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Think Outside the Box to Staff our Industry

Rae July March
April 7, 2021 at 10:08 a.m.

RCS Influencer Rae July says that government should consider special Visas for construction workers.

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

Megan Ellsworth: Hello. Welcome back to the Roofing Influencers. My name is Megan Ellsworth here at Roofer's Coffee Shop, and today we have Rae July. Hi, Rae.

Rae July: Hey Megan. Hi, how are you doing?

Megan Ellsworth: I'm doing well. I'm excited about this month's topic, and I'm excited to hear what you have to say. So for March, we're talking about Roofing Day and the topic for this month is, what are some topics that you want brought up at Roofing Day 2021, and that you want to be discussed this year?

Rae July: So, that's actually a very good question.

Megan Ellsworth: I thought so too.

Rae July: The main topic that I would like to see discussed is some immigration reform, and what I'm talking about is finding a way for the roofing industry or the construction industry as a whole to have some plan to accumulate labor. We know that a vast majority of our labor in the roofing industry is Hispanic labor. There are the farm workers who are on specific types of visas and they come here to do the farm work if it's possible for us, and it would be advantageous for the roofing industry to have something similar.

I don't want to just single it out to the roofing industry, but the construction industry as a whole, if we had a visa program set up for workers to come in and work in construction, and this is isn't setting it up for a path to citizenship necessarily, but having them come in, they are on this specific visa, they come here, they work, they are taxpayers. They basically get a lot of benefits except for citizenship, right? Contributing to the economy.

And, I think the problem that we're having with the labor shortage can be solved if there was a program like that. So, that's my big topic that I would like to see discussed is finding a path forward, because here's what we know: Quite frankly, yes, we can do the recruiting here in the United States, but when you know that large portion of our labor force are Hispanic, we've got to start looking elsewhere and they're not coming here to take anyone's jobs, they're coming here to do a job that we cannot recruit for.

Megan Ellsworth: Yes, I love that. I think that's brilliant and it's totally completely something that needs to be discussed, and I am absolutely so glad that that is what you brought up today. That is fabulous.

Rae July: It just makes sense to me, and yes, I'm sure I don't want to be idealistic here.

Megan Ellsworth: Right.

Rae July: I want to be realistic. And I'm sure that there are going to be lots of obstacles. There's going to be lots of red tape to go through and there's going to be lots of people saying, "Well, it's not as easy as you say it is," but it's an idea that can be worked towards and have the conversation about that. What can the construction industry do to get that labor? For medical professionals, for tech professionals, they have special types of visas that they come here on, to work for Microsoft and Google, let's do the same thing for the construction industry.

Megan Ellsworth: Yeah. That is brilliant. Oh, wow. I had never thought about that. That is absolutely brilliant. I love it, thank you, Rae.

Rae July: No problem.

Megan Ellsworth: Well, do you have any last words on this topic?

Rae July: Roofing is such a specialized thing to do. Nobody goes to school to learn to be a roofer. It's something that you grow into of sorts, and it's quite a special industry to be part of. And I think as this industry grows, everybody has a roof on their house, right? Or their building. Nobody thinks about the roof until it leaks. And so, because we know there is this labor shortage and it's not going away, it's not getting better. The more we build, the more production we're having, the more people we need. So, we've got to start thinking outside of the box here. Doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result, that's the definition of insanity. So, let's start thinking outside of the box so that we can staff our industry and we can keep our production going.

Megan Ellsworth: I love it, yes. I couldn't agree more. Well, thank you so much, Rae. That was a beautiful response to March's topic, and I guess I will be seeing in speaking with you in April.

Rae July: Absolutely. Thank you, Megan.

Megan Ellsworth: All right. Thank you so much.

Rae July is an Estimator at Chinook Roofing & Gutters in Fife, Washington. See her full bio here. 

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