Desperate times, desperate measures?

Column written by Ambika Puniani Bailey, NRCA’s vice president of communications and production as it appears in Professional Roofing magazine’s July issue.

Construction worker climbing ladderThe construction industry, indeed the entire U.S., is struggling to fill jobs as the unemployment rate dipped to 4.4 percent in April—the lowest it’s been since the Great Recession. (The federal government considers full U.S. employment to be 4.7 percent.)

Yes, employing immigrant labor is one option though hiring foreign workers places multiple paperwork burdens on employers plus other hurdles to clear, such as language barriers. Instead, according to the Center for Economic and Policy Research, more employers are actively recruiting and hiring those with criminal records.

In fact, according to Bloomberg BNA, a medium security prison in Sheridan, Ill., has been training inmates in carpentry and plumbing skills. And the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives and the Council of State Governments Justice Center jointly agreed to help chamber members hire ex-offenders.

The numbers are astounding. According to the Center for Economic and Policy Research, there are between 14 million and 15.8 million working-age people with felony convictions and 70 million with an arrest or conviction record. And Evanston, Ill.-based Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management reports 650,000 prisoners are set free annually in the U.S.

When asked about hiring those with criminal records, National Association of Home Builders CEO Gerald Howard told Bloomberg BNA: “We have a huge labor shortage. This has become a focus out of necessity.”Felons

As an added perk, employers that hire and retain ex-felons are offered a federal Work Opportunity Tax Credit. (The same tax credit applies to those who hire and retain veterans.) And research conducted by Northwestern University showed ex-offenders are no more likely to be fired than non-offenders after being hired. In addition, the research showed ex-offenders were much less likely to quit a job than non-offenders.

With a historically tight job market, you might need to get creative with your hiring policies. And as you explore your hiring options, keep in mind Equal Employment Opportunity guidelines and protections apply when hiring ex-offenders just as they would with any other job candidate.

 

Alliance Awards $55,000 Through 2017 Melvin Kruger Endowed Scholarship Program

The Alliance has announced the recipients of its 2017 Melvin Kruger Endowed Scholarships, which include six new recipients and the renewal of five scholarships for the 2017-18 academic year.

The Alliance awarded two new general scholarships to Nicolas Calvert, son of Edward Calvert, senior engineer, Kalkreuth Roofing and Sheet Metal Inc., Wheeling, W.Va., and Sophia McGuire, daughter of Mark McGuire, project manager, AAA Roofing Co., Indianapolis.

In addition, a new Firestone Scholarship has been awarded to Alyssa Merna, sales coordinator, Bloom Roofing System Inc., Brighton, Mich.

A new Beacon Roofing Supply Scholarship has also been awarded to Salvador Flores Garcia, son of Jose Flores Estrada, roofer, Alcal Arcade Contracting, Fremont, Calif.

A new OMG Roofing Products Inc. Scholarship has been awarded to Lillian McKenzie, daughter of Christopher McKenzie, salesman, Watts & Associates Roofing, Columbia, S.C.

The Alliance also renewed six Melvin Kruger Endowed Scholarships, including three general scholarships to Jonah Manson, Solon, Iowa, attending Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa; Dannelly McKenzie, Columbia, S.C., attending Clemson University, Clemson, S.C.; andDrury Poston, Thomson, Ga., attending Georgia Southern University, Statesboro, Ga.

In addition, a Firestone Scholarship was renewed for Jaclyn Harris, Mooresville, Ind., attending Purdue University, West Lafayette, Ind.

A Dan Cohen Scholarship was renewed for Christian Cole, attending Kennesaw State University, Kennesaw, Ga.

A Fred Good Scholarship also was renewed for Ivy Rivas, Tujunga, Calif., attending University of California Davis, Davis, Calif.

Each recipient will receive a $5,000 award. Awards are renewable for up to three years of undergraduate study or until a bachelor’s degree is earned provided recipients renew annually and maintain a 3.0 GPA on a 4.0 scale (or the equivalent).

A total of $55,000 in scholarships was awarded for the 2017-18 school year–$30,000 for renewals and $25,000 for new recipients. To date, 122 students have received $735,000 in scholarship awards.

