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Coffee Conversations - Recruiting the Next Generation - PODCAST TRANSCRIPTION

S2:E14 Coffee Conversations - Recruiting the Next Generation
April 7, 2021 at 10:03 a.m.

 

 

Editor's note: The following is the transcript of a live interview with RCS partner, Heidi Ellsworth and Christee Holbrook and Jazmine Melton of Graham Roofing. You can read the interview below or listen to the podcast here.

Heidi Ellsworth:
Good morning everyone, welcome to Coffee Conversations. We're starting about a minute early but we are here today, I'm so excited. My name is Heidi Ellsworth, and I am here today with Christee Holbrook and Jazmine Melton of Graham Roofing out of Mississippi. And they are here today to talk about something near and dear to all of our hearts, we're going to talk about recruiting that next generation and how important it is, and how ... I've been able to spend a little bit of time with Jazmine, Christee and I work together on National Women in Roofing, and I have to tell you I think we're all pretty dang impressed with this young lady and I think you all, today, are going to be just blown away. It is just so cool. So, Jazmine and Christee, welcome to Coffee Conversations.

Jazmine Melton:
Thank you.

Christee Holbrook:
Thank you.

Jazmine Melton:
Glad to be here.

Heidi Ellsworth:
We're so happy to have you. For everybody out in the audience, please, this is a question and answer. We want to have you come in, be a part of it, ask questions of both Christee and Jazmine. We have some questions that have come in earlier that we'll get started with, but in your control panel please be sure to type your questions in there. We have Megan Ellsworth in the background and she's going to be chatting, and bringing you on live if you would like, or we'll be asking your questions. So we're going to just get right started. So Christee why don't you start out and introduce yourself, and tell us a little bit about Graham Roofing?

Christee Holbrook:
Okay. I'm Christee Holbrook. I am president and one of the owners of Graham Roofing. We are a commercial industrial roofing company out of West Point, Mississippi. We've been in business since 1968. My partners and I bought Graham Roofing in 2018. But I've worked here since 1997 and one of my other partners has worked here since about 1986, I believe. So a lot of background, a lot of experience. Been kind of a wild ride the last year but we're surviving and we're better people for it, and we're a better company for it, we're stronger.

Heidi Ellsworth:
Wow.

Christee Holbrook:
Just to give a little background, because I think it's important right now, the history of Graham Roofing is that we have had a lot of long-term time employees, been here 30 and 40 years, and starting to retire. We had one that had been here since 1978 and he retired, I believe, two years ago. We had one that had been here since 1971-

Heidi Ellsworth:
Wow.

Christee Holbrook:
... he retired about three years ago. So we're starting to lose some of our long time employees to retirement, which is wonderful for them, and we've been so fortunate to have them but we're now getting into that how do we replace them phase? So here we are today.

Heidi Ellsworth:
Yeah, what do we do?

Christee Holbrook:
Right.

Heidi Ellsworth:
So, Jazmine, please introduce yourself, tell us what you're doing with Graham Roofing, and tell us about your schooling, what's going on with Mississippi State right now?

Jazmine Melton:
Okay. Well I am Jazmine Melton, I am a senior at Mississippi State University. Go Dawgs, hail state. Got to show our pride, always got to show my pride. But at Graham Roofing I am working with one of their project managers/superintendents. She is teaching me, basically, from proposals all the way to the start of the job. So I work on proposals when we get offered a job or if somebody needs a new job. I also help with material, with purchase orders. I also help with some middle, as far as getting the information to our project managers and also letting our ... What's the word I'm looking for? Our customers ... Sorry. Letting our customers know everything that's going to happen with their roof.
I have learned the difference between a TPO roof and an EPDM, so I will say that's the main thing because when doing some middle I would be like, "Okay, is a fastener the same thing as a screw?" And you know [inaudible 00:04:18] questions that I have to ask when I'm doing as a middle because I have to make sure all the information's in the job folder, so that if they need to put on a new material on the roof they know the difficult types of chemicals that we have to use, as far as the bonding adhesive, and then they know the different fastenings that we have to use.
So I'm learning the ins and out of roofing, because in our college we don't really go into depth about it, so now I'm able to get on top of a roof, look at everything they're working on as far as the mopping, the installation, taking the roof off when you have to re-roof everything. So I feel like when I started this job I didn't know as much. I knew what a EPDM was and I knew what a TPO was, and I knew that those are flat roofs, but I didn't know how much work it took to go into installing these roofs. So I will say that's my starting thing.
I also met the roofing crews, so that was another thing, because you meet new people and you learn new connections. So I would even ask the guys like, "Okay, what are you doing here?" "Oh well we're putting out DensDeck." "Well why can't the DensDeck go vertically?" "Well you have a span and if you put a span then you're going to have too much space, and you're going to have too much movement, and then it's easier for a repair to come in two years rather than in five years." So I've been learning the ins and out of roofing. And I will say it's been a learning experience because instead of just being in school this gives me a chance to brush up on my skills with project management, with organization, with paperwork. Learning the things that I want to do after graduation.
Now to talk about Mississippi State Building Construction Science my program started around 2007, so it hasn't been around that long. We just got accredited last February, so that was a good thing because some companies ... And for people that don't know what accreditation mean, for some companies they only take degrees that are accredited, from an accredited program, so if you say you wanted to do federal work and they only take accredited degrees. This will be a big thing for me because now my degree means more, it's worth more.

Heidi Ellsworth:
Excellent.

Jazmine Melton:
So that was a big thing for us, when we went through accreditation. We are accredited by the ACCE, which is the American Construction ... I'm fitting to be wrong.

Christee Holbrook:
[crosstalk 00:06:38] I should know it but-

Jazmine Melton:
Okay. [crosstalk 00:06:39] But main thing is we are accredited and our program is moving forward. So now we are trying to get more diversity, we're trying to get our program out there because since it's so new a lot of people don't know that we have Building Construction Science.

Heidi Ellsworth:
And let's just have a proud moment here, right?

