniels

NRCA Chairwoman Lisa Sprick and CEO McKay Daniels celebrate their thermoplastic welding skills during SkillsUSA 2023.

On Trac

Beginning with the NRCA’s Training for Roof Application Careers, or TRAC, course of study, students may move on to the two-phase NCCER course while obtaining hands-on experience working in the trade. The TRAC program is designed to prepare students to enter roofing at the base level.

Once students have completed the courses and gained sufficient field experience, they can take the written and hands-on tests required for professional certification. ProCertification credentials belong to the individual and are portable between roofing companies anywhere in the U.S.

In 2022, the NRCA introduced roofing to the SkillsUSA NLSC by demonstrating thermoplastic membrane installations. NRCA member Tim Stephens, principal of Orlando, Fla.-based Architectural Sheet Metal, Inc., presented TPO welding on the same roof deck mock-up used for ProCertification testing.

John Esbenshade, NRCA’s director of workforce development, has since been working to bring roofing contractors and their local CTE schools together to bring roofing into its construction course and work on roofing techniques. Contractor members are taking advantage of the funding provided by the Perkins Act and other federally funded initiatives.

This year at the 2023 NLCS, NRCA took the demonstration to the next level with the first Commercial Roofing Competition. The challenge included written and hands-on tests with the thermoplastic mock-up used for ProCertification training and testing; four state champions competed for the title of National Champion.

NRCA Chairwoman Lisa Sprick and CEO McKay Daniels

Roofing Contractor magazine, Roofing Supply Pro and RC´s "Best of Success" made their presence known, hosting an exhibition booth at the SkillsUSA trade show and expo in Atlanta.

The Commercial Roofing Competition competitors included:

  • Indiana State Champion, Mia Pulido | Area Career Center, Hammond, Ind.
  • South Carolina State Champion, Brandon Lopez | Golden Strip Career Center, Greenville, S.C.
  • Virginia State Champion, Leif Dampf | Virginia Beach Educational Center, Virginia Beach, Va.
  • Kansas State Champion, Kyle Cameron | Hutchinson Career & Technical Academy, Hutchinson, Kan.

The competition was intense: only 120 points out of a possible 1,000 separated the No. 1 and No. 4 state champs, and in a brief ceremony on June 22, 2023, Kyle Cameron of Kansas was crowned “NRCA SkillsUSA National Champion in Commercial Roofing.”

A sloped roof mock-up presented by TAMKO at SkillsUSA

A sloped roof mock-up presented by TAMKO was one of the demonstrations accessible to attendees at this year’s SkillsUSA trade show and expo in Atlanta.

‘Team Works’ Tourney

Also, for the second year in a row, with additional input from the NRCA, roofing was included in the “Team Works” construction skills competition portion that pitted four-person crews building a small structure from a set of plans. The NRCA participated in the specifications and judging of the roofing portion of the builds.

In addition to staging the Commercial Roofing Competition, the NRCA — with the support of several industry sponsors — participated in the 2023 SkillsUSA Techspo. The Techspo is a trade show held in conjunction with the NLSC.

Industry partners of SkillsUSA, including trade associations, trade unions, the U.S. Armed Forces, and various companies, displayed their wares to the students, teachers, and administrators attending the NLSC.

The NRCA exhibit featured a thermoplastic welding challenge by sponsor Johns Manville. Attendees were given a brief lesson in welding TPO, and the four competitors with the best results won a prize. Another sponsor, TAMKO, featured a mock-up of a sloped roof with several key details. Interested attendees could ask the experts about installing shingles with the ability to see the “how to” from the experts on hand.

Other exhibitors and sponsors included the NRCA, SRS Distribution, Platinum Roofing, RoofConnect, National Roofing Partners, Roofers Coffee Shop, IB Roof Systems, National Women in Roofing and, of course, Roofing Contractor magazine.

Sponsors provided information on their respective enterprises while speaking with attendees about the potential to establish roofing in their local CTE schools.

For anyone familiar with the labor shortages facing all facets of the building envelope lifecycle, roofing is not immune to the need for more skilled tradespeople in roofing. While thermoplastic membranes bubble to the top — commanding more than half the low-slope market — TRAC and the ProCertification programs are not limited only to thermoplastics; the programs will ultimately cover every type of roofing system as well as a professional certification for foremen.

Event organizers are already preparing for next year’s amazing show of construction skills by the country’s top CTE students -- the 2024’s SkillsUSA NLSC – in Atlanta.

Overall SkillsUSA 2023 winner Kyle Cameron (left) with John Esbenshade accepting his National Championship win.

Overall SkillsUSA 2023 winner Kyle Cameron (left) with John Esbenshade accepting his National Championship win.

Follow the links below for more information on NRCA, TRAC, ProCertification, NCCER, the Perkins Act, and SkillsUSA:

NRCA | NCCER | TRAC | ProCertification | SkillsUSA | | NLCS | Perkins