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SkillsUSA: How to Compete - PODCAST TRANSCRIPT

SkillsUSA: How to Compete - PODCAST TRANSCRIPT
February 12, 2024 at 12:00 p.m.

Editor's note: The following is the transcript of a live interview with Todd Nathan with Johns Manville, Ryan Clancy with Baker Roofing, Sherri Miles with JD Miles & Sons and Miles Roofing and John Esbenshade from NRCA. You can read the transcript below, listen to the podcast or watch the webinar.

Heidi J Ellsworth: Good morning. This is Coffee Conversations from Roofers Coffee Shop. My name is Heidi Ellsworth and we are here today to talk about SkillsUSA. I have to tell you, this is one of my obsessions right now. I love SkillsUSA and what the National Roofing Contractors Association and all the contractors out there are doing to bring the next generation into roofing. It's very exciting.

So we have an esteemed panel today to talk about SkillsUSA and how you can start your own skills competitions in your state, in your area, how you can get involved with vocational schools. So we're going to start that conversation here right away. But first, some housekeeping.

So this is being recorded and will be available within 24 hours. Please share it with all of your friends and your family, and most of all, everyone else in the roofing industry, everyone who you work with so that they can learn about SkillsUSA and what is going on. Also, please join in the conversation. It is Coffee Conversations. This is all about you. We want to know who you are and we want your comments, your thoughts, your questions, whatever throughout this hour. So the chat is open and I would love upfront to ask a couple questions.

So first, can you tell us who you are, where you're from and what kind of company you have? But we would really love to know are you currently involved with vocational schools, and if you are, let us know, and have you been involved with SkillsUSA? And if you have, let us know. Just fill up the chat, folks. We want to know how involved you've been, and I'll remind everybody as we go through. So let's get started.

I want to thank our sponsor, Johns Manville. Talk about commitment, commitment to the next generation to help bring in students. Johns Manville has been an amazing sponsor for SkillsUSA, and of course, on Roofers Coffee Shop. They believe in this next generation. They were so involved with SkillsUSA last year and going into this year. And I want to say a very special thank you for them being so involved.

And as part of that, today, I am very happy to say that part of our panel is Todd Nathan with Johns Manville. Todd, welcome to the show.

Todd Nathan: Thank you, Heidi. I am happy to be here.

Heidi J Ellsworth: Thrilled to have you as always. You and I have been on several times before, but for everyone, for the folks out there who may not know you, if you could introduce yourself, tell us what you do at Johns Manville.

Todd Nathan: Sure. I currently am the Director of Technical Services. My primary responsibility is with the field tech organization and also our contractor training programs.

Heidi J Ellsworth: Excellent. Thank you so much. And thank you for all you do and all your involvement with SkillsUSA.

Todd Nathan: Of course.

Heidi J Ellsworth: Love it. Next, I would love to introduce Ryan Clancy with Baker Roofing. Ryan, welcome to Coffee Conversations.

Ryan Clancy: Good morning. Thanks for having me.

Heidi J Ellsworth: We are honored. Please introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about what you do with Baker and a little bit about Baker.

Ryan Clancy: So, my name is Ryan Clancy. I'm the Service Director for the Greenville, South Carolina branch for Baker Roofing Company. We're one of the third or fourth-largest roofing companies on the East Coast, but we got the opportunity to jump into a school district down here in Greenville and start the SkillsUSA program here with them for the commercial roofing side and we're enjoying it.

Heidi J Ellsworth: I love it. I love it. Very involved last year. I can't wait for you to share that.

Next, I'd like to introduce, many of you know, Sherri Miles. Sherri, welcome back to the show.

Sherri Miles: Hey, thanks for having me. Happy to be here.

Heidi J Ellsworth: I love it. If you could introduce yourself, tell us a little bit about you and Miles Roofing.

Sherri Miles: Yep. I'm Sherri Miles with JD Miles & Sons and Miles Roofing. We're in Chesapeake, Virginia. I'm a fourth-generation roofing contractor and have been involved with SkillsUSA on several different levels and layers over many years, and really super excited to see this take off like wildfire. So happy to be here.

Heidi J Ellsworth: Ah, I love it. You have been so instrumental to this, Sherri. We've sat in many CTE meetings and so this is exciting, where we're at.

Sherri Miles: It really is, yeah.

Heidi J Ellsworth: Really exciting. And last but definitely not least, is the leader of all of what we're doing here, and that is John Esbenshade. John, welcome to Coffee Conversations.

John Esbenshade: Hey, good morning, Heidi. Thanks for having me. So I believe that's a little bit of too much praise. To put it in a contextual metaphor, I'm not Andy Reid or Pat Mahomes. I'm Mecole Hardman. I got to receive the hard work that other people were doing. But I serve as the Director of Workforce Development for NRCA and I work to try to create an active pipeline for careers in the roofing industry for years and generations to come. So really excited to be here, Heidi. Thanks.

Heidi J Ellsworth: That's excellent, John. I think we just all keep saying things to see you blush because you really are humble, but thank you for being such the leader you are for CTE and SkillsUSA and everything you do.

And I'm going to, with that, I'm going to come back to you John, because I think overall we need to have an explanation because there may be people on here who are not familiar with SkillsUSA. We have folks in the chat right now talking about what they're doing right now. I'm hearing, "We're not currently involved or in any schools, but we are trying to get established." You are the one who has been really helping to bring everybody in.

So maybe let's do, even before SkillsUSA, why don't you give us a little bigger picture of the CTE initiative within NRCA and then how SkillsUSA fits in that and then we'll go on to SkillsUSA overall?

