By Heidi J. Ellsworth, RCS Partner.
With the labor shortage a part of everyday conversation, I wanted to talk to different roofing professionals about their thoughts on how we can get the next generation interested in roofing. I interviewed Tony Poleo who is a Regional Business Manager with Weatherproofing Technologies, Inc (WTI) which is a subsidiary of Tremco Roofing. Tony has a wealth of experience, not all in roofing. In fact, he started in roofing later in his career so can really talk about the challenges of recruiting into an industry that is often misunderstood.
I asked Tony the following question, “For young people coming into the roofing industry, please share your thoughts on why they should be looking at the roofing industry for their future career and how can they easily get in?” He shared his insights below:
First, I think we need to make it easier for young people to get a trade or degree that works for roofing. In fact, if they can work and go to school, they can skip all of the mega loans. At Tremco we have the RISE program (Roofing Individuals Succeed through Education). One component of the RISE program offers people looking to get into the industry assistance obtaining their construction management degree. It is a great opportunity.
We know that building a future labor force of skilled trades is important. We are looking to get engagement early in the career making process. Tremco is going out to high schools and vocational schools to educate them on the professionalism and career opportunities in roofing. We want them to know that this is what we can offer, and what our industry does. It is important that we not only share this with students but also with their parents. Too often the parents don’t know that these type of programs are even available.
We're also are building an apprenticeship program that is federally approved where if someone doesn't want to go to college, they can just come and start learning as part of our team. We will advance them over two, three, and four years to allow them to get their journeymen status within WTI; it gives them a path.
When we talk to high school kids many of them don't know what they want to do, while others have their trades already picked out. Of course, some are going to college, but several others just don’t want to go to college. It's great for us to stand in front of them and say, "We have a career path for you, no matter what you want to do."
At Tremco we offer a three-year, 4,000 hour on-the-job training plan for those who want to work in the trade. If they decide later that they do want to continue their education, we can accommodate that. We want them to build their career with steps that fit them. If they decide to do the apprenticeship and then want to start working on their construction management degree, they can do that with University of Akron and get their associate degree online. Best of all, Tremco pays for it.
We believe in choices so if you want to be a construction manager, if you want to be a superintendent, if you want to be an inspector, we will work with each person to make it happen. For an 18-year-old kid to hear that there are that many options, is brand new to them. So, when we visit high schools, we bring the whole team; the sales reps, construction manager, foreman, supervisor technician and me. We build mock-ups and we tell them about what we do. We show them the technologies we use, and it really makes a difference.
We have had multiple WTI technicians that started out chasing leaks and doing patch and repairs that have hopped over to become technical advisors for sales representatives and then moved into the sales world. We have a very strong cross-pollination of skills and jobs within Tremco.
And we're trying to make it look cool, because it is kind of cool. At Tremco, what we do is not a traditional roofing contracting model. We do not replace roofs, which is really, really difficult work. We do different things. We have developed different skill sets focused on roof restoration. Our employees walk around all day with their iPads taking picture of roof conditions and doing recommendations for improvements while working out budgets and doing diagnostic scans.
One cool thing about Tremco is that we believe the next generation will really like is that we are committed to these programs because we know it helps the roofing industry overall. We believe that the stronger the industry is, the better off we all are. We know if we can train these kids, guys and girls, and get them up to speed in the roofing industry it is good for everyone.