Jazmine Melton:
Right.

Heidi Ellsworth:
You are going to be the first African American woman to graduate from Mississippi State-

Jazmine Melton:
Yes ma'am. Yes ma'am.

Heidi Ellsworth:
... in this program. Yeah!

Jazmine Melton:
This is a very big accomplishment because, one, we already don't have a lot of women and then we don't have a lot of diversity in our program, so this may ... And then this paved the way for a lot of my [inaudible 00:07:23] because not only am I the first, I have done a lot of with our recruitment for BCS, I have done different events. I even done a event with Christee for eighth graders, joining them into the construction world. Because, like I said, this is a program and this is a major that is not known. And even though people have graduated in construction for years it's like my generation doesn't know that this is also a career that you can choose. It's not just about getting out there and getting dirty but there's also office work that needs to be done too. So I will say that's a big part.

Heidi Ellsworth:
Wow.

Christee Holbrook:
[crosstalk 00:08:00] go back to Jazmine, she doesn't say enough. She actually gets to go out on the roofs almost every day.

Jazmine Melton:
Yeah.

Christee Holbrook:
So she's seen a lot of different things, a lot of repairs and some new construction-

Jazmine Melton:
Yeah, new construction. Yeah.

Christee Holbrook:
... re-roof going on. So we do get her out of the office as much as we can and she goes out with our-

Jazmine Melton:
[crosstalk 00:08:18] So it's like morning time is my office time and then the evening time we go out on roofs, depending on the weather. And that's another thing I learned, the hard thing with roofing is you have to have good weather. You have to have good weather. If the weather is bad it's you can't roof, so I-

Heidi Ellsworth:
Right.

Christee Holbrook:
Or potentially bad.

Jazmine Melton:
Or even potentially bad, you can't get on a roof if there's going to be a thunderstorm. So that also cuts down on work days for roofing. So I will say this is one trade that definitely has to have its ups and downs, and you have to be dedicated to it.

Heidi Ellsworth:
Yeah. Well you know what? We were talking ahead of time, and actually there was a few people on who might have been able to hear some of this conversation but it was such a great conversation, and I think probably something that maybe we've been missing a tad on the roofing front, and Christee you probably haven't, is the fact of in your program right now you're being encouraged to go to work for general contractors, right?

Jazmine Melton:
Right.

Heidi Ellsworth:
So share about that again Jazmine because I think that's so important that really the trades, and even going onto roofing, isn't being discussed unless someone like Christee is there and getting the interns, and putting all that together.

Jazmine Melton:
Yeah. So our program is definitely based on project management route, more so than figuring out what it is you want to do. So we learned every aspect of the office and you learn about general contractors. We also have an advisory board at Mississippi State, which we do have some trades on our advisory board but-

Christee Holbrook:
We do.

Jazmine Melton:
We do-

Christee Holbrook:
I'm the president.

Jazmine Melton:
[crosstalk 00:10:01] I know, you're the president. [crosstalk 00:10:02] Look, she's the president so she can tell you, and we also have a lot of GCs, we have a lot of general contractors on our advisory board. And the thing is is when we go through our program we're only shown one part of construction, which is the general contracting. And, like you said, without Christee being there you don't have somebody to vouch for these trades, to say, "Hey, you can make the same salary, as you do at a GC, at a trade. You can still have the same amount of work at a trade because it's just as hard." You still have to do contracts, you still have to do big jobs. Even if you work for a roofing company they still have to pair up with Turner, they still have to pair up with Brasfield & Gorrie on jobs, they still have to be there. Because what makes the general contractor work is the subs that they get on the job. So if people are not working for these subs then how can construction keep going?

Heidi Ellsworth:
Right.

Jazmine Melton:
Because yeah you have everybody work for the GC but then you're looking for trades to come on your job and the trades, they don't have enough people to take on the work that you need. So that's a big thing because if they don't have enough workers for a $400 million project well then they can't get on the project, even though you want their quality they don't have enough staff to take on a $400 million project. So that's the big thing. And I feel like it's lack of information because you come into these programs and you don't know that, "Hey, you don't have to go to a GC, you can go to a roofing company, you can go to a concrete company." These companies need our generation to come in too because, like she said, people are starting to retire but who do you replace these people that are retiring with?

Heidi Ellsworth:
Exactly.

Jazmine Melton:
You have to teach somebody and you have to bring somebody up. You have to teach them the quality from somebody that's been in the construction business for 40 years. They have to have somebody to teach to come on after them. And that's the problem.

Heidi Ellsworth:
Well and what have you found, Jazmine, by being in roofing? I mean, did you even think about roofing before this internship? And what have you found from it?

Jazmine Melton:
I would say no, I didn't think about roofing, but me knowing Christee I was like, "Okay, I need an internship, let me start somewhere." And talking with her, working with her, just with recruitment for building construction sites it was like, "I would really love to work for this woman, she's phenomenal." And then this is a woman owned roofing company. There's not a lot of women in construction and why not start with somebody that has their own roofing company, has their own trade? Why not learn from her? Not even just learning about roofing but learning how to be in this business as a woman.

Heidi Ellsworth:
I love that. In fact, okay let's go back to this because we have some ... You guys it's just lighting up, we have questions and comments coming through. It's just awesome. So first of all, everyone is saying congratulations Jazmine. I mean, we have all these, "Congratulations! This is great." But Christee we have, from Henry Staggs ... Hi Henry, he's out of Arizona, he was wondering ... He'd be interested in hearing more about the challenges of recruiting and training new employees. So kind of starting back a little bit more on the tactical, as you bring in these interns what's your process and how does that work, as we're learning about EPDM and TPO, and all this good stuff?