John Esbenshade: All right, sounds good. So for those of you who may not be familiar with what CTE stands for, I've got good news: really not a lot of the roofing industry did until maybe three, four years ago, with the exception of a very select few. So CTE, or Careers in Technical Education, AKA vocational schools, AKA trade schools, but these are programs that are training kids for very career-specific education, even as early as a freshman in high school. These schools, while they kind of... Shop classes aren't necessarily as ubiquitous as they used to be. However, these schools that prepare students for careers in all kinds of trades, whether or not that be cosmetology or EMT or a carpenter, for example.

And so how SkillsUSA fits into that is SkillsUSA is an active competition between career and technical education students across the country and over 140 different contests across the country. And these SkillsUSA programs are very much designed to create the future in all of these industries for years to come here in the United States. And they require tests on personal skills, tests on workforce skills and tests on technical skills.

So everything that we're talking about in terms of creating pathways for the future of the roofing industry follows all these things. We want these kids to be able to do a job interview and perform well in those. We want them to have a kind of a technical framework and foundational knowledge that they can then use to become successful installers and then eventually leaders in this industry. So it's a really exciting project to work on.

Heidi J Ellsworth: It is. And just so everyone understands too with SkillsUSA, and maybe you kind of said this, but just it's for all types of trades, right? I mean, as you look at this, we pulled this diagram, Megan pulled this up for us, but it's for all kinds of trades, and walking around the SkillsUSA last year, I was blown away. I mean, graphic design, culinary, hairdressing, the construction area was by far the coolest. But it was just... It's incredible, John, and you've been able to be really involved with that, the overall association or organization, I should say.

John Esbenshade: Yeah, all the bricks were there and I was lucky enough to help put together the building itself in terms of the SkillsUSA framework, and the rest of this panel were hugely instrumental with that as well: Ryan and Sherri as state technical chairs who were very much the boots on the ground in terms of connecting with career and technical education schools and students; obviously, JM helped us turn the lights on with a really short timeline last year. So we got to put this stuff in the hands of students much sooner than we thought we were going to. And I see some people that are on the call. I saw Laura and Jennifer from Arizona who are actively trying to push this forward along.

So really, it takes a whole heck of a lot of effort from a whole heck of a lot of different places in order for us to get to where we are now, and it really is an honor to work on it.

Heidi J Ellsworth: Yeah, it is so exciting. So just to give everybody a little bit of a flavor of the SkillsUSA, we pulled some pictures from last year, so we're going to go through these and just have a little bit of an explanation. So I'm going to start with John. John, can you kind of talk about the actual thermoplastic competition and what we did last year at SkillsUSA?

John Esbenshade: Yeah, absolutely. So this is... Well, pictures really are worth 1,000 words because as you can see, these people who are addressed in khaki, these are our four student competitors. Last year, with a relatively short timeline, seven states had state competitions and these four were sent to compete in the very first SkillsUSA Commercial Roofing National Contest, which involves thermoplastic installation on a standardized mock-up, very similar to the one that we use for NRCA's PROCertification.

So there are tasks required for these students to do it. They've got to measure and cut their installation board, they got to mechanically attach it, they got to adhere, they got to flash, they got to roll, they're on their hands and knees with the hot air welder. Sometimes they're burning seams and sometimes they're doing them perfectly.

But this is supposed to be a student competition. And a lot of the students in other competitions have been learning their trades, like the masons, the carpenters, the people who have been in the SkillsUSA space for years and years, have had years and years to practice, but these students, and really the other three that weren't able to come, were able to pick up this trade, learn how to do it and all of them were able to do it underneath the four-hour time limit, which is incredible to think about when you think that they might've only had maybe four, five months of training, in some cases less, between, "Okay. I didn't know that there were more roofs that were not just asphalt shingle. You mean some are flat? Okay, what kind of flat roofs are there?" And they were all able to do it.

So our four champions, I'm just going to give first names because they are minors so privacy and all that's important, Kyle out of Kansas, Leif out of Virginia, Brandon out of South Carolina, and Mia out of Indiana. So thanks again to Ryan and Sherri for helping prepare two of those four champions. Really looking forward to what we're going to be able to bring to the table at the National Championship this year.

Heidi J Ellsworth: Exactly. So Ryan, I would love for you to talk about Brandon and the competition and how that went for both your student and your company.

Ryan Clancy: I thought it went rather well. I mean, we jumped in kind of last minute for this thing, and we had three students, and obviously after the state competition, we had one, but kind of like what John was saying, we brought it to the point to where roofing is not just asphalt shingles that you see driving down the road. We work on bigger stuff, flat, Target, Walmart, Home Depot, Lowe's. So we try to make it intriguing for the young men and women, showing them how to do it, the different processes and just the tools you can use.

And very eye-opening for us as a company just to kind of see how the younger people, young men and women, can pick up on this compared to the people that we have currently working for us, but it was definitely a cool experience.

Heidi J Ellsworth: Yeah. And how did Brandon, what was his response?

Ryan Clancy: Brandon thought it was awesome. A little bit of Brandon's history was he did a couple other things. He really liked wrestling, but he's on it. He did it enough to where he was practicing in the off-season that we did have and he was coming, asking us questions, coming to our shop and trying to just shadow us and real eye-opening. I think it's definitely something that he is intrigued to making a career out of.

Heidi J Ellsworth: Yes, that's great. And Sherri, Virginia had a competitor. Tell us a little bit about that.

