By Gary Thill
An ongoing labor shortage continues to vex roofers nationwide. In fact, more than 80% of contractors reported having a hard time filling salaried and craft positions, according to the 2020 Sage Construction Hiring and Business Outlook Survey.
For many roofers, the labor shortage isn’t just frustrating, it’s choking growth.
But even in the midst of these difficult circumstances, some creative roofers are finding ways to recruit the workers they need to meet the demand. Some of the industry’s best and brightest shared their tactics at the “Overcoming Common Hurdles to Growth: NRCA Young Contractors Roundtable” recently at the 2020 IRE Show in Dallas. Here’s a look at some of the untraditional ways these roofers are recruiting new workers — and retaining them for the long haul:
- Recruit from local schools. Charles Dunigan, with North-Ply Contracting Co., said his company regularly goes into the local colleges, high schools and even middle schools to talk about the career opportunities roofing presents. He said it’s especially important to start recruiting young. Other roofers said many school-age kids don’t realize how much money they can actually make in roofing. A good selling point is to remind them that they can earn as much as their college-educated friends — without the college debt. “We recruit young and train them the way we want them to do the job,” Dunigan said.
- Recruit from Puerto Rico. The immigration morass has created a problem for roofers who have come to rely on Latino workers and their work ethic. But there’s an entire U.S. territory filled with these types of workers who are hungry for employment — Puerto Rico, said Derric Stull, president and CEO of Ridge Valley Exteriors Inc. in Kennesaw, Ga. “The best part is you don’t have to fight visas from Mexico,” he said.
- Hire Latino job recruiters. White roofers trying to hire Latino workers are already swimming up a demographic stream. Stull and others have found success reaching the Latino community by hiring a Latino job recruiter who better knows how to reach this demographic. “Before we hired our woman, we had a demographic disconnect,” he said.
- Celebrate Latino holidays. Finding workers is just the start of the struggle. After you find them you have to keep them. And there’s no better way than celebrating the holidays that Latinos enjoy. “It seems like every day we’re celebrating some holiday or other,” Stull says. “But you’d be amazed what it difference it makes.”Recruit from areas where a significant weather event has occurred. Workers are drawn to areas where major weather events take place. But often after the work has ended they’re wondering where to go next. This dynamic presents a great opportunity for recruiters. Stull said all his company does is put out advertisements in those areas. The contractors find their way to his company. “You can recruit anywhere in the country,” he said.