Christee Holbrook:
Well first of all let me say that recruiting has been challenging, it was not something we ever had to do before because we didn't have a high turnover, because we had all these long time employees. So about 10 years ago it was kind of like, "Okay, what's going on? Nobody's knocking on our door, we have to start knocking on their door." So that's kind of how we got into the Building Construction program and recruiting with them, but also recruiting outside. Going to job fairs was something we never did before. And trying to make people aware of trade skills. We have another 501(c)(3) that we do, called FORGE, and it is talking about making trades cool again and making people aware of, "Hey you can come work for us. You don't have to go get a four year degree, come work for us right out of high school," or, "Go get a two year," or, "Go get a four year. I mean, we need you all."
And I tell people we train, so we're constantly training. We train in the field. We bring in reps to train. We have days of training, especially on rain days. So we can train you if you just have the desire to come in and work with us.

Heidi Ellsworth:
Yeah. I love the part too, Jazmine, when you were talking about being on the roof and asking questions. I think asking questions is hard for anybody but especially when you're first just starting out how much do you ask? How much you don't? So maybe talk to us a little bit more about how much you've learned just by being able to get up there and ask questions.

Jazmine Melton:
I would say if you don't ask the question then somebody's going to think that you already know. And I had to come out of my comfort zone with asking question, because at first you're like, "Oh is this a stupid question?" But then you have to learn that no question is stupid because it's better to ask the question, and know for sure, than to not ask the question at all and then you do it wrong or you just assume. So I would say sometimes Sunni would be ... We'll be talking to the crews, I'd be like, "Okay Sunni, this is an expansion joint, right? Because I've only seen it on a drawing." And then she'll be like, "Yeah." She'll be like, "This is the reason why we're replacing it." Like she'll pull it back and she'll say, "You see? Water can get into the building." And it's learning that there's more than just windows and doors when it comes to openings for a building.
So the two main things that you learn about a building is, one, you have to have a great foundation and, two, you have to have a great roof. Because if you don't have a great roof then everything on the inside, insulation, drywall, everything is going to come apart. Well I've learned that with a roof if you don't do it right the first time, and you have to go back and redo it, the price. I will say that's the biggest thing I have learned is that roofing is not ... It's a lot. I mean, I look at some of these prices and I'm like, "Oh my gosh, this is [inaudible 00:16:36]." But you learn that you have to have a quality roof, which Graham Roofing, raise your roof quality. But definitely you have to learn that you have to have a great roof.
People talk about you want to spend for the quality but you have to also spend for the substance. You have to make sure that it's going to stay for a long time because you can replace walls and that's nothing, but when it comes to replacing a roof, I mean, that's ... You literally have to relay everything, you have to make sure that there is no water getting into the building, you have to make sure that there's no condensation getting into the building, and that's the main thing.
So when I go on there ... Even the difference between a TPO and an EPDM. Some people choose TPO and you have to look at it, and you're just like, "Okay this is a flat roof." But at the same time you still have to have certain expansion joints to get water off of the roof. And so I ask questions all the time. I'll be like, "Okay, I know you told me this yesterday but I have to ask again, how do you bond adhesive," or, "Is there a different type? You have 60 mil, you have 45. What's the difference between a 45 and a 60?" I asked that question yesterday and come to find out it's the thickness. And I was like, "Okay, now I see what you're saying. Well you want to advise people to get a 60 mil roof because it's better quality and you want your roof"-

Heidi Ellsworth:
Yes.

Jazmine Melton:
You don't want to sit here and replace a roof, and then two years later you have to replace it again. You want to replace a roof and then you don't have to replace it or do repairs for 10 years. So I will say asking questions is definitely my ins and out. And sometimes I don't have a pencil and paper, so sometimes I have to come back to the office and try to think about what I've learned on the roof, and write it down. So I'm a question asker because even if it's 50 million questions, I mean, having somebody ... And that's a big thing too, having somebody that has the patience to answer all of your questions is also something that my generation has to have because you have to have somebody that is willing to teach. And not everybody can be a great teacher, but you do have to have somebody that's willing to answer your questions, even if you asked that same question two days ago. Be patient with me because I'm learning.

Heidi Ellsworth:
Yeah. So Christee how do you ... Jazmine that is just perfect. We have a number of Gen Zs and Millennials who work at RoofersCoffeeShop, so I am a huge fan of the next generation. I think you're amazing. But it is ... I mean, there's times that I'm sitting there and I'm thinking, "I should be doing all these other things but I'm going to spend time here teaching and explaining the industry," or whatever. Christee how do you do that with your company? For everybody out there, how do you balance that with the interns that you're bringing in and your crews?

Christee Holbrook:
With a lot of help. Ask that question one more time, I got to-

Heidi Ellsworth:
I'm curious, we were talking about training but like Jazmine said there's a lot of questions to be answered, there's a lot of training to do. How do you structure your company to make sure that the interns are getting those questions answered and being ready after this internship? Because an internship is two ways, it's for ... And so how do you do that in your business? How have you structured that?

Christee Holbrook:
Well I think putting them with the right people.

Jazmine Melton:
That was amazing, I was going to say.

Christee Holbrook:
Right. Putting them with the right people, the most important I think. And we try to move them around, especially the ones that are out in the field more. We try to move them into the office to get some experience. But it's also kind of based on their personality. If they don't show a lot of enthusiasm they might not see as much. Like Jazmine is very enthusiastic. She's going to be ... Like she said, she's going to ask questions, so it's easy ... I see her, she lets me see her and anybody see her. So she's easy to train and she's easy ... She makes you want to let her experience everything.

Heidi Ellsworth:
Yeah, that's cool.

Christee Holbrook:
So it kind of all depends on their personality. But I do try to pair people, our interns, with someone that I think can train them. A lot of the ones that are out in the field we usually put those with repair guys because they can see a lot of different things, instead of just putting them on a roofing crew. And I always tell them, "If you want to learn project management and you want to learn estimating you better be in my face telling me or I could forget."

Heidi Ellsworth:
Yeah. I love that.