Sherri Miles: Yeah, we did. So this was actually our second year in a row that we did a state competition, and we had two participants the first year, and two participants the second year. The winner came to Nationals this year, of last year's contest and last year's Nationals. And it started in carpentry class with a carpentry teacher who was excited about the possibilities of learning himself and then teaching this to the kids. They were able to build the mock-ups in carpentry class on the schematics that we gave them. And honestly, they had the TRAC curriculum that they could do online at their leisure, either in school or after school. And then my guys, my PROCert guys in thermoplastics would come in and teach on rainy days.

So they had about 20 hours, I think, maybe a little bit more, maybe 40 with the students at the end to prepare them for this competition. And we really just kind of taught to the test, taught to what they were going to be judged on at that point to get them ready.

But the bigger funnel was at the beginning of school and just bringing thermoplastics into the classroom, and all the kids in the CTE in Virginia Beach City Schools had a rotation for roofing. So they got to come in, and whether they were interested in plumbing or electrical or masonry, they came in and they got a chance with the hand welders. So it's a bigger chance to get to a broader group of kids who are interested in construction. And then by the end, you have a few that really want to compete at the state level and the national level, and there's a ton of pride with these kids. I mean, they are excited, their parents are excited. I don't know if you can tell in these pictures, but parents would set up chairs to watch the competition.

It is... I pace back and forth. I mean, it gives me a lot of joy and a lot of hope for the future for our industry, and I'm so happy that roofing is finally in the competition at a national level.

Heidi J Ellsworth: You're right, it was overwhelming watching the parents, the excitement, lawn chairs, cheering them on. I mean, it was just pretty amazing.

So this was the commercial roofing competition and that is the main competition we have, but we also are somewhat involved, from the roofing part and from John mostly, on... John, you were able to get roofing into the team build or TeamWorks where they actually build, you can see, this structure. So it's a team of four. They come in, they build the structure, and in the past, there was no roof, but now there is. And so John, just tell us a little bit about that.

John Esbenshade: Sure. So fortunately, I get to absolutely not take credit for the first year that roofing was in the TeamWorks contest, which was in 2023. NRCA had been working to get that added when they had forged the original partnership. But the first year, it was just a little... Basically, a 2' x 1' eyebrow on the side of it. And when I say that the roofing installation was awful, I mean that one of the better ones used a cant strip as a headwall flashing. I actually went to try to pick them up to see how they had run the course and they didn't even nail the shingles to the deck. They just kind of slid off right on my lap when I was standing in front of it.

Heidi J Ellsworth: Geez.

John Esbenshade: I know. That was kind of the introduction. It's like, "Wow, we really have a long way to come with this space because these are kids who are carpentry apprentices and a lot of carpentry apprentices hammer shingles and they have no idea what they're doing."

So, in the past 18 months, NRCA has worked to expand and develop and require a much higher base knowledge set about, "Okay, this is going to be an actual challenge." This mock-up that these teamwork competitors were working on, they're hammering shingles on a ladder. There was actually underlayment on all the things. There was edge metal on all the things.

So running that course off that corner is not necessarily an easy thing to do. So one of the things that we prioritize is making this actively a challenge for these students with the idea it's like, okay, well, we have to make it a little bit more difficult every year. The people who are going to be the best in this have to be challenged consistently in order for them to find the higher ceiling and to find the kind of quality of work that this industry demands for the future.

And so, part of the roofing pavilion that we had at SkillsUSA was just one of our steep slope mock-ups that we use for PROCertification, asphalt shingle and we allowed students who are going to participate in the TeamWorks to come in during their brief and say like, "Okay, well, how do you do this? Why do we do this? What is the right way of doing this?" And I'm really excited to see what the TeamWorks contest has in store for 2024.

Heidi J Ellsworth: Yeah, it was really exciting to watch it, to watch these from nothing, to building this home, plumbing, electric and then roofing to be on there. You can see... And I do want to mention on our commercial low-slope, IB Roof Systems had donated the membrane for that. And we also had SRS delivering, Beacon was involved. We had a number of folks. And then for the shingles, and you can also see this mock-up that was in the roofing pavilion, was TAMKO shingles.

So the whole industry is coming in, and speaking of the whole industry, we have had a very fun competition in the booth for heat welding. So Todd, tell us a little bit about the Johns Manville heat welding contest.

Todd Nathan: Yeah. And it was strange, because as John said, we kind of put this together fairly quickly, but we brought in samples and then we brought in a couple of our tech reps to kind of just bring people into the booth and bring students into the booth and show them what some of the commercial roofing products are, in this case, single-ply. And then we actually taught them how to weld and give them a brief lesson and then told them if they wanted to come back later for a competition, they could come back for a competition. And they were busy the entire time. And it was really great to see how many students that were there for other competitions come into our booth and give roofing a try.

So it was really nice to see, and I can't remember how many people were in the actual competition, but I know we had a lot of students come back. And what you don't see in here is we actually had a small mock-up deck beside this as well. So we could actually take them over there and show them a little more on the details. And we had students come back and say, "Hey, can I try welding there? Can I try welding in different scenarios?" So it was a really, really great competition as well is just the involvement from the students was really great to see.

Heidi J Ellsworth: Yeah, it was really. And we even had, I see John there did a little welding, we had some of the contractors there were showing off some welding also. So it was great.

Well, we want to get on to the how, but I just wanted to kind of set the stage. I also want to note that this really comes down to a lot of sponsors and people helping. So TAMKO, IB Roof, Johns Manville, SRS, National Women in Roofing, RT3, we had media there with Roofing Contractor and also Roofers Coffee Shop. And I'm missing a few, but I just want to say thank you to all the sponsors.

