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Address the Labor Shortage at Roofing Day

Julissa-Chavez-Roofing-Day
March 29, 2021 at 11:44 a.m.

RCS Influencer Julissa Chavez says that we need to find a way to help workers from other countries get work permits and driver’s licenses to solve one of the biggest needs for our industry.

Editor’s note: Listen to the interview to hear what Julissa Chavez has to say about the importance of Roofing Day. You can read the transcript below the video, but we recommend hearing it for yourself.

Hello, welcome back to Influencer Topics. My name is Megan Ellsworth here at Roofer'sCoffeeShop. And today I'm chatting with Julissa Chavez. I'm so excited to be chatting with you. Why don't you start, give us a little intro to who you are, and then this month's topic is what would you like to be discussed at Roofing Day 2021?

Julissa Chavez: Perfect. So thank you so much, Megan, for inviting me to be part of this conversation today. It's in my heart very much to be able to contribute feedback and bring ideas that are important to the Latin X roofing community. So I'm so thankful for this opportunity.

And like you said, once again, my name is Julissa Chavez and I am the program manager, Latin X Marketing and Sales here at SRS Distribution. And prior to this role that I'm doing, I was a territory manager in the Atlanta area for four and a half years where I got to learn a lot about the roofing industry, the roofing business, what are the common issues and problems that the roofing contractors have in their business. So that kind of led me to being in this position where I can continue to help and find solutions for those issues that are ongoing in the roofing industry.

Megan Ellsworth: Yes, love it. Yes.

Julissa Chavez: So going to your question, what issues would I want discussed on Roofing Day in DC? So for me from a Latin standpoint, and this is not just me. This has also been like other territory managers within my company that have said, "Julissa, now that you're going to be in a position at the corporate office, it would be really great if we could work on the topic of immigration when it comes to labor crews."

So the roofing industry is basically 70% Latinos and Latinas who are in the industry. So a big need is how do we have enough labor to be able to do all the roofing needs that the country needs at this point? So I would definitely say if we could find a path to work permits that we could offer people so that they're able to drive to work and not have to be living in fear that if I get pulled over, I'm going to be basically deported and separated from my family. Because there's no way for me to legally have a work permit, have a license, do it the right way because of whatever circumstances brought them here to begin with, varies.

And so for me, I think the topic of us being able to offer some sort of work visa, work permits for people to be able to come and join the roofing labor force, I think that would be super crucial and it's so much needed. From a territory manager standpoint when I was in Atlanta, I would have contractors reach out to me and say, "Hey, the roofing crew leader got pulled over and got deported. And now I don't have anybody to do my jobs that I have slated for the week. So do you know anyone that I could call on that could come in and help me with my labor needs for my company?"

So the point or the problem, I would say there, is now you get people who are doing shoddy work, who are overworked because one crew was trying to service 10 different companies, for example. So now they're just rushing into work, doing sloppy work, which in the end creates a bad image for the roofing industry. And the roofing industry notoriously has a bad reputation for being seedy, for people taken advantage and taking your insurance money and running with it and never doing the job. So these things of the labor pool being diluted creates problems of bad workmanship, bad installations.

And it's just not good for the industry as a whole, because what we want to do is we want to elevate the industry and take it from being seedy and untrusted to, no, we're educating everybody it's important to do good installations, good workmanship. It's important to train your crews and count on the same people that you've already trained to continue to do the work based on your standards.

So if we were able to help some of these people find a way to have a work permit and a driver's license and pay taxes, that would be a great solution in my mind as to what is the biggest topic of need for our industry when it comes to the labor force.

Megan Ellsworth: Yeah. And you put that just beautifully together, because everyone's been talking about that. And I think your point of view and your perspective is just so important as a Latin X person. So important. And I think you're so right. There has to be a way where we can figure this out and we can provide help and guidance for people and also provide labor for [crosstalk 00:05:51].

Julissa Chavez: Yeah. I mean, different industries do this, when you think of seasonal industries like agriculture. So some of these companies have programs that they work out with their legislators to say, hey, it's avocado season right now. And we want to bring 300 workers in to help us with the harvest, for example. Or you have Korean industries that start their companies here and they give work permits to Korean people from Korea to come and work here for a period of time. And then they get to go back home after this six month timeframe or whatever the case is.

So it's not like we're asking people to reinvent the wheel. We're just asking for people to look at other industries and what other programs they have created to offer work permits. And can we imitate some of the things that they're doing to help our labor force and our industry in a better way?

Megan Ellsworth: Yes. Thank you. Well, any last words on this topic?

Julissa Chavez: I would just say aside from the immigration topic, it would just be how do we continue to gravitate more women to be part of what's notoriously been a male-dominated industry? So the second thing I would say is, how do we continue to support women? How do we continue to attract women to come and work for this industry when a lot of them are scared to enter it because it's construction.

They only think of, well, roofing, I would have to be outside and I would have to be on a roof. So I would think how can we continue to teach women that there are so many opportunities, not just being on a roof, within our industry to help support such important roles that aren't just involving physically being up on the roof. So how do we get more women to get excited or have more information on what career tracks and paths women can have in this industry.

Which National Women in Roofing has... I'm so happy, because when I started in the roofing industry, it did not exist. National Women in Roofing wasn't even a thing. So when it did come on board and I was a territory manager in Atlanta, I participated. I was definitely part of it. I saw our council grow and I was very active with the Atlanta chapter.

So I'm thankful that there's organizations like National Women in Roofing that are helping pave the way for other women on, hey, we're here to support you. We're here to help you find an opportunity if you're not happy where you are. So I think National Women in Roofing has definitely helped tremendously for women in roofing, but I do think it could be more than just National Women in Roofing as doing all the work.

Megan Ellsworth: Yes, yes. Agreed. I love it. Well, thank you, Julissa, for that.

Julissa Chavez: You're welcome.

Megan Ellsworth: And I will talk to you in April then.

Julissa Chavez: All right. I appreciate you, Megan, and have a wonderful day.

Julissa Chavez is the program manager, Latin X Marketing and Sales at SRS Distribution. See her full bio here



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