Jazmine Melton:
And I will say that's the main thing because, like she said, I really do ... I'm acquainted with the whole office. So there are some days I may go into Lane's office and Lane does paperwork but she does the payroll and everything for Graham. So it's not just about getting your internship and getting paired up with somebody, it's about where do you want to go for yourself? So even though I'm paired up with Sunni there's some days when me and Sunni may finish our work early, and she's like, "Hey, you can go over there with Mickey and see what he's estimating right now." Or yesterday I worked with Elbert, and Elbert has to go to jobs and take pictures, and do proposals for the estimating department. Learning that it starts here and it ends here.
Like she said, it's about your personality, it's about your drive. The main thing is the drive, like do you want to learn or do you just want to sit here? And I think that's the difference between people in the workforce because you could be in estimating, and go home and complain about it, but have you told the person that, "Hey, I want to move into something else"? So if you're not there saying, "Hey, I'm here and I want to do something else," or, "I want to do more," then how can somebody know that you need to branch out to something else? So, like she said, it's about your personality and it's about your drive, it's about where do you want to go and what do you want to learn? Are you willing to learn? Are you excited about learning? Where do you stand on your construction path?
Because for me it's like, okay this is my first time working for a trade. Well why not learn the difference between going for a job, getting a job, like somebody coming to you, having loyal customers that always come back to you. There's different aspects of it and you have to want to go into each person's office and learn what part do they take into the whole process? So I will say that's my main thing, I try to learn the ins and outs. I want to know, okay this is how it starts and this is how it ends. And when the job close this is the paperwork.

Heidi Ellsworth:
And so really, again, it's that partnership of the internship, the intern coming ... You coming in and really being curious, and giving it its all, and the company being willing to get you involved and let you see all sides of it, which has brought the success, Christee, that you've seen with your interns in the program.

Christee Holbrook:
Yes.

Heidi Ellsworth:
That's cool. We have somebody who's going to come on. Henry Staggs ... Actually, Megan I think we're ready to bring on. He has a question he wants to ask you ladies, so hold on two seconds. He should be coming this direction.

Henry Staggs:
Okay, great.

Christee Holbrook:
Good morning.

Jazmine Melton:
Morning.

Henry Staggs:
Only my hair, oh my God, I didn't know I was going to be on a camera. So I am just so excited listening to you talk. I've been ... Well sometime back, and I'm going to really narrow this down Heidi, I'm not going to take too much time. But a while back I thought, in my consulting business, it'd be nice if I had some training for roofers or installers, or whatever, so we can do better work for my clients, which is my job is to make sure it's done right. And as I started doing that it just build and it grew, and I met more people. And it became clear to me that we need to start recruiting people through academia, through the trade schools, through the community colleges, rather than off the streets like we've been doing for the last 30 years or so.
So I invited myself, pretty aggressively, into one of the local trade schools down here and started doing demonstrations with them, involving the students, getting hands-on. They made me a member of their industry advisory council, so I'm completely involved with them. And then I started working with the NRCA and NCCR. I'm really excited right now, so excuse my jittery tone here. And so they're putting together a program that'll be used in trade schools, fully accredited through the Department of Education, all that fun stuff. We are positioned, here in Arizona, using ... We're partnering with Eagle Roofing Products to start teaching that program pretty much the day that it comes out.
So when I'm listening to you talk you are exactly the kind of person that we're looking for to get into this program, so we can change the culture of our industry, make it stronger and grow it so we can be a much more professional industry than ... I mean, we are professional now but we have our rough spots that we need to iron out. So I am completely stocked. So what I want to ask you, on April 1st we're having our first, The School of Roofing Industry Advisory Council, and if you two ladies would like to be on that call I would love to have you, I think your input would be amazing.
And our biggest hurdle here is talking to the roofers. One, about their involvement. Let me say this as politically correct as I can, they've been running the industry for 40 years, we don't have people that work, so we need to adjust what we do and how we recruit, and train, our people. And you guys are doing exactly what I think we should be doing. Only through academia, so we can have the accreditation, the support, all the financial aid that we can get from the federal government or whatever else is out there, so more kids would be attracted. Because, I tell you, I believe I get kids going to a trade school and they see roofing listed as a legitimate program they can get an accreditation for or credit certificate, they can get financial assistance and all that, there will be numerous kids that jump into it.
What they tell me, and this is in your age group too ... My daughter's in your age group, so I feel really old. But kids are telling, "Look, we don't mind working hard. We like to work hard. We like to see a finished product. We're proud of what we do too, but we're scared of the roofing industry because it seems unstable. We need something that is stable, we know when we get to work we're going to still have a job in three, four, or five years." And when guys are floating all around the place and this guy worked here for one year, and then over there for two years, and this guy for three months over here, that's ... And correct me if I'm wrong but that's what my daughter and her friends tell me scares them about industries like ours. So anyways, I think going through academia may help with that.

Heidi Ellsworth:
So, Henry, perfect. Jazmine I think that is ... Can you speak to that? What is the impression? Because Henry's putting together this great school and really trying to get people. How do we attract more people like you?

Jazmine Melton:
Okay. I will say that's the biggest reason because when you ask somebody, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" You hear doctors, you hear astronauts, you hear-

Christee Holbrook:
Lawyers.