And we're going to move on now to really talking about how you can do this. And before we go on to that next question, I do want to share real quick that we have some folks on the call who are involved. And so I want to say thank you for all of your comments of who's involved and where they're at, but we do have Laura and Jennifer from Arizona who are putting together a contest and have been very instrumental in that. Joseph Miller is looking at doing this in Frisco, Texas. Sarah, I hope I'm saying your name right, Sarah Bleak is working in Atlanta, Georgia to get involved.

So this is where you can start networking if you look in the chat and see who all is involved. And I really want to also do a shout-out to, well, we have Kelly from Dallas and then Scott Shufflebarger from Virginia talking about the Virginia Association of Roofing Professionals. And we're going to come back to that talking about the importance of associations with really making this happen. But Sherri and Scott work together a lot in Virginia making all this happen.

Okay, how? How do we do this? How do we get going? So I want to start with Sherri and just talk about what is your experience and strategies for first getting into the vocational schools and then to start the competition that you've had now for two years?

Sherri Miles: Yeah, it is all about relationships, which is life, which is our industry as well. I can remember when I went to my first roof SkillsUSA competition, it was in April and Virginia Beach, and I had a table and I had some samples, but I couldn't go inside the hall because what am I doing here showing up at this late time? But I got to meet the people who actually put this on and they said, "If you want roofing in this competition, it starts the day after we finish this competition for next year."

So really, if you want to just start, go to your state competition. It's typically around this time, February, March, April. In your state, find out where it is. Go there, meet the people who put this together, go to the construction cluster. Like Heidi was saying, and we were talking about earlier, there are tons of skills that have competitions during the same time, but the construction cluster will be where we are housed. Learn from them, see how you can help get involved.

And then once you are in with the SkillsUSA people in your state, go to your local school, your local CTE school. I happen to sit on an advisory board for one of our local schools and got to meet the person who makes all the decisions. And once I told her what I wanted to do, she said, "I'm going to make it happen." And she did. She put me in touch with a carpentry teacher who was excited, and then we had a relationship and we chat once a week now to see when we're coming in and how his kids are doing. And you just kind of take it from there.

NRCA is a great resource. You can talk to John, you can go online, you can look at different ways. But I think the two main things, again, are building those relationships, one with SkillsUSA at your state level, and then going in boots on the ground at your local school and starting it there.

And with the Virginia Association, we've been able to spread this to different... Because I am only one person in one locality and we want lots of people and lots of contractors to be involved with this. So we've been able to go into different school systems with different contractors, and frankly, it brings a little competitive edge because here, I want my students to win and beat the other students that are being coached by my competitors. All friendly, all friendly competition, but you build a relationship.

And like Ryan was saying, and I don't know if this was on our practice call or our pre-call, but you offer those kids jobs. You have a job when you come out of here when you learn these skills. And so you're building relationships with them and their parents as well. So it's some time, don't get me wrong, it does take some time, but it is well worth it.

Heidi J Ellsworth: Yeah, it's so cool to watch. Ryan, how did you all get started in your vocational schools and then into SkillsUSA?

Ryan Clancy: So, it really kind of just fell in our lap, I guess the offer went to a couple different roofers in the area and they just, I don't know why they turned it down, I'm not going to speak for them, but it hit our table and I ran with it. So we kind of got lucky on that one.

But went in, met with the teachers, explained to them what we can do for them, how to help, try to get as many people interested as we could, show them what we're doing. But then we also tried to partner with the local reps, Beacon, we reached out to JM, IB Systems, some of our local suppliers to donate materials to help, and just showed them what we do and how we operate. Started with the basics and worked our way up, and thankfully, we made it to Nationals last year.

Heidi J Ellsworth: And how are you looking for this year? Where are you at in this year's process?

Ryan Clancy: So, this year, we only have two kids, but already immediately for next year, we're already up to six. So we got more people looking at it, seeing what we're doing. And on top of that, I give credit to the students that we're training because they're bringing their friends in and showing them that this is a cool thing.

But I think we're doing good. The two gentlemen that we have, one of them, again, is Brendan. The second one is one of the guys he won against last year, Avion. But they're both just... They're on point, they're stellar, and they're super excited to do it.

Heidi J Ellsworth: And when is your competition?

Ryan Clancy: I have to check. I don't have the date, but I believe it's the end of March.

Heidi J Ellsworth: End of March, okay. And I think that's really important. Sherri, we talked about that yesterday, that in my excitement, I'm kind of like, "How to start a team," but really how to start a team or how to get competitors is starting now to learn about it so you can do it in 2025 most likely.

Sherri, when's your competition and how many kids do you have?

Sherri Miles: So far, I know of two in the city of Virginia Beach, which is who I work with. Ours is in April. And we'll know the final numbers, if anybody else is doing it in any other city or county, before that, right before that.

Heidi J Ellsworth: Okay. Scott, you hear that?

Sherri Miles: I keep throwing the gauntlet down.

Heidi J Ellsworth: I know. Okay. I want to talk a little bit about why, and actually, I want to go back. Jennifer asked a great question, and Jennifer, we're going to get to this, but I want to bring it up, is, "For the contractors associations that have put a state competition on, can they provide an outline on how they did it, how many kids, where was it held and how did they handle the size of the mock-up with the quantity of kids?"

So John, and Sherri, the CTE Committee of NRCA is putting together this toolkit, right?

