There’s a growing demand for construction, and it’s no secret that the roofing industry is struggling to keep up. With older generations retiring and younger populations steering away from the trades, there's a major labor shortage in the roofing industry that’s becoming increasingly challenging to navigate. Students and parents agree that trades are quality career options, so why hasn’t the new generation been motivated to fill these vacancies? It is becoming increasingly important to encourage youth to consider a career in the trades. Read on to learn more about today’s labor shortage, and how you can address the evolving workforce needs in the roofing industry.
The Underlying Causes of the Workforce Shortage
Addressing Economic Hardship
To address the challenges facing the workforce, it’s important to acknowledge the underlying causes. The first major work shortage in the roofing industry began due to the Great Recession. In the years surrounding 2008, more than 15% of roofing jobs were lost as the economy crumbled. Once the construction industry started to recover, companies were forced to hire new and less experienced workers to meet higher demands. Youth and inexperience can be significant risk factors for workplace accidents.
The roofing industry was hit hard yet again at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Because of this, the labor shortage problem that the industry had been struggling to address since the recession was exasperated even further. Aside from the two major economic events, much of the existing workforce is nearing retirement. The number of open positions is going to increase in years to come, and younger generations haven’t shown enough interest in trades positions to make up for the losses.
Reforming the Education System
The National Roofing Contractors Association has been trying to circumvent industry labor shortages for years. Some of their efforts date back to 2015, when they met with members of Congress to discuss the reformation and expansion of Career and Technical Education programs. In a study by Stanley Black & Decker, only 16% of students were very likely to consider a career in the trades, and the majority had never had a meaningful conversation about career opportunities with a trades professional. Misperceptions about potential earnings, stereotypes, and a lack of legitimate trade schools were all contributors.
The first law providing funding for CTE programs was passed in 1917 before it was even mandatory for children to attend school. Despite this, secondary schools historically seem to encourage a college education over a career in the trades.
Existing CTE programs have no standard curriculum, generally lack funding, and often don’t align with high-demand careers. Unfortunately, growing interest in these programs over the past decade hasn’t been enough to bring the curriculum up to par. Research hasn’t kept pace with policy interest, and schools have trouble hiring and retaining certified instructors with relevant career experience. Taking all of this into account, the first solution to the labor shortage crisis starts in the classroom. If you’re a professional with extra time on your hands, consider reaching out to local school districts to see what you can contribute. Whether it be instructing a course, participating in job shadows, or speaking with students, you could be making a difference.
Challenging Negative Perceptions
Some misconceptions exist about professions in trades, and the school system is partly to blame. Some of these misconceptions surround the perceived danger of trade jobs, the level of financial security these jobs can provide, and the skill level necessary for success. Lack of information and resources has given some the impression that a career in a trade is the “less than” option compared to a college education. This is far from the truth, as trade professions can be equally as fulfilling and just as lucrative as any job that requires a college degree. Regardless of who or what is to blame for the discrepancies in information, it’s important to be aware of common misconceptions so that you can begin changing the narrative.
Benefits of a Career in Roofing
There are many benefits that come with having a career in roofing. Sharing those benefits with the next generation is a great way to motivate them to consider roofing as a viable career choice.
If someone were to ask you what you like about your job, what would you say? Here are some reasons to consider a career in roofing if you haven’t already, and some talking points to help present-day roofing professionals encourage others to do the same.
Start Your Career Sooner
Going to college isn’t the right decision for everyone. Fortunately, obtaining a college degree isn’t the only way to secure a job. Typically, to become a roofer, you don’t need any formal schooling. While there are trade school programs available to help kickstart your career and quickly expand your knowledge, it isn’t a requirement to enter the industry. Plus, a lot of companies tend to value experience over education. Oftentimes, roofers begin their training on the job or during paid apprenticeships. Throughout training, they’ll learn about the components of the roof system as well as the materials, equipment, and tools they’ll use on the job. Safety training is included as required by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Since college isn’t necessary, roofers can start their careers early, making money straight out of secondary school and without incurring debt.
It’s no secret that a college education can be expensive. Fortunately, trade school tends to cost significantly less than a bachelor's degree. Starting your career with less debt puts you in a better position to manage your finances and invest in your future.
For example, in an analysis of over 100 years worth of U.S. Federal Census data, it was found that people in trades professions had high rates of home ownership compared to other occupations. Buying a home, as well as other important purchases, will require a good credit score. After five years in the workforce, a person who attends trade school is ahead an average of $140,000 compared to a student who enrolls in college. Having good credit and a low debt-to-income ratio is part of your financial power, and will benefit you in many aspects of your life. If you already have a career in roofing, you’re probably familiar with the financial security it can provide. However, this is a common misconception about trade jobs among younger populations.
Job Security & Flexibility
Fortunately for tradespeople, they’re in demand everywhere. Other career fields may require a big move, but a career in the trades gives you the flexibility to find work wherever you are. Roofing is a steadily growing industry. As long as there is construction, there will be demand for roofers.
Roofing isn’t a stagnant career, and professionals will continue to pick up valuable technical skills that they can use to diversify their businesses and open up new career opportunities down the road.
A Career In Roofing
Overall, a career in roofing is full of opportunities. If you’re someone who is looking to advance their career, consider a job in roofing! If you’re already a trades professional, it’s important to start painting a positive picture of the industry. It's time to start considering how you can play a role in managing today’s labor shortage by inspiring younger generations.
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