The Next Challenge for the Western States
by Heidi J. Ellsworth, owner, HJE Consulting
(Editor’s Note: Heidi J. Ellsworth, a graduate of the University of Portland, has been working in the roofing industry since 1993. Having held positions with EagleView® Technology Corporation, Carlisle® Construction Materials, Eco-Star™, and Malarkey Roofing Products®, Ellsworth is now the founder of the roofing-focused marketing firm, HJE Consulting Group. She is also the author of “Sales and Marketing for Roofing Contractors,” a guide for small businesses in the roofing industry.)
I had the privilege of attending the 2023 SkillsUSA® National Leadership and Skills Conference this past June in Atlanta, Georgia. Thousands of competitors who are looking to enter the trades competed in every trade you can think of including for the first time, roofing. I attended with RoofersCoffeeShop® (RCS), National Roofing Contractors Association (NRCA), National Women in Roofing (NWIR), Roofing Technology Think Tank (RT3), and leading manufacturers and distributors. There were also roofing contractors from across the country either checking out the event or they were there with teams from their local vocational schools.
This year four teams from across the country competed in the commercial roofing competition under the guidance of skilled technicians from IB Roof Systems™, who also donated the PVC roofing system. Heat welding and installing a PVC membrane, the teams took a written test on the first day and then headed to the competition area to practice what they had learned in preparation for the competition the following day.
Four students competed in the national contest and the NRCA was proud to recognize the following participants: Kyle Cameron, South Hutchinson, Kansas, as the winner; Leif Dampf, Virginia Beach, Virginia, placed second; Brandon Lopez, Simpsonville, South Carolina, placed third; and Mia Pulido, Hammond, Indiana, placed fourth.
The competitors had family and roofing mentors watching along with the mentoring team from IB Roof Systems. It was an exciting time with Cameron receiving a trophy, $1,000 from NRCA, and a gold medal from SkillsUSA. He recently finished his junior year at Hutchinson Career and Technical Education Academy.
On the steep-slope side, the NRCA was able to work with SkillsUSA over the past year to include larger steep-slope roofing to the TeamWorks competition where teams of four competitors build tiny houses. The team has to build the tiny house and accomplish several trade requirements including but not limited to framing, plumbing, masonry, electric, and roofing. It was a highlight to see bundles of TAMKO® Heritage® shingles being installed on every building. TAMKO was a sponsor donating the shingles and participating throughout the week.
At the same time, the NRCA organized a booth at the SkillsUSA Techspo. We saw crowds of students, teachers, and family members learning from vendors about products and services they offer to the industry. In the roofing pavilion, attendees were able to experience both low-slope and steep-slope roofing installation methods.
In the low-slope demo area, they learned how to weld a seam on TPO with a handheld welder under the tutelage of experts from Johns Manville. After welding, the Johns Manville team tested the strength of the weld. On day two, students competed in the seam welding for a chance to win a backpack and other swag from Johns Manville. On the steep-slope side, individuals were shown how to run a course of shingles, including installing starter strip thanks to the help of TAMKO. A special thank you to SRS Distribution for getting all the donated materials into the convention center.
In addition to the RCS and NWIR table, RT3 was onsite showcasing drone technology and 3D building modeling. Attendees could don an Oculus headset and experience what it’s like to be on the roof of the building in the 3D model. The team from Imagine Technologies and Division 7 Roofing was there to answer questions and fly the drone during a demo period. Platinum Roofing also helped make the week possible.
What does all of this have to do with your marketing program? It is an opportunity to get information from contractors who have participated so that you can connect with your local vocational school. Being involved opens several doors for your company including recruitment for your future work force, marketing to the community that is involved with the school, and overall, the opportunity to give back and engage with the next generation while teaching them all about roofing.
According to NRCA CTE leader, John Esbenshade, schools are looking to connect with the roofing community. Roofing has not been as involved so there is a real demand for roofing professionals to teach roofing in the schools. They are looking for advisors who can help teach roofing while also getting materials and mockups for the classroom. It is a great chance to be involved and make a difference in young people’s lives. How cool would it be to have a team from the West competing in 2024? Additional information about SkillsUSA’s National Leadership and Skills Conference is available at nlsc.skillsusa.org.