John Esbenshade: Correct. It's finished. What I'm currently in the process of doing is trying to cut it up into digestible chunks because it's a 30-page document and it includes all the questions that you might be asked, all the questions that you might be interested in asking. It has the mock-up design, it has the materials list, it has information, flyers about careers in the roofing industry on and off the roof. But we tried to create a turnkey document for anyone who might be interested in this effort could potentially take this and get the information they need.\

If you're trying to find a list of schools, if you go to NRCA's website and you go to the workforce development tab and you go on recruitment tools, you'll find a button that says, "Find a CTE partner." And our partnership with SkillsUSA, NRCA receives a list of all the SkillsUSA schools and all the SkillsUSA advisors at those schools.

So, what I went and did was I scrubbed that list to only have three kinds of schools: schools with building science or construction programs, schools with carpentry programs or skills with woodworking programs because I figured they would have most of the tools already needed to get into and do a little bit of roofing. That's where the most crossover was.

So Sherri, and I believe Ryan as well, had success with schools that already had carpentry programs. So if a school has that, they probably have most of the things that they need. The last thing that they need is the piece that we can offer, which is industry support, sponsoring and donation of materials and then of course, one of the more important things is making sure these kids have job offers once they acquire the skillset.

Heidi J Ellsworth: Right, exactly.

Sherri Miles: Well, and I think that's a really a good point, John, with the carpentry, especially when you've narrowed it down to SkillsUSA schools that have carpentry. They have kids that already know about SkillsUSA and the competition. So it's not like you have to teach that part of it. It's just the roofing piece that we have to bring in. They already are all about... And the administrators can help you get those kids signed up, so it's not all on the contractor or on the teacher. They have literally one person that takes care of signing those kids up for any and all SkillsUSA competitions.

Heidi J Ellsworth: Wow. Wow. So let's continue this conversation about how and what are some of the, once they get into the vocational schools, what are some of the resources that we have? So John, one of the key ones out there is the TRAC Training and PROCertification. So talk a little bit about how TRAC is available to the schools and to the contractors out there to get to the schools.

John Esbenshade: Sure. So if any CTE school in the United States wants roofing curriculum, they want the TRAC program, which stands for Training for Roof Application Careers, or thermoplastic, which will prepare them for the SkillsUSA contest, it's free. It's completely free for as many students, for as many schools everywhere.

NRCA has worked internally to create a process structure. So if a school... And this is actually a meeting that I have later today, but the schools are coming in at least one a week is saying, "Yes, we want TRAC. What do we need?" It's like, "Okay, we need your information. We need to set up an organization ID for your school, and then we will show you through instructional video and written instruction how to create logins for your students. That way, your students can enroll as part of your school," and then you're basically off and running.

TRAC was created as a training program for contractors, for brand-new installers who might not necessarily even know which end of the hammer to hold. So that is kind of our fundamental knowledge point for the students. We assume it's like, "Okay, they might not have a lot." So we are going to teach them the fundamentals. We're going to teach them how to install the one system, teach them a conversational competency.

And the contest itself, going into PROCertification, having that mock-up and the materials list be the exact same as NRCA's PROCertification for Thermoplastic, if you're one of those teachers, you could see a very natural pathway between participation in SkillsUSA and a journeyman-level certification with PROCert. And that speaks very powerfully to the students because they want to know where their career is going to go, they want to know where their benchmarks are for performance and we have them.

And so it's great to see all those things click and all those... It's like seeing when you change the one bad Christmas tree light bulb and then they all light up again, it's kind of in that sort of a space.

Heidi J Ellsworth: I love it. And Sherri, you have used TRAC and PROCertification extensively with your program.

Sherri Miles: Yeah, and I really love the way it's all brought together. The TRAC and the training that we use and the modules or the mock-up that we use for SkillsUSA is kind of a JV version of PROCert. So these kids can see a progression in their career. So you learn to do it in high school, you compete, you're offered a job, you work on the roof. Two years later, you can sit for your PROCert and get that.

And my guys who have their PROCert are the ones that are teaching, so it's kind of a full-circle thing. They love it. They love getting in front of these kids. And then the manufacturers are brought in because a lot of times, thank you, JM, for doing so many qualified assessors, they're the ones that are judging the kids in the competition as well as judging for PROCert. So there's a nice crossover there as well.

And you can just see a level of professionalism from beginning to end. It's not just a skill that you're going to learn and put on a shelf. This is a lifelong skill that you can add onto and make a good living at. So it's not just a roof in a box and you're done. It's really, "Here's the beginning, let's help you, and here's real life, and then you can get your PROCert and really excel in your career."

Heidi J Ellsworth: I love that. I love that picture. And Ryan, you're seeing... I know you have really worked on resources, how to get the resources to the school, how to donate yourself, but also get in touch with manufacturers. Tell everyone a little bit about how you've done that.

Ryan Clancy: So just based off our relationships with these manufacturers, obviously we deal with them day in, day out on either reroofs, new roofs or even repairs. So I just called up local contacts, the local reps just to try to see which buttons I can push to help us out, and again, explain to them what the cause is for so they're not in the dark, and, "Hey, we can try to mention y'all in the name." And in our school, the manufacturers or the distributors that help support, they have banners hanging up in the school for the career development centers and stuff just to show their support. And that's honestly how we've worked our avenue so far.

Heidi J Ellsworth: That's awesome. And Todd, you, talk about from the manufacturer's standpoint. I know you... Also, talk a little bit about some of the training programs, the kits that you have, but also the support you want to give to the industry for this.

Todd Nathan: Yeah. And I would say we made a conscious decision a few years ago to really get involved in this and support it. Also, from the PROCertification standpoint, we probably have half of our field organization are qualified assessors, so we can be a resource to any contractors that are looking to do that. If they would like our team to come in and do dry runs with them, kind of go through some of that, we'd be more than happy to do that. Even if the local person doesn't have it, we'll bring somebody in from the region to do that as well.