The Roofing Industry Alliance for Progress Announces Partnership with Ronald McDonald House Charities

RMHC

Partnership to provide roof system maintenance and repair to Ronald McDonald House locations nationwide.

The Roofing Industry Alliance for Progress has announced its formal partnership with Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC) to provide regular roof system inspections, repair and replacement for the 184 Ronald McDonald House locations in the U.S. The Alliance also will provide a monetary donation to RMHC Global to help fund program services and infrastructure.

RMHC helps families with sick children stay together and close to the medical care and resources their children need, when they need it most. The Roofing Industry Alliance for Progress will provide support to the Ronald McDonald House program that offers much more than a place to stay. The Houses provide meals and the support and resources families need when their child is hospitalized or being treated at a hospital far from home. The House program allows families to focus solely on their child’s health and treatment, while RMHC takes care of the family.

“This collaboration will ensure the families staying at Ronald McDonald Houses will have a comfortable place to stay while their children are receiving the critical care that they need,” says Bennett Judson, executive director of The Alliance.

This partnership is also a strategic fit with the Charity’s commitment to environmental sustainability and the work they have done to ensure effective management of their Houses.

One or more members of The Alliance or NRCA will be identified to partner with local RMHC Chapters to provide needed roof system services at each location. Roof system replacements will be managed as individual projects, and, if necessary, several roofing contractors and manufacturers may be asked to contribute.

The partnership between the two organizations became official April 2017 during The Alliance’s member meeting in Coronado, Calif.

With work already begun with Chicago and Philadelphia area locations, The Alliance is looking forward to providing this critical piece of support to the RMHC System nationwide.

To learn more about this partnership or to connect with local Ronald McDonald Houses, please contact Bennett Judson at (800) 323-9545, ext. 7513 or bjudson@roofingindustryalliance.net.

STATEMENT: National Roofing Week Shines a Spotlight on Industry Professionalism, Generosity

A statement from Reid Ribble, CEO of NRCA

NRW 2017

Each year, National Roofing Week is a time for the roofing industry to shine a spotlight on the professionals who give so much of themselves to our great industry and the communities where they live and work.

On every structure, the roof is the first line of defense, protecting our families, homes and businesses from winds and storms. Despite this fact, roof systems are often ignored until they are severely damaged.

During National Roofing Week, the industry is encouraged to raise the public’s awareness about the importance of a roof system and how important it is for homeowners and business owners to make educated decisions when choosing a roofing professional.

Professional roofing contractors also display a great deal of generosity in their communities, with little or no fanfare. National Roofing Week is a time to call attention to the great charitable contributions of members of the roofing industry who donate time, money and resources in support of those in need.

It is my pleasure to wish all roofing professionals a Happy National Roofing Week.

Commercial Roofers Employees Donate to Provide Starving Children with Meals for A Year

Food for Children

Founded in 1994, Convoy of Hope is a faith-based, nonprofit organization with a driving passion to feed the world through children’s feeding initiatives, community outreach and disaster response. Through its Children’s Feeding Initiative, Convoy of Hope promotes healthy children and communities that are free from poverty and hunger. The organization currently feeds nearly 150,000 children in the Philippines, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Honduras, Haiti, Kenya, Ethiopia, Guatemala, South Africa and Tanzania.

NRCA member Commercial Roofers, Las Vegas, has been actively supporting Children’s Feeding Initiative since 2012 and has donated more than $20,000 to the organization during this time.

Sixty-five Commercial Roofers employees are supporting the Children’s Feeding Initiative by electing to have weekly or monthly payroll deductions that go toward the cause.

In 2016 alone, Commercial Roofing collected $12,000 from its employees for the initiative.

Many of the children enrolled in the Children’s Feeding Initiative have their only meal of the day at school – a meal provided by Convoy of Hope and its partners like Commercial Roofing.

“For every $10 donated by Commercial Roofers employees, we are able to feed a child for a month,” says Eric Neubauer, corporate relations director for Convoy of Hope. “To date, these employees have provided nearly 100 children food for an entire year.”

Commercial Roofers donations have given the children access to clean water and education, as well.