Jazmine Melton:
... I mean, lawyers. You hear the big jobs, but the thing about the consistency ... Like you said, we are afraid of getting our foot out there and not having a steady job. And even me, myself getting ready to graduate, that was a scare for me because it's like, okay I need to choose something that's going to be steady because after you get ... You have people that graduate with student loans, you have people that graduate where they're still taking care of their bills. I mean, I take care of my bills and I'm in college, so the job that I have after this it has to be able to provide for me. The main thing, like you said, is the consistency. Everybody is scared of getting more debt or not being able to be okay.
But how you recruit them is you show them that this industry is going to be around for a long time, because construction ... You're always going to need a building, you're always going to need a hospital, you're always going to need a house. People have to live somewhere, people have to work somewhere. This is an industry that's not just ... Yeah, it's up and down but at the end of the day it's going to be here.
And that's the one thing that I've learned, when I start to love this industry, because when I picked my major ... Trust me, when I picked my major a lot of my family members was like, "Construction? Why?" And I'm like, "Okay, didn't you just hire somebody to renovate your house? That's construction. Don't you see that tower crane downtown? That's construction. Don't you see that a new school is being built two blocks away? That's construction." You need somebody to build these buildings that are necessities for our living. You need a hospital and if a hospital is too packed you need another one in that same city, you have multiple hospitals, you have multiple doctor offices. These are part of construction. You're not going to go down a road and not see a building on the side, that's just how it is. But in order for that building to get there what do you do? You construct.
And at the end of the day, even with roofing, you always need a roof. It doesn't necessarily have to be that they are building a new roof, they can start roofing repairs. Like right now we have been having a lot of rain, a lot of bad weather. We have had repairs come in week after week. You need somebody to go do that.
So I think what you need to do to attract them is show them that what you think about construction is not what you know about construction. You don't assume. So you have to give them the knowledge, it's the information. It's the lack of information that my generation has for these jobs, because it's the same way for a doctor. You can go be a surgeon but during the pandemic if it wasn't an emergency procedure you're not doing any surgery. I mean, every industry is up and down. It's the same way for a teacher. Like when they closed down the schools and they sent kids home, well that teacher may not get the same salary that she would get last year because now schools have closed. Funding is limited. So every job has its ups and downs, and that's just the way of life. So you can't be scared that, "My job is not going to be steady." You have to know that if you work hard enough everything will come into play.

Heidi Ellsworth:
It'll come happen. So there's two things there. So, first of all, I want to say Henry thank you so much for the question. We actually have another person who's going to be coming on. So Henry I wrote down April 1st. I'll make sure I connect you guys. Congratulations on the school, this is awesome. We'll be talking.
And then we have David Noe is going to be coming on with a question. But I want to grab at one point, Jazmine, that you just said before we bring David ... David will be coming on but I want you to comment on that, is how often ... You said when you said, "I want to go into construction, I want to do this degree," and your family was like, "What?" I think that's a problem. That's a problem, in that it is also we're not just educating your generation but we're kind of educating your parents too, all of us, of our generation because Megan and you are the same age. That it's okay to go into maybe non-traditional roles or degrees. So have you had a lot of pushback on that decision, to go this direction?

Jazmine Melton:
Originally yes because I went to a technology high school where we had strands. So my strand was computer science and engineering. And that's when I learned that's not what I wanted to do. Originally I wanted to come to Mississippi State for architecture. So now that shows you that I didn't even know about construction when I got to college. Literally my construction education was zero. I don't have anybody in my family that does construction and this was something that I chose because once I found out that architecture wasn't for me I was like, "But I wanted to do something with building." And that's when I found this program. So I will say, for me, it was pushback at first because I found out that I had to have an extra year. So this is my fifth year at State. So at first it was like my family was like, "Okay, you're going to be in college an extra year. When are you going to graduate?" That was the thing.
But once I started to love this industry and my family saw me talk about this industry, it was like I chose a career for me. [crosstalk 00:34:03] I chose a career that I love. It's not something that I just wanted to do for the money or for anything else. It was like I learned to love this industry and that's the main thing, you want to do something that you love because at that point it's not working.

Heidi Ellsworth:
Yeah, that's-

Jazmine Melton:
At that point it's your lifestyle, you love it, it's something ... So I was-

Heidi Ellsworth:
If you don't love it you're not going to keep doing it.

Jazmine Melton:
Right. So that was my main thing.

Heidi Ellsworth:
I love that. So let's get David. David are you there?

David Noe:
Hey, good morning everybody.

Heidi Ellsworth:
Good morning.

Jazmine Melton:
Good morning.

Christee Holbrook:
Good morning.

David Noe:
I am ... There we go, sorry. Well Christee congratulations on your success in this industry, I think it's awesome. Jazmine great to hear what you're doing, it's very just exciting because we have about 17% of our company's female. And knowing that, and knowing what you're trying to do, is awesome. So we always have challenges with this industry but I think the more diverse we can be is going to be hopefully the future of this industry.
So my question to you both is ... And we're trying to do the same thing in this area, in Cincinnati, with being in trade schools and helping kids, and their parents, be aware of what they're getting into. We want to train roofing professionals and show that this industry can have a different perception from what it used to be or what people are thinking it is. So when you're looking at someone coming into the company, and handling the production side of a roof system or project, what does the first 90 days look like? Do you have a full 90-day training program? Do you put them through a week of very hands-on training? Can you walk everybody through what has been successful for you with that first 90 days of somebody coming in to the industry?

Christee Holbrook:
Well let me first say this is something that we're constantly working on and we've got a long way to go, and we're still working on. When I get passed a couple of things we're going to really work on onboarding, but for the ... Of course we do the safety training, but for the first 90 days, I mean, we put them out there on crews. Our crews, our guys, and this is my opinion, somebody might tell me differently, are really good at showing you how to do things, especially if you show interest. If you don't show any enthusiasm they're going to let you just go over there by yourself and you're on your own. But if you show enthusiasm and you say, like Jazmine, "Hey what are you doing," they're going to talk to you about it. And they're going to say, "Hey you want to do it?" She was screwing down ... Was it insulation the other day?

Jazmine Melton:
Fasteners.

Christee Holbrook:
Yeah, for fasteners but you were putting them in insulation?

Jazmine Melton:
Yeah, in the insulation.

Christee Holbrook:
And my other partner, the other female partner that I have, we had always worked in the office. So when we started getting more involved in the company before we bought it we would ask questions and they'd say, "Here, why don't you try it?" I think we do have a good group of guys, that if you show enthusiasm they're going to show you anything you want to learn.
But we do try to ... And I want it to be more written out because I do think ... I have learned this new generation likes to see the progression that they make in a company. So we are trying to do more written out and we're working on that. I have a little committee and that's what they're ... They're for the onboarding process, to get it better and inviting.
And to talk to the younger generation to find out how they do want to learn, because my guys that have been here a long time I'm trying to teach them that this new generation learns different, so we have to change our way of thinking. Because the way of thinking used to be throw them out in the field and they'll either sink or swim. And that's not necessarily ... That's not the right approach. But I do know that the more enthusiasm you show the quicker you're going to rise and learn at this company.