And then from a local standpoint, any training that you want our help on, let us know. We will definitely make sure we do it. I know I have some tech reps that go into schools on a regular basis, and then others, their training is more with the contractors, but we're available for any of that training and anything that relates to training for the new workforce, obviously we're all in, and we'll do whatever we can to support any contractors that are doing that.

Heidi J Ellsworth: And you also provide training materials, which include the actual building materials that contractors can take into the schools. Is that correct?

Todd Nathan: Yeah, and it depends on what the contractor wants to do, but we build our own training modules, if you will, for our contractor training programs. And what we do is we prepackage a kit with all the materials needed to do that mock-up, and they usually order them through our tech reps, but then we'll send them straight to the contractor's site.

We also have a diagram for the mock-ups as well. Typically, the contractors build the mock-up, we send them the materials and then our tech reps come in and do the actual training on site. So from that standpoint, we're kind of versed in building out those kits and we'd be more than happy to help, on the kits related to the SkillsUSA deck as well, if anybody would like us to do that.

Heidi J Ellsworth: Yeah, I think sometimes a point I've heard from contractors too is like, "How do we even start? First, how do we get into the vocational schools, and then how do we get all the materials? How do we understand the competition?" But you've really laid it out. I mean, first of all, between working with your manufacturers, getting materials, getting into that vocational school, letting them know what you are, but then getting the TRAC courses so that they know, going through the PROCertification testing so they know how that test works for the SkillsUSA state and national levels.

And I think cost-wise, there is a cost and associations are stepping up to help with that. I know Virginia is, Arizona is, Washington, I just was talking to them. So cost-wise for the kids, Ryan, how does that work? When you sent your student to the Nationals, how did they get support to go there?

Ryan Clancy: So, for last year, the school supported them on that one. This year, they're talking to us and see what we can help with. Basically, the only support that we aided was all the materials, the tools, the time, labor to train them for both the national and the state level. Everything else the school-handled last year.

Heidi J Ellsworth: Good. So they just need to make sure to have that conversation. Sherri, how does that work with you?

Sherri Miles: Well, it was a lot of us to begin with, but now, we were able to use some of the materials that we had set aside for PROCertification testing and training at our local community college, and we borrowed those, especially when we couldn't get materials otherwise. So we've used that, but that was with our state organization was able to get the materials.

Right now, Beacon is located in Virginia and they want to get involved somehow, some way with the Virginia competition, so I'm excited that they are stepping up. But it's local manufacturers and distributors rather that have donated some materials and then us taking things from the yard, from our yard. But a lot of it's the time, the time that my guys spend, that I spend in their teaching.

And the other cost is, and I don't know if we want to talk about that now, but what we've decided to do and kind of standardize, I think, John, for the winners is a starter pack for the kids that are winning the competition. And it's a bucket full of scissors and rollers and chalk line. And I cannot remember all the things, John, but we try to make that standard across the country so that these kids are ready, they win the competition, they go to Nationals, they have what they need and they're ready to work, they're ready to work.

And then that's, I feel like, whoever the construction or the contractor sponsor is can donate that. It's not a great deal of money, but it's really, even if you want to put your gear in, like a hat and your safety stuff, so that especially if they come to work for you.

Heidi J Ellsworth: Yeah. Those are the kind of things and coming together really when we talk about the associations. So I want to definitely mention and call out Georgia. The Georgia Roofing Contractors Association was one of the first with Rick Damato and the team there to put together a state-level competition and also a booth where people could come, kids could come in, climb a steep slope, get all harnessed up, really get a feel for roofing and then they help every year at the Nationals to get things delivered, to build the mock-ups, to tear down.

John, talk a little bit about how important, really as this program is growing, how important the state associations are becoming to this.

John Esbenshade: It's difficult to overstate it because it's great to have a Sherri Miles or a Ryan Clancy, or I mean shoot, I'll list the other 33 state technical chairs who helped this, but if you want to do that, listen to my podcast and listen to the last episode of the year because I make sure every one of them get their syllables a shine.

But the best recipe for the cake, so to speak, in my opinion, is you have a highly engaged member of the industry who's local with a school, and then as it grows out, you're going to need that regional association support. You're going to need that association to cue into, okay, who are the other people that are passionate about trying to do workforce development, trying to connect with career and technical education? And from there, you can start to scale up your contest.

I know that Jennifer and Laura from Arizona were saying like, "Okay, well, we might need to... We've got a mock-up for every school. We've got 11 mock-ups," and we have to assume that when we get into the Floridas, the Texas, the Californias, the Ohios, the North Carolinas, the largest career and technical education states in the country, it's going to require more resources than what an individual contractor or company is going to be able to realistically give away in order to make sure that this happens.

So it really is about building a community effort everywhere we can, and that's really part of the unique benefit of this is a lot of companies will come to the SkillsUSA as, "We are obviously promoting our individual company," but we need to look more and more at this as, "how do we promote the roofing industry and our company is a part of that?" And that really makes how we approach this whole SkillsUSA effort fairly singular.

Heidi J Ellsworth: Todd, you're nodding.

Todd Nathan: Yeah, I agree. I mean, it's one to be involved as a company, but it's really the support of the industry. As a roofing manufacturer, we're well aware of the issue with labor and we have to start earlier, and this is a great way to do that.

Heidi J Ellsworth: So good. So a couple questions out here. First of all, Sherri, thank you for putting your email in. Laura and Jennifer would love to talk to you about your state competition. And so that's why we're doing this, to network. So Sherri's email is in there if you have questions for her.

