Roofers and Waterproofers Local 2, the local representing commercial roofers in St. Louis, in coordination with its international, the United Union of Roofers Waterproofers and Allied Workers, recently partnered with GAF Roofing Academy to provide roofing and safety training to 33 applicants seeking a career in the commercial roofing industry.

The story, which originally appeared in the St. Louis/Southern Illinois Labor Tribune, highlights GAF’s one-week Roofing Academy training in residential, commercial and solar roofing. The training, the article reported, focuses on local markets and is designed to provide an in-road to union roofing for transitioning military veterans, formerly incarcerated individuals, at-risk youth, or anyone who is unemployed and looking for a career change into the trades.

Thirty-three pre-apprentices graduated from the program on April 26, ready to interview with Local 2 signatory contractors about entry-level positions in the trade; 16 walked away with letters of intent, and 20 were eventually hired.

This was Local 2’s second year participating in the GAF Roofing Academy program.

“It’s been great,” Local 2 President/Business Manager Denny Marshall told the Labor Tribune.  “Our contractors this time of year are always getting ramped up, ready to go. It gives us an opportunity to supply manpower, plus it gives these folks an opportunity to get a career.

“We hit on safety, some of the basic skills, things you’re going to need to know out on the job. We’re trying to help people get in the door.

“When I was a kid you couldn’t get in a union, you had to know somebody,” Marshall said. “Nowadays we’ve all got our door open saying ‘Come on in. We need you.’ Because if we don’t supply labor for our contractors then what good are we?  We’re not a hiring hall, but we still like to provide that. If you don’t, they’ll go outside of us to look for it.”

Opportunity Awaits

GAF’s goal for 2024 is to place 2,000 people in the roofing industry across the country.

“You get the right people in the room and put an opportunity in front of them, you’re kind of silly not to take a shot,” said Gary Pierson, senior care trainer with the GAF Roofing Academy.

If pre-apprentices from the program accept a job with a contractor, they get $200 worth of tools. After 30 days, they receive a $250 retention bonus if they're still employed.

“A lot of people think it’s too good to be true,” Pierson said. “We’re finding that the more we’re in the community, we don’t have to sell that there’s no catch, it’s just about you getting a career.”

Another Resource

Jeff Eppenstein, director of marketing for the United Union of Roofers, Waterproofers and Allied Workers, said the goal is to recruit, train and place.

“There’s such an abundance of projects out there to work at, we need to get a lot of people in here.”

The international union has its own recruiting team but partners with GAF as a leading manufacturer for its national access and funding. “It’s an additional resource to recruit,” he said.

“It helps us with the soft skills. Do the kids show up every day? Are they on time every day? Are they trying to apply themselves in the training? This gives us a week of looking them over rather than having them hired by an employer, putting them out onto a job site, running them through the application and hiring process, giving them hard hats and safety equipment and shirts and we put them up there and the second day we find out it wasn’t for them and they drop. This is a way for us to kind of monitor some of their soft skills. That’s an advantage.”

Expanding the Labor Pool

Roderick (Rod) Colvin, senior external learning and development program and relationship specialist for GAF, said Local 2’s state-of-the-art training center in Maryland Heights is a big part of the program’s success.

“We set the stage for training right here at this facility. We were invited to an open house when they opened this facility and we just looked at each other because we had never seen a space like this that was conducive to training a group of individuals. So we collaborated and we were able to logistically come up with a strategy to conduct a training here.”

Colvin said 100 individuals were recruited for this particular class, which was weeded down to about 40; thirty-three individuals finished the training; participants can get OSHA 10 card training, which helps make them more attractive employees to contractors when they’re starting out.

The whole collaboration, he said, is in the effort to close the labor gap.

“There are people retiring out of the trades, out of the roofing industry and you’ve got young people that need to replace those individuals and that’s where we come in,” Colvin said. “We introduce those individuals to a career opportunity in construction, specifically roofing. And the result is we get classes populated and we have our top-shelf training in collaboration with the union’s training and we teach these individuals. We give them an opportunity to learn the project. We give them an opportunity to get some hands-on. They get an opportunity to install on mock-ups. They learn safety. They learn terminology. When they sit down with the interviewer, they talk about what they learned this week.”

Click HERE to read the complete story and learn about some of the graduates. 

For more information about GAF and future Roofing Academy training,

This article originally appeared in the May 13 edition of the St. Louis/Southern Illinois Labor Tribune. Republished with permission.