Tile Talk: An Educated Workforce

Investing in Training Is Our Collective Responsibility

by Richard K. Olson, president & technical director, Tile Roofing Industry Alliance









(Editor’s Note: Richard K. Olson is president and technical director for the Tile Roofing Industry Alliance. The association represents industry professionals involved in the manufacturing and installation of concrete and clay tile roofs in the United States and Canada, and works with national, state, and local building officials to develop installation techniques, codes, and standards for better roofing systems. Olson can be reached at rolson@tileroofing.org.)


Labor shortage issues continue to restrict the ability of the roofing industry to meet market demands. The ability to attract available labor is challenged by the other trades competing for the same pool of candidates. Roofing as a profession is not as attractive as the inside trades and there is a migration of employees to these higher-paying jobs with better working conditions. Those employed are expected to meet increased output efficiencies with smaller crews. This has been a challenge for allowing proper training for many entering the roofing workforce.

Industry associations are developing contractor training programs designed to help educate the workforce on the codes, best practices, and proper installation requirements for most products in the market. In the past, this has helped increase the quality and efficiencies of work in the roofing sector. The challenge today is attracting classroom attendees due to the lack of ability to pull them from the field. Companies do not have the extra labor resources to allow time away from projects to attend formal training.

The roofing industry should continue to recognize the positive benefits of training and the long-term investment it represents in the quality of its overall workforce. The labor shortage will require recruiting from other industries, which brings a potential labor force that may have no experience in the building construction industry. These candidates will need training at the most basic of levels to be a producing member of a roofing crew.

The tile industry has recognized this need and has adjusted its training programs to be relevant to the entry-level demands. By working in collaborative efforts with the contracting community, the tile industry has created training and certification programs that will include both classroom and hands-on aspects that can help move the quality of roofing installations to a higher level of performance.

With the hands-on component, attendees are allowed the opportunity to actually put in place the classroom curriculum they have learned. From proper layout to flashing and fastening, a candidate experiences the entire installation process to meet code and best practices. This saves the roofing contractor the time this would require if the worker were placed directly on the field crew on a project. It will also allow for individualized mentoring and local best practice understanding through more visual learning methods. Furthermore, group learning resonates with attendees and reduces stress levels during the learning process.

This industry is seeing the increased demand for custom in-house training requests. In these training programs, there is a focus on the specific roofing practices, options, and materials that an individual company may desire and use. These will often expand to include those in the oversight management such as project managers, procurement, and code permit interests in a company.

For those with larger organizations, the development of more formal training programs that are in-house based may be the answer. Industry associations have the resources to work with you in the development of these programs, and their knowledge of best practices and product requirements can help compliment the proprietary learning a company may wish to offer. The Tile Roofing Industry Alliance and others offer these services to help business owners create such programs. Associations can help develop, present, or provide ongoing monitoring of content to help keep these training programs up to date with the changing codes and product requirements.

Formal training in all areas will need to evolve to meet the needs of the changing employee market. The ability to identify changing codes, products, and best practices that will improve overall quality will be the key to effective training moving forward. The labor shortage will not improve in the foreseeable future and will therefore require ongoing options to create a greater pool of qualified candidates. Roofing professionals need to make time to help create, promote, and participate in formal trainings. The ability to help meet the growing needs for education and training is everyone’s responsibility.

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