Are certification and trade programs the future of our industry? 

How Can Defined Certification Programs Benefit Our Industry?

Many construction trade disciplines provide clear-cut roles based on training and certification levels. For example, in carpentry, it is known that after you have worked in the industry for many years, you can eventually participate in a certification program to become a Master Carpenter. But, in the roofing industry, this career path is not as defined and applicators do not have a “master” level to aspire to. It has only recently become a topic of discussion in our industry, but could certification programs be one of the steps to overcome the current labor shortage?

Certification programs are an important step in any industry for a variety of reasons. A certification program provides industry professionals, at all levels, with something to aspire to and work towards throughout their career. In addition, it ensures that professionals have the training and skill sets required to perform the work at hand. Someone who participates in a certification program has gone through the training, learned the proper installation methods and proved they have a full understanding of the materials being installed. This could result in more properly trained and qualified workers available in the industry that provide credibility and assurance to end-customers.

Although there is no complete certification program in the roofing industry today, the National Roofing Contractors Association (NRCA) is in the process of developing one. NRCA does currently offer a certification program geared towards career development as a foreman. This program, the ProForeman Certification Program, is designed to provide education and development for individuals who are looking to become or currently hold a foreman role. This certification program covers topics ranging from safety requirements, roofing technologies, leadership and training skills – all skills required of a foreman.

Another option that is available today is through the United Union of Roofers, Waterproofers & Allied Workers. This is an apprenticeship program that trains apprentices through on the job training and teaching them the required technical skills needed to excel in the roofing industry. This program is generally a three year program and once completed, apprentices graduate to a journeyman status.

To provide another certification program designed to encompass more of the roofing industry, NRCA is in the process of developing the ProCertification Program. This new program will provide roofing professionals additional education and training goals to work towards. Once fully implemented, it will be a structured, credentialed national worker program that will help attract and keep workers, while improving industry productivity through training. This program will then provide a clear career path through certification for the roofing industry, similarly to carpentry and other trade groups.

How Can We Reach the Younger Generation? 

Once these programs have been fully developed, could we take this same idea and implement it into vocational programs and trade schools to attract younger generations? It is easy to see that students throughout their education are encouraged and guided to the route of a college degree, but many students find this is not the path for them. These students may not be aware that there are other options available to them, such as the roofing industry. Pushing to educate the younger generations on the options they have once graduation comes, could potentially be one step that could help improve employment numbers in our industry.

According to the United States Department of Labor, in 2016, the percentage of students that enrolled in college after high school was only 69.7%. This means that 30.3% of the graduating high school students opted not to go to college. This 30.3% of students will need to find a job to support themselves and the construction industry could be the perfect fit for them. In addition to the percentage of students who do not go onto college, a large percentage of students who did enroll in college find that was not the right choice for them and never complete their degrees.  Sometimes the reasoning behind these students not attending or finishing college is the high cost of education or the stress of college is too much for them.  Whatever the reason, this offers the construction force an opportunity to reach potential employees.

Now, where are these students going? Many are finding a career path in the trades. But, the problem here is that the roofing sector of the trades does not always have a formal vocational program to offer students. So, they may be going into the construction industry, but they are most likely going into a program to become a carpenter, electrician or plumber, because these sectors have the vocational programs developed and offer a clear-cut career path once they complete their education. If the roofing industry had a larger presence in vocational or trade schools, it is possible that a portion of those students looking to learn a trade would choose to do so in the roofing industry.

How Can Certification and Vocational Programs Help?

By implementing certification programs, the roofing industry can expect to see a variety of benefits. One benefit will be that workers will be universally trained by qualified trainers within the industry. This will lead to more skilled workers among our current force, and bring new workers into the mix with the necessary training from the start. In turn, our industry as a whole should begin to see an increase in productivity and efficiency. Additionally, a certification program will offer roofing professionals a chance to advance in their career and creates a more attractive prospective industry to young professionals.  

Developing a formal vocational program for students looking to pursue a career in the trades could open an entirely new pool of skilled workers. With the younger generation having greater knowledge of our industry and obtaining the required skill sets, we could continue to see the effects of the labor shortage decline. As an industry, we need to work together to bring these ideas to reality and bring new faces into the roofing industry.

 

“College Enrollment and Work Activity of 2016 High School Graduates.” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 27 Apr. 2017, www.bls.gov/news.release/hsgec.nr0.htm.

Hamm, Trent. “Why You Should Consider Trade School Instead of College.” The Simple Dollar, 19 Oct. 2017, www.thesimpledollar.com/why-you-should-consider-trade-school-instead-of-college/.

Klein, Rebecca. “This Is Why 12 Percent Of High School Graduates Don't Go To College.” The Huffington Post, TheHuffingtonPost.com, 29 Sept. 2014, www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/09/29/why-students-dont-go-to-college_n_5901124.html.