David Noe:
That's awesome. Yeah, I'm glad you brought up the safety side because when it comes to someone coming in do you require them to get an OSHA 10, OSHA 30? What kind of progression with safety?

Christee Holbrook:
At some point within the year we get their OSHA 10. So about once a year I do an OSHA 10 class with my insurance and whoever's not trained gets put in that class to get their OSHA trained. And sometimes if we think they need to be retrained they go in that class. So all of my field guys are at least OSHA 10 and a lot of my upper management, and higher field guys, are 30. And that is something that the BCS program has started to, is getting their OSHA 30, which I think is important because for a long time they didn't.

Jazmine Melton:
Yeah. And I will say ... And that's another thing, as far as safety, it's the main thing you need to learn in construction because more people get injured on a construction site than they do anywhere else. And that was a shocker for me when I was going through my OSHA 30 class because it was like, "Oh this really happens." Trenches collapse, people fall out of roofs, people don't have on the same safety equipment. I mean, you have all these accidents. But I will say that is a big thing, is learning OSHA. Even I had to come in and watch OSHA videos when I first started. Like when I was doing my paperwork to start my internship here at Graham I had to do hours of watching OSHA videos as well. So it's not just for the people that's out in the field but it's also for the people in the office, because we also need to know the safety that goes on in the field.

Christee Holbrook:
Graham Roofing also gets involved with the local career technical, and the high schools if they're interested. But we have four career technical facilities in our area and we're very involved with those. I sit on an advisory board or two for construction. And we have offered, not just Graham Roofing but we have a group of companies that work together, to talk about trades in the high school. And we've started offering OSHA 10s in their construction program because who doesn't want someone that already comes in with an OSHA 10? You're a little ahead of the game. Because our construction, and I'm assuming everybody's this way, but in our career tech centers if they're in construction and they go two years they get the NCCR card, which that's a plus too. So we even go as low as eighth grade and that is what-

Jazmine Melton:
Yeah, we-

Christee Holbrook:
... Jazmine helped with through the BCS program, is we did a big career fair for eighth graders and it was all hands-on. And she came and represented the Building Construction, and had to come up with an activity to keep a thousand eighth graders entertained.

Heidi Ellsworth:
Oh my gosh.

Christee Holbrook:
And let me tell you, their table was the most active and fun for sure.

Jazmine Melton:
Yeah, definitely.

Christee Holbrook:
She did a great job.

David Noe:
That's awesome.

Heidi Ellsworth:
David can you tell everybody real quick where you're from. I know you said Cincinnati and I have a cheat, I can see what company, but if you would let everybody know?

David Noe:
Yeah. I'm with Deer Park Roofing, we handle residential and commercial roofing in Cincinnati, and Louisville, Kentucky. So we're spread out a little bit in the region but we keep growing. And getting more kids out of trade schools and just creating our first co-op program this spring, so we actually have two right now in the program and hopefully it's the first two of many. We've hired some from a current trade school that's very ... Just having a hard time with their class size because there's too many kids signing up and there's not enough instructors, so it's a good problem. So they're trying to reach out to companies like us to help with co-ops.
My counterpart, she's actually the Jessie that asked the question about the rain days, helped me with some recruiting in the offices. So her question was more on the rain days and how you plan accordingly with rain days, and what do you typically offer for training? Is it a guaranteed training program or is it for the foremen, or superintendents, or what are you seeing that you focus on with the training side?

Christee Holbrook:
A lot of our rain day training we'll bring in the whole crew. And kind of how we've done in the past, and it's worked really well ... We have two offices. We have a branch in Tupelo, Mississippi and we bring them all in. And we used to not do that for years and it was like, "Why aren't we bringing them all in? Because that office does things a little different, they can teach our guys new tricks and our guys can teach them new tricks." And it's worked out really good and made our company more cohesive, which was needed.
But we kind of have things laid out where we know we want to train, for new guys. We want to bring them in ... And we have mockups that we keep and we just bring them out on rain days, or cold weather days or whatever it happens to be, and they'll work on single-ply flashing, they'll work on flashing pipes, they'll work on ... I mean, whatever they need to work on. Mopping techniques. And the more experienced guys are the ones showing the new guys, or the less experienced guys, or someone that's cross training. Maybe he's been here a while but he needs to learn how to mop or he needs to learn how to use the kettle. And we use our experienced guys to do that. And sometimes we do bring in our reps to do a lot of training and we do that several times a year also.

David Noe:
That's awesome. And one more quick question, while I'm thinking of it, if you are with an applicant or a student what are your selling points compared to your competition in that region? Are there certain unique benefits, or sign-on bonuses, or tuition reimbursement? What do you make sure you get across to people to help them consider you versus the company down the street that does the same type of work?

Christee Holbrook:
Well I can safely say that I'm probably the only roofing contractor in the area that's out there promoting and sitting on advisory boards for colleges, and high schools. So I have a little advantage there. But also, I mean, we really try to stress that we've been in business for 52 years, so that goes back to that we're a stable company. We're not going anywhere. But we also are very family oriented, so-

Jazmine Melton:
I would say that's the biggest thing, is working for a company that sees you as family.

Christee Holbrook:
Yep. And we've always been that way but-

Jazmine Melton:
So that's what drew me in is being treated like family, the respect that they give to their workers, no matter if you're in the field or if you're in the office. Those are the two main things that people need when they're working for somebody. They don't want to feel like a number and they don't want to feel like they're just one of your workers. They want to feel like family. And here at Graham everyone is family. And I guess that would be ... I think that's the main asset that you all do have, is that-

Christee Holbrook:
We really promote it.