“On a basic level, the mission of Convoy of Hope is to give hope to hurting people around the world, be it in disaster response, child feeding programs, women’s empowerment, agriculture training or other initiatives the organizations sponsors,” says Scott Howard, president of Commercial Roofers and chairman of the Convoy of Hope Foundation.

Howard states Commercial Roofers involvement with Convoy for Hope and its Children’s Feeding Initiative allows its employees to contribute to an organization that contributes 90 percent of its donations to the intended cause rather than corporate expenses.

“Our team members know they are providing food to more than 100 children each and every day,” Howard says.

 

When the Job Ladder is an Actual Ladder: 200,000 construction jobs and no takers

Guest Blog Post by: GAF®

ladder

It seems everybody wants to climb the job ladder, but no one wants to climb a ladder on the job.

Right now, roughly 200,000 construction jobs sit unfilled in the United States. The demand for residential homes is far outpacing our capacity to build them. A recent survey by HomeAdvisor lays it out in bleak terms: Of the firms surveyed, 93 percent said they believed the labor shortage is standing in the way of their growth.

Today, thousands of small businesses from coast to coast are feeling the impact. Of the construction firms participating in the 2017 Construction Outlook Survey, 73 percent predicted a need to expand their headcount in 2017. Unfortunately, 66 percent of them also said they are having a hard time filling craft worker positions.

In other words, nearly three out of four of these firms see opportunity on the horizon, but only one in three believe they’ll be able to hire enough professionals to capitalize on it.

Since there are so many more roofing jobs available than crews to install them, it has become, in many ways, a seller’s market for labor. Brad Corbin, president of Excel Roofing Systems in Fort Worth, Texas, has watched his competition poach entire roofing crews off of active jobs. “One day they’re working. The next they don’t show up because they were offered a few dollars more per square to do another job,” he said. “The majority of crews you find out there are brand new; some have never installed a roof before. That’s not the kind of crew I want to hire.” The shortage affects not only the number of roofs that get installed, but the type as well. “Subcontractors start picking and choosing what house they want to roof,” said Corbin. “If it’s too steep, they won’t do it. There’s plenty of jobs getting done at 4:12 (a gradual 18.5° slope), not at 12:12 (a steep 45°).”

Where have all the workers gone?

There are possibly as many theories about the vanishing labor force as there are jobs waiting to be filled. But labor and industry experts often cite these three factors as driving the phenomenon:

  • The Housing Bubble. During the housing crisis of 2006 – 2008, the construction industry lost approximately 40 percent of its workforce to other career paths, and those workers have, for the most part, not returned. Despite steady growth in demand for new houses, there is a lingering perception that construction — and residential construction in particular — is not a stable career choice. Making matters worse, when a million professionals walked away from construction, they took more than their nail guns with them. They took their hard-earned expertise as well.
  • Youth Perception. The perceived value of craft careers — and the training they demand — has suffered a dramatic downturn in recent decades. Not only has vocational education funding dried up in schools across the country, but the emphasis on “college for everyone” has created an impression that the trades are somehow less worthy career paths. Despite the popular desire for every young person to earn a college degree, more than 30 percent of American high school students never complete four years of college. That means they enter the job market with neither a college degree nor the skills-based training they need to thrive in construction, manufacturing, or other non-degree careers. And the general dismissal of craft occupations appears to be self-perpetuating. That is, the fewer people we prepare for careers in the trades, the less attractive those careers become. According to a 2017 poll of 2,001 young adults, ages 18 to 25, conducted for the National Association of Home Builders, only three percent of those with career plans saw themselves working in construction. When asked what motivated respondents to choose a career, 76 percent overall said the career was something they were interested in, and 48 percent said it suited their skills and abilities. Could this explain the lack of enthusiasm for craft careers? Can we expect students to dream of using skills that we no longer teach in their schools?
  • Changing Demographics. As political and law enforcement spotlights burn brightly on the complex challenges of the U.S. immigration policy, one fact remains indisputable: as the Baby Boom generation ages into retirement, new immigrants currently account for all of the growth in the labor force. Researchfrom the National Association of Home Builders indicates that nearly 30 percent of the U.S. construction labor force is foreign-born. For roofers, the number is even higher, at 43 percent. And overall, 53 percent of the immigrant labor force was born in Mexico. Yet immigration (authorized and unauthorized) has slowed significantly in recent years, putting additional stress on employers looking for skilled construction labor.

