Working With Other Associations to Benefit the Industry 

How the National Roofing Contractors Association collaborated with other associations to tackled workforce shortages.

By Jorge Luis Rivera, CAE, IOM

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In many industries, there are issues that affect nearly everyone involved but with no obvious place to turn to find answers or support.  Some common issues are workforce shortages as well as training and development. When looking for non-biased support for these and other issues, many turn to associations for a resolution or guidance. However, when association staff is tasked with a large initiative, while working with their own limited budgets and resources, where can they turn? The answer many times could be, other associations working in the field.  

To explore this topic a bit more, I turned to my colleague, John Schehl, CAE, vice president of certifications for the National Roofing Contractors Association (NRCA), for his insight on working with other associations to create programs that would benefit members. John has been active in the roofing industry since 1972 and has worked in NRCA’s education department for nearly 20 years. when NRCA leadership decided to tackle the workforce and training issues affecting the roofing industry, they asked John to lead NRCA’s newly created ProCertication® initiative to bring about higher professionalism in the industry as well as making it more attractive for a new generation of tradespeople to choose roofing over other trades.  

John, can you give a quick overview on the initiative undertaken?  

NRCA members were suffering from an acute workforce shortage that was estimated to be costing the industry $3- $6 billion annually. Leadership dedicated resources to develop a comprehensive workforce development initiative that includes recruiting resources, onboarding tools, training curriculum and new professional certifications to serve as career capstones for industry workers. 

When is it appropriate for an organization to consider working with others and how does one decide which organizations to reach out?  

In other words, effective association leadership almost always requires humble and proactive collaboration, not competition.

It is appropriate for an association to approach other associations whenever the general public or members of other associations could be affected—positively or negatively, intentionally or unintentionally, directly or indirectly—by the programs, products or services an association provides or intends to provide. Association leaders need to carefully think through the impact new initiatives may have on all stakeholders, then be intentional about reaching out to others to discuss. In other words, effective association leadership almost always requires humble and proactive collaboration, not competition. 

How was your experience working with other organizations and were there any surprises you encountered going through the process?  

Working with other associations has always been a positive experience when we proactively sought to engage them. Doing so helps ensure that any surprises are positive. For example, when NRCA reached out to other associations to participate in developing our new ProCertification program, three of them offered financial support and volunteers from their industries to help develop the project. On the other hand, you are sure to alienate others when you exclude them from participating.  

How was NRCA’s governance involved and how can association staff help be that bridge between governance and management of the project at hand.  

NRCA’s board of directors and executive committee members convened numerous times to develop strategies and, of course, commit resources to develop the industry’s new workforce development initiatives. Leadership then trusted staff expertise to develop and propose solutions, activities and budgets. Staff then worked with leadership to recruit and establish new volunteer task forces needed to achieve these goals. Staff liaisons are in constant communications with task force and other committee chairs for guidance and problem solving throughout the development and implementation processes. 

What advice do you have for association executives who are considering undertaking a task that will need to involve partnerships with others?  

I would advise all association executives to reach out to all potential stakeholders, especially those who don’t always agree with your positions, to invite their participation in any initiative that may impact their members, industry or the general public. Smart leaders do not have the right to say “no” on behalf of other association’s leaders. But you must be very clear when communicating a project’s vision, and always with sincerity and authenticity, to achieve meaningful collaboration. 

To learn more about NRCA’s ProCertification, check out John Schehl’s January 2020 interview in FORUM discussing the program in more detail.

About the Author

Jorge is the director of membership development for the National Roofing Contractors Association and a member of Association Forum's Content Working Group.

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