Melissa asked, "Is anyone in Texas? I'm in Grapevine, Texas and interested in this program." And I brought that up, and we actually, John has an answer here and we'll have John talk to that, but I want to make sure talking to Melissa, also your RCAT, North Texas, those associations to be bringing those together, taking it to those associations, I think is so important. And John, you had said Kelly Van Winkle is... And Kelly's on here. Hi, Kelly. Can you talk a little bit about connecting with other contractors who, your state chair... What do you call them, state team captain?

John Esbenshade: State technical chairs.

Heidi J Ellsworth: There you go. State, yeah.

John Esbenshade: State technical chairs. Honestly, state team captain's pretty good too.

Heidi J Ellsworth: Yeah.

John Esbenshade: So, when I first started working with SkillsUSA, I learned quickly that things vary from state to state in a pretty significant way. And in some cases, they called them state technical directors, but that acronym does not quite work for me to type out that I'm looking for an STD in a particular state. So state technical chair is kind of the parlance that I prefer to use.

And across the United States, we have 33 state technical chairs, but that's, in some cases, one person. In Texas, for example, Melissa, we have Kelly Van Winkle, we have Steve Little. IB is housed in Texas. And Texas, last time I checked, is fairly large. And we need everywhere in all states, even I'm certain that in the Rhode Islands of our country, we still need people.

So the more that we can just plug people in, if you're interested, I can get you plugged in. I can make sure that you're a part of the conversations that are actively happening in terms of how do we prepare for this? And I think at this point, most of the questions that I get, I've been asked before. We have answers. The only thing that we need is we need the people who are interested in this to step forward and have the courage to ask.

Heidi J Ellsworth: And connect. And so we have Tammy Hall, good morning, Tammy, is working with Lisa Pate at FRSA. So Florida, they're coming. Watch out. These ladies will make this happen. And Sarah, Florida here as well. Great. Sarah, now you know you can connect with Tammy and Lisa. And this is one of the things that we're trying to do is to really bring everyone together.

We also have, "I found the following information for us here in Texas SkillsUSA.org," and that was from Impression Roofing. So you all, this is the way to get together and it really... I love what Sherri is talking about too. Oh, that's right. Tim Stevens is in Florida.

And Sherri, this brings contractors together. I mean, I'm still giggling and smiling over you and Scott and the competition there, but I mean, this really, when you talk about associations and the importance of state associations, this is really rising to the top.

Sherri Miles: Right. And Heidi, Todd, you're right, it's the industry. It's not about us as individual companies because when a skilled worker goes to another company, that makes us all better. We don't have to go back in and talk to a building owner and say, "Oh, those roofers, they don't know what they're doing." Well, yes we do. Yes, as an industry, we do know what we're doing. So it's great to elevate us all.

And I think because we have such a labor shortage overall, and we're not fighting over the same people necessarily, we want to help each other out. And whether it's across the country or in our own state or in our own backyard, I'm so happy when my fellow contractors and competition say, "Hey, I have a school that I'm going to sponsor." I'm like, "Yes, that is awesome."

Heidi J Ellsworth: Yeah. And you know, I want to just kind of add to what you just said there because it's also... And I have seen such a change in the last 10 years, maybe longer, of the pride of the roofing industry and really roofing respect and bringing it up. And that's really, Sherri, to your point, that is going into... I mean, it's hard to believe that SkillsUSA... John, how old is SkillsUSA? How long has it been around?

John Esbenshade: Since the 1960s.

Heidi J Ellsworth: Since the 1960s. And last year was the first year that it had roofing, commercial roofing.

John Esbenshade: Well, we could say second. You mentioned Tim Stevens. And so if I may, a quick anecdote about Tim Stevens.

The very first year that we had a "demo," not a demo contest, just a demo of what commercial roofing could be, was in 2022. And it was one mock-up. It was Tim Stevens himself installing thermoplastic on that mock-up on some dark, dingy, non-trafficked corner of the massive Georgia World Conference Center just so we could check a box and say, "Commercial roofing, thermoplastic roofing was at SkillsUSA technically."

So to go from there to where we were last year where it's like, okay, we have four students competing, we have a 20' x 60' space, we have Johns Manville promoting there, it's just an incredible jumping point. And so when we're looking about where we could go, we're not talking about small incremental increases year in and year out. We're talking about quantum leaps forward in this stuff.

Heidi J Ellsworth: And I think just having roofing there, being at the party and just a huge shout-out to Tim Stevens for what he's done and driving this. I mean, he was there last year building, tearing down. I mean, it's just incredible. But when you think about what we saw last year as kids and teachers, even more important, well, not more important, but they're all important, teachers coming by and seeing roofing, seeing the Johns Manville heat welding, seeing the residential mock-ups, talking to contractors, talking to the industry who is there.

Now these students, whether they go into roofing or not, they have a respect level for, "Hey, roofing." It's just like what we're doing on the collegiate level, construction management schools. And so there's a lot of change there. And I will get off my soapbox, but it gets me very emotional. I think this is just incredible.

But I do want to say, Lorna, thank you. She needs information for Texas, Cleveland, Puerto Rico and California. So John's already reached out to her in the text, but that's the kind of stuff that we want to do. Also, you have a lot of folks on here in Texas, Lorna, to talk to.

So Ryan, we're kind of getting to the end, but I just want to ask, we've gone over a lot of the how, I would like to just end it with why. So why is Baker Roofing so involved? You said it kind of fell in your lap, but how important is it to you? You are a huge company across several states. How important is this to you as a company and looking towards the future.