National challenges demand national solutions

The National Roofing Contractors Association has been confronting these issues aggressively under the leadership of CEO Reid Ribble. As a former roofing contractor and the U.S. Representative from Wisconsin’s 8th District, Ribble has studied the problem from both a professional and policy perspective.

“We need to change the way the American people think about roofing,” he said. “Let’s reshape how moms and dads talk about us to their kids.” Older Americans remember roofing as dirty and smelly. “But that’s not today’s roofing industry. Fully one third of commercial roofs are actually white. Very specifically, these are clean roofs!” he said. The public also lacks awareness of the roofing industry’s proud position at the forefront of the sustainability movement, having pioneered zero-waste jobsite policies and developed modern “cool” roofs that are integral to increasing the energy efficiency of the building envelope.

“In order to change the conversation, we have to talk about ourselves differently. We cannot expect others to respect the work we do unless we respect ourselves,” said Ribble. By way of example, he often speaks about the comforts we have come to expect from life in 21st century America. “When you walk into a room and flip a switch, you just expect the lights to go on. When you flush a toilet or turn a tap, you expect the plumbing to respond. And when you call an electrician or a plumber, you look for a certified contractor.”

We expect our roofs to perform, as well, so why don’t we look for master-level certification of our roofers? The roofing industry, said Ribble, needs to increase the perceived value of what we do.

“When it’s storming outside, you expect it to be dry inside. When it’s cold outside, you expect the house to be warm. That professionalism is so ubiquitous that it’s become devalued. We live in comfort without recognizing the skill of the men and women who make it possible.”

To that end, the NRCA is spearheading an effort to establish a nationally recognized professional certification program, with uniform standards, for steep- and low-slope roofers. “Our goal is to be on par with our professional competitors in the other contruction-related fields,” said Ribble. “And we’re decades behind them in this regard.”

To catch more fish, cast a wider net

The construction labor shortage appears to have grown out of a complex mix of political, economic, demographic, and educational factors. That means there might be no quick fix. But that’s not stopping manufacturers from doing what they can to help build bridges between underemployed workers and open opportunities.

GAF, the largest roofing manufacturer in North America, for example, is helping connect prospective roofers with its national network of Master Elite® Contractors. This represents a terrific opportunity, on a number of levels, for craftspeople entering the roofing industry. Master Elite® Contractors can be found throughout the United States and Canada, yet only two percent of all roofing contractors have qualified for Master Elite® status.  That means each of these prospective employers is properly licensed and insured, has a proven reputation for providing quality roofing services, and has committed to ongoing professional training. New roofers who can find positions with these Master Elite® Contractors are more likely to learn the best roofing practices that lead to satisfied customers and long, successful careers.

The skills and temperament necessary for roofing success can be found in any number of other professions. Thanks to creative outreach and training programs, professionals from all walks of life are discovering fulfilling second careers on the roof.

  • Military veterans represent a potentially deep pool of labor that offers a unique fit for the roofing industry. For veterans, a transition to the roofing market offers an opportunity to apply hard-earned skills in a job with excellent growth potential. Roofing suits people who welcome the challenges and rewards of a physically demanding day and offers the opportunity to work with your hands on a team that’s focused on getting the job done. It also offers the chance to earn an above-median salary without taking on higher education debt. To help veterans navigate the transition, GAF has partnered with ProTrain and U.S. Military Pipeline to build GAF Roofing Academy, an eight-day roofing installation training program specifically for veterans. GAF also maintains a Hire A Hero job board specifically to connect veterans with GAF contractors and business partners. Contractors win as well, since both programs save them valuable time sourcing and qualifying job candidates who have already distinguished themselves for character, dedication, and work ethic.
  • Oil and gas workers have made the shift to roofing due to fluctuations in the energy market. As Corbin described it, “The oil field really dumped on some of these guys.” Roofing has given some a chance to work closer to their own community, develop a local network, and put down roots in a way the energy industry may not support.
  • Even some white collar professionals have traded staplers for nail guns. In fact, the demand for workers has attracted professionals from a wide range of specialties. Corbin said he seeks out pros from different industries because they bring a broader understanding of business, and are not burdened with the bad habits often associated with fly-by-night contractors. “I have an electrician as purchasing manager, a pharmaceutical sales guy as a sales person, and an internet director as a sales manager. We are trying to raise the standards, raise the expectations of our customers,” he said.