Jazmine Melton:
... it's the family oriented here. I mean even now, like with me graduating and me having different interviews, and stuff, everybody here has literally been supportive, very supportive every time. And I think that's the biggest thing, is being able to love the people you work with. That makes your day better. We all say good morning to each other. Yesterday we had lunch together for March birthdays, and she went and bought nothing but cakes. She brought in cakes, and we all just sat there and had a good time. We had conversation during lunch. And that just shows you that this is a family oriented business.

Heidi Ellsworth:
That is so cool. So David, and Jessie, thank you so much. Quick question Christee, how many employees do you have at Graham?

Christee Holbrook:
Well, as I told during Roofing Day yesterday, I only have about 35 right now and that's not what I want. We normally go around 50. We've had as high as 70. I like to stay around 50, but finding people right now is very challenging.

Heidi Ellsworth:
Yeah.

Christee Holbrook:
Because of COVID we haven't been able to get in the high schools, we haven't been able to do our eighth grade career fairs. I do stay in front of the BCS kids because I do sit on the board as the chair this year for Industry Advisory Board. And once a semester our estimator goes to the BCS class and teaches a roofing class. So I am able to get in front of them but we haven't been able to get in front of some of the other kids. It's tough right now, it's tough finding-

Heidi Ellsworth:
[crosstalk 00:48:05] Yeah. Roofing Day said that. I just want to make sure we get it in, then I want to come back because I want to talk a little bit, so we have one more question. Erica is wondering how do you get recruits to overcome working at heights? Kind of that fear factor, again, of being on heights-

Jazmine Melton:
I can answer that question first.

Heidi Ellsworth:
Okay.

Jazmine Melton:
I'm afraid of heights and I'm also afraid of ladders, so I'm not going to lie, this is one thing I had to overcome within my first day here, is that, "Oh this ladder is not fitting to overcome my job. I still have to do my job." I'm still working on it because ladders ... Trust me, OSHA videos have scared me for ladders. And I am afraid of heights. I [inaudible 00:49:40]. The guys laugh at me all the time because I have to literally let everybody else in front of me ...
I literally have to let everyone else go up the ladder first, I have to be the last person. It's like that even in my class. We have went on field trips ... We went on a field trip to Nashville and I had to go up four flights of ladders, and I was so scared. I was like, "I'm not going." I was like, "This is the end of the tour for me, I'm done." And everybody was just like, "Are you really going to let this ladder" ... You really do have to overcome your fear. And what's so crazy is that one of my goals is to one day work on a skyscraper, but I'm afraid of heights. How does that work? I would say the confidence. You have to build confidence into your employees. So the main thing is letting them know safety. Letting them know that, "Hey, I'm here with you." Because there's been times where Sunni would go up and she literally would hold the ladder, just to-

Christee Holbrook:
Even though it's tied off.

Jazmine Melton:
Even though it's tied off she still will hold the ladder, just to make me feel secure, right. So I think that's the biggest thing is making your employees feel secure. Because even though it's tied off, even though the ladder's not going anywhere, she still will stand there until I get all the way up there. She will even talk me through coming up the ladder. So that's the biggest thing is supporting your employees, especially if you know that they're scared of heights or you know they don't like ladders, it's giving them that support so that they can get up there because it is hard. It's hard to now be on a stair and you have to climb a ladder, especially when you're a little clumsy like me-

Christee Holbrook:
[crosstalk 00:51:31] It goes back also, again because I can attest to what she said, nobody's pressuring you. Nobody's saying, "Could you go any slower," or, "You need to hurry up." You have to understand, of course, it's a little different I think in the South. Females are just now getting out there here.

Heidi Ellsworth:
[crosstalk 00:51:59] We may have ... There we go.

Christee Holbrook:
They were always very, very supportive. And when you get up to the roof they're helping you over, they're holding your hand. They don't so much to me anymore but they will if I need them. And we work mainly on flat roofs, so we do have that advantage. But that is one of the first questions I ask, "Are you scared of heights?" Because we've had a couple people that were and they just didn't work out.

Jazmine Melton:
Yeah.

Heidi Ellsworth:
Not everybody can overcome like Jazmine. Yeah.

Christee Holbrook:
Right. That's right.

Heidi Ellsworth:
Erica I don't think we can hear you. No, I know. Okay, but Erica just so everybody knows, Erica is with WGG Partners, right? Okay, we're going to find out. We're going to have you chat it, you and Megan chat it, and we'll make sure we connect you because I want to ... We're coming close to the end of our time, so thank you Erica so much. Thank you and we'll connect.

Heidi Ellsworth:
So I have a really important question for you Jazmine.

Jazmine Melton:
Okay.

Heidi Ellsworth:
Are you a member of National Women in Roofing?

Jazmine Melton:
I am not yet.

Heidi Ellsworth:
Okay. Well you are now because we're going to give you a membership to National Women in Roofing.

Jazmine Melton:
Oh thank you.

Heidi Ellsworth:
We want you to have that. And I have to tell you the leadership, Jennifer Stone is on here, she's left a couple messages and I see ... I can't see everybody but I know there's a number of leaders on here right now from National Women in Roofing who are all giving you shout outs-

Jazmine Melton:
Thank you.

Heidi Ellsworth:
... what a great job and welcome to construction. So we'll be in touch on that.

Jazmine Melton:
Okay.

Heidi Ellsworth:
We'll get you all signed up. Christee knows how, she's in charge of membership.

Jazmine Melton:
Okay.

Heidi Ellsworth:
Next question, what's your plan after ... You're looking at graduating and I heard you say you're interviewing, what kind of job are you looking for?

Jazmine Melton:
I am looking for a field engineering job or project engineer, depending on the company it kind of depends on the title, but I'm definitely looking for working in the field first because I feel as if I don't have enough construction experience, so I definitely want to be in the field, and learn the ins and outs, before I start to climb the ladder. I feel like that's the most important part, is learning what goes on in the field, how the communication goes. And so that's my main thing, interviewing with companies I tell them all the time, "I want to be in the field because I need to learn. I need to learn before I'm just sitting in front of drawings or sitting in front of contracts. I need to learn the work that goes into the project."