Ryan Clancy: It's very important because, like Sherri was saying, we want to help each other. Obviously, it seems like roofing could be a dying breed on properly doing it. There's a lot of guys that can do it, but are they doing it well? Are they doing it properly? But also, just to see the younger age intrigued in something, it makes us want to jump on it and make them keep going, to not lose hope that roofing is actually a cool entity of the world.

We do other competitions, we support a lot of people, a lot of other skills for other trainings, like North Carolina and stuff where our home office is, but I really have to base it off what Sherri just said: it's to help each other out and make sure this is not a dying trade.

Heidi J Ellsworth: That's awesome. Todd, the commitment from the manufacturers and the sponsors, I want to talk about that for a little bit because as you know, I've been out there kind of asking, putting the hand out to say, "Hey, get involved." Why should... And I want to say, Lisa Pye is on this call, I just saw her name, and Roofing Corp of America is going to be a sponsor this year. So this is not just manufacturers and distributors; this is also contractors, people who want to sponsor and help build the CTE program through NRCA. And that's not just SkillsUSA, it's also ACTE with the teachers. There's so much that we have not been involved in that John's getting us involved in, so we need funding.

Todd, why is that so important that the industry starts to really be involved with this?

Todd Nathan: Well, I think Ryan said a little bit of it, but the younger we teach the students or the folks about roofing and what roofing industry really is, in today's world, it's a real career path and it's really can be a cool job. And a lot of times, we didn't do a really good job communicating that, and I think we're all doing better at it. And as a manufacturer, I think the support of doing that just benefits the entire industry.

Think about what Sherri said earlier. They work with students, they train them, they go to these competitions. When they hire them, they're already hiring somebody with some experience and they already have hired somebody with some enthusiasm towards the industry. And if you ever go to a SkillsUSA and you watch these students, they're invested in whatever program they're in and it is just awesome to see.

So the sooner we can get into that... And now we're saying we're starting at the high school level. Before we were happy to get into the junior college level or the trade school level. Now we're starting at the high school level and we could really get this started at an earlier time. And from an industry standpoint, it behooves all of us to get involved early.

Heidi J Ellsworth: It really does. Sherri, some last words from you on how to get started and why.

Sherri Miles: Yeah. I think the questions on here have been great from the participants and the panelists have been so wonderful. We have all... And over this past 10 years, whether it's with SkillsUSA or the student competition at the collegiate level or even just the way we talk about ourselves is different. We now speak of ourselves and we're very much proud of what we do and proud of our industry. And we make roofing aspirational. And I get on my soapbox about this all the time. We don't want to be the job that you do because you can't do anything else. We want you to aspire to become a roofing contractor or an installer. There's just a great pathway and a great life you can have with that. And it's a wonderful industry.

So this is one way and it's a fantastic way to get in front of a lot of people who are really interested in developing skills and leadership and in skills in the trades. So yay for the NRCA being a partner with the SkillsUSA.

Heidi J Ellsworth: I love it. I love it. And you will see on the screen the dates for the Atlanta SkillsUSA. John wants a lot of people to attend. So if you want to attend the Nationals to see what it's all about, join the people who are there. We have some notes here from Elizabeth Murphy who would love information for New England. Eamonn Garvey interested in info for Virginia. There you go, Scott and Sherri. There's another competitor. So lots of people there.

But if you are interested, if you're interested in attending, first to learn more about your state competition and where that's at and then possibly attend, we will be there. Roofer's Coffee Shop will be there. We'll be broadcasting live from SkillsUSA, and of course, all these people on screen will be there too.

I asked first before I did this, but everybody take a shot. This is how you get it. This is you get to John and also you saw Sherri's information in there. John can get you to Ryan. Of course you can always come to me, heidi@rooferscoffeeshop.com and we will help you connect wherever you need to with the people to get this started in your company.

So John, last words, how does everybody get involved?

John Esbenshade: Start by reaching out. I'm happy to be a switchboard operator for this effort everywhere I can. I've said it before, and I'll continue to say it: it's an honor to be at the front of an effort that's so important to so many people. This is about raising the cache of the roofing industry and the construction industry. This is about creating an active pipeline of students.

And you don't have to do everything that you can do, but you should do more than you are currently doing. Do more than nothing. Find the place where you're able to contribute and benefit because you're not just benefiting your business, you're benefiting your communities by making sure that quality of work is done in those communities. You're helping everyone you can. There's a long list of reasons.

Feel free to check out my own podcast, Growing America's Roofing Workforce, for some information and interviews with some of the people that are currently on this. And if you have questions, I mean, for goodness' sake, my cell phone's on there. So just call me when you can and I'll be happy to make time for you wherever I can.

Heidi J Ellsworth: There are so many resources. So if you go to the NRCA site, you can get all the workforce development information there. You can get this list of schools in your area that have carpentry. You can get started there. Take it to your local association, bring it up, make it a cause within your association. And then it's not just you alone, you have everybody working with you. And of course, there is huge amounts of information on this on Roofers Coffee Shop, as always, articles and we will help get you connected any way we can.

Everyone, all of you, Todd, Ryan, John, Sherri, thank you so much. This has been amazing.

Todd Nathan: Heidi, thank you.

Heidi J Ellsworth: And I want a big shout-out and thank you to Johns Manville for everything they're doing for SkillsUSA as an amazing sponsor and just force in the industry to bring great stuff, and all of you for being on here today. Spread the word. Please let everyone know about SkillsUSA and see how we can get this to be just huge.

I do want to invite everyone back February 29th for honoring Black History Month in roofing. We have some great guests. We are so excited about this, so join us. Be sure to register and we will be seeing you next time on Coffee Conversations. Have a great day.

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