Making a successful transition to the roofing business takes some training and mentorship. The GAF-sponsored CARE (Center for the Advancement of Roofing Excellence) program offers professional educational programs to the roofing industry. More than 230,000 professionals in the USA, Canada, and Mexico have attended CARE courses, including a lot of the guys on Brad Corbin’s Excel Roofing team. “I’m striving to get all my guys steep-slope educated,” he said. “I won’t let anyone become a salesman until they know steep-slope.”

Loyalty pays off — for everyone

His commitment to raising the standard has helped Corbin avoid the worst of the labor crunch. In fact, he sometimes finds himself providing spare crews to other roofing contractors. “I don’t like to do it. That’s how crews get poached. But we always want our people working.” Although he’s able to deploy up to 23 crews on a given day, Corbin said there’s no secret to how he attracts and motivates roofers while others are turning down work. “We treat everyone like a team mate, even when they’re a subcontractor,” he said. “If they’re on our roofs, they’re our men, they’re on the Excel team. I have a production supervisor on every job, working alongside the crew, and that promotes a team atmosphere.” That philosophy extends to all areas of the business. “Loyalty goes a long way, whether you’re a roofing contractor, a distributor, or a manufacturer. I respect the partnership, because frankly, we’d be out of business without our crews.”

Reid Ribble concurred. “Part of the challenge is putting a human face on what we do,” he said. “It’s all about the people.”

Getting the message out

The current labor shortage is not a short-term glitch and won’t be solved with a specific program or campaign. Training programs like those run by GAF can help, as will elevating the professional standards expected of roofing crews, as championed by the NRCA.

But right now, awareness is key. To that end, GAF has launched a Join the Crew campaign, to reach out to the next generation of roofers. The campaign focuses on a message of opportunity to build a secure future, and leverages important messages of pride, good pay and teamwork. To help get the message out, GAF has developed a customizable video, available to contractors, to help them communicate their hiring opportunities.

Skilled, underemployed craftspeople need to be made aware that good-paying, steady work is waiting for them. The next step on their career ladder is a rung on an actual ladder. And from up there, the sky is, literally, the limit.

To Instill a Sense of Community, Sika Sarnafil has Sponsored IRE Community Service Day for Eight Years Running

Community Service Day

Volunteers doing much needed repairs on a Las Vegas area home for the 2017 IRE Community Service Day.

For eight years, in conjunction with the International Roofing Expo® (IRE), Informa partners with Rebuilding Together® for the annual IRE Community Service Day. It has become an honored tradition that enables members of the roofing industry to give back to the communities where IRE events have taken place by spending the day renovating area homes of families in need.

Sika Sarnafil recognized the value in the Community Service Day as a way of supporting these local communities as well as a great opportunity to bring together various members of the roofing industry to work together to help others. Sika Sarnafil was one of the earliest supporters of the event.

During each Community Service Day, volunteers donate their time to do much needed tasks, including roof system repair or replacement, painting, landscaping and repairing electrical appliances such as air conditioning.

Families who receive the donated services would otherwise not be able to afford to make the needed repairs.

“Since year one, we saw how much these events meant to those receiving aid from the roofing industry, and it felt like a great annual tradition,” says William Bellico, director of marketing and inside sales for Sika Sarnafil. “You really can’t overrate how much it means to those receiving aid.”

Sika Sarnafil is a corporation that strongly believes in giving back to the communities it serves, not only through financial means but also in donating personal time to charitable events such as IRE’s Community Service Day.

“If you talk to a lot of people at our company, you’ll often hear comments about how it feels like a family even though we’re part of a large corporation,” Bellico says. “Our management recognizes the importance of helping foster great community events and instilling that sense of community within our company and the roofing industry in general.”