Weathering the Storm
Challenges facing associations and the industries they represent are daunting. For instance, the roofing industry is affected by technology trends, supply chain struggles and labor shortages. John Schehl, CAE, vice president of certification, National Roofing Contractors Association (NRCA), spoke with FORUM about how his association is meeting these challenges and gave advice for other association professionals on how to implement certifications.
FORUM: What is the NRCA, and whom does it represent?
SCHEHL: NRCA is one of the construction industry’s most respected trade associations. We are the voice of roofing professionals and have been the authority in the roofing industry for information, education, technology and advocacy for over 130 years. NRCA’s mission is to inform and assist the roofing industry, act as its principal advocate and help members in serving their customers. NRCA continually strives to enhance every aspect of the roofing industry.
We represent contractors, manufacturers, distributors, architects, consultants, engineers, building owners and government agencies. Our more than 3,500 members come from all 50 states and 53 countries. We have contractor members as small as $1 million in annual sales and as large as $20 million.
FORUM: When did the labor crisis become evident in the roofing industry, and how did NRCA respond?
SCHEHL: As the country began to recover from the Great Recession, the NRCA leadership identified the lack of an adequate supply of labor as a critical challenge for the roofing industry. There were not enough laborers available to satisfy the demand, and the existing labor force was not adequately trained to keep up with the changes in roofing technology. We estimated that as much as $6 billion of roofing work was not being completed each year due to the labor shortage.
The association responded to the labor crisis with the creation of the NRCA ProCertification™ program. The certification aims to accomplish several goals:
- Create a career path for industry field workers.
- Elevate the roofing industry to be on par with other trades that offer national certifications.
- Address the workforce shortage by making the roofing industry more appealing.
- Protect consumers by certifying the professionals working on their home or building.
- Educate consumers on the value of NRCA ProCertified™ roof system installers.
–John Schehl, CAE, vice president of certification, National Roofing Contractors Association
FORUM: How do NRCA members (employers) benefit from the certification program?
SCHEHL: The roofing industry is constantly evolving, and as roofing companies look for ways to grow their business, they also need to find ways for their workers to grow. When companies invest in their workers, they show their appreciation for their knowledge and skills and that they want workers to have successful careers with their company. By certifying their workforce, member employers demonstrate their commitment to professionalism, quality and their employees’ futures while also providing their company with a significant competitive advantage.
FORUM: How do roofers benefit from the program?
SCHEHL: Professional certification offers workers the opportunity to take pride in and be recognized for their skills and expertise—a badge that will stay with them throughout their professional career. It may also increase their opportunities for better pay. The demand for skilled roof system installers is real, and the opportunities are limitless.
FORUM: How do roofers become certified?
SCHEHL: Roof system installers must pass two exams to earn their NRCA ProCertification™. Part one is a proctored, roof system-specific online exam that is taken at Prometric, a computer testing facility. Part two is a hands-on performance exam that can be conducted at the installer’s contractor’s shop or job site—as long as it meets NRCA standard testing conditions—or an authorized testing location. NRCA will soon develop a searchable online directory of qualified assessors and authorized testing locations on its website.
FORUM: Are there other workforce enhancement programs that NRCA has developed in response to the labor shortage?
SCHEHL: We have launched Training for Roof Application Careers (TRAC), a blend of online and hands-on training that companies can use to train their new and inexperienced employees to be quality roof system installers. NRCA currently offers TRAC training in thermoplastic roof membrane installation and asphalt shingle installation.
300,000 Laborers in the Roofing Industry
The NRCA estimates that there are 300,000 laborers in the roofing industry and hopes to certify a minimum of 5% of the workforce during the first few years of their program.
FORUM: What is NRCA’s investment in the program, and what impact has the program had on its membership?
SCHEHL: NRCA expects to develop up to 15 distinct roof system installation certifications over a five-year period at an estimated cost of $10 million to $13 million. We estimate that there are over 300,000 laborers in the industry and hope to certify a minimum of 5% of the workforce during the first few years of the program. It is difficult to predict how much of the initial investment will be recovered and how long that recovery will take, but NRCA leadership is focusing on solving the immediate workforce crisis and has not set any expectations for immediate return on investment. The association’s membership is growing, and recent increases in education sales and other non-dues revenue can be directly attributed to the certification program. NRCA is committed to providing the resources needed to ensure a highly-skilled, sustainable roofing industry workforce well into the future.
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