Heidi Ellsworth:
So are you looking more for general contractors or are you looking in the trades?

Jazmine Melton:
I am looking in both.

Heidi Ellsworth:
Okay.

Jazmine Melton:
I'm not going to lie, I'm looking in both. Like I said, at first my ... Before I even got this internship it was more so, "You got to get a job with a general contractor, you have to get a job with a general contractor." But even working here at Graham has shown me that even if I got a job offer from a trade it's worth considering, so I guess I'm open for either or. I mean, I just want to start my construction career, whether it's at a GC and then I later come to a trade or whether I start at a trade and then go to a GC. I'm an easygoing person, so predicting my future I know my end goal but how I get there, the path that it takes to get there, can go any way for me.

Heidi Ellsworth:
That is great. Just so everyone knows out there, people have already been reaching out to Jazmine, we were talking about that earlier. Some manufacturers have sent her nice notes, people are ... So if you want to get in touch through Graham Roofing, we'll also have this information. We should have the information on the Coffee Conversations, so that if you want to talk to Christee. And that's really where I wanted to make sure, Christee, that we ... Your advice to all the other roofing contractors out there, all the different roofing companies out there, on how to do what you've done. What's their first steps?

Christee Holbrook:
Well, I mean, we just had to start asking questions on how to get involved and it was really we had to get very persistent to get involved, whether it was on the BCS program, whether it was in career technical programs. They think they're welcoming but they're not. I mean, it was persistent. Like, "We want to do a roofing class. We want to do this. I want to be on the board. I want to do" ... And you can't give up.
And one thing that the director [inaudible 00:56:55] worries about a little bit is that because I'm not a GC I don't get first pick of the graduates. And I keep reassuring him, and I really feel this way, I've had some great interns come through here and work for Graham Roofing. And I don't see it as a loss when they move on because, guess what? I just made that connection. And when they go work for that GC guess who they think about when it's roofing?

Heidi Ellsworth:
Right.

Christee Holbrook:
So it's all about how you think, it's all about ... You've just got to be persistent and you've got to me open-minded to what's out there. And don't be so close-minded that you miss opportunities.

Heidi Ellsworth:
Right because-

Jazmine Melton:
Yeah. And I think that another big thing ... Well not to cut you off Heidi-

Heidi Ellsworth:
[crosstalk 00:57:45] No, go, go.

Jazmine Melton:
I think another big thing is because she's involved in our program sometimes we look for jobs to have while we're here, because there's not a lot of construction, like just basic general contracting construction, so you have to look ... Like this is the time for her to actually market the trades because you want to have that internship experience. This is what companies look for, what experience do you have? And being here in Starkville there's not a lot of companies around here for me to just work for, so I was glad that I was given the opportunity to work at Graham while still finishing my degree. I mean, it's a job but it's also a learning experience for the industry that I wanted to work in.

Heidi Ellsworth:
That is so cool. That is so cool. Well for everyone out there we are coming to the end of our hour, but I would be remiss if I didn't say that Christee is the chair of membership for National Women in Roofing. So she's on the board of Mississippi State for the Building, she's on the board of National Women in Roofing. So I know there's a lot of people out there who kind of talk about things but Christee you do them and that is so inspirational, and awesome. I want everyone to ... I would love to have everyone reach out to Christee. I would love everyone to reach out, become a member of National Women in Roofing, learn about internships, learn about getting involved because this kind of network that we have, and with all these awesome young people coming in, is really what it's all about.

Christee Holbrook:
That's right.

Heidi Ellsworth:
On the other side of it too I want to make sure everybody knows, because how I heard about this, and how I was lucky enough to hear about Jazmine and Christee, was through the DEI, Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion Committee of National Women in Roofing. Again, we want everybody. We want everybody. Let's get ... This beautiful roofing world. So National Women in Roofing are doing a lot that direction. And, again, you can talk to Christee about that, you can get with Jess Cress at Bone Dry, or Meredith with Pitch Perfect, and I'm missing a couple. There's a couple other folks on here, but it's easy to get to the NationalWomeninRoofing.org site and learn more about how to do all this.

Heidi Ellsworth:
Ladies thank you. Thank you so much for being here today.

Christee Holbrook:
Thank you for having us.

Jazmine Melton:
Thank you for having us.

Heidi Ellsworth:
Okay, Jazmine, we want to hear, right? Everybody's going to be reaching out to you, we're going to write it up, put it on CoffeeShop so everybody knows where you land.

Jazmine Melton:
Good.

Heidi Ellsworth:
And we're all very proud of you, thank you so much.

Jazmine Melton:
Thank you. You can also reach out on LinkedIn. I mean, you just type in my name. I'm very persistent with that. I do answer messages, so if you have any questions or want to know anything reach out.

Heidi Ellsworth:
I mean now ... I'm going to link in with you today. I don't even know if we're linked in yet, so we will be. [crosstalk 01:00:50] There we go. Again, thank you everybody for being here today. This has just been one of my favorites, Coffee Conversations. This has been awesome. You can find all the Coffee Conversations under Read Listen Watch on RoofersCoffeeShop. And in three weeks, April 15th, the old tax day because I know that's been moved forward now, but we are going to have our next Coffee Conversations and we're going to be reviewing first quarter. We're going to have Adam Oaks with Estimating Edge, Deryl Kratzer with National Roofing Partners, and Will Lorenz with General Coatings, and also the president of the Roof Coatings Manufacturers Association. And they're going to be talking about what we saw in first quarter, how it performed, and what they see for the rest of the year. It's going to be really interesting, from technology, to contracting network, to manufacturing. So please join us April 15th right here on Coffee Conversations. Have a great day, thanks.

Jazmine Melton:
Have a great day.



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