The last few years have been a rollercoaster for workers in the U.S. The country saw its greatest job loss since the Great Depression and almost a year later faced the challenge of not having enough workers to fill job openings. It's an experience experts say has changed the American workforce and workers.
As a result, 45% of employers are shifting their hiring practices and focusing more on skills and competencies versus degrees. So what jobs can help build the right kind of skills that will open more doors? Try roofing.
Whether the interest is in finding a side hustle, a fresh start, or learning about different career paths, roofing helps build skills that translate across industries and sectors— from building and construction to manufacturing, human resources, sales, and more.
From Side Hustle to Business Owner
Erasmo "Mitos" Fuentes started his career as a teacher and got into roofing as a way to bring in extra money—but after his first day on a roof, he knew he could grow it into a full-time job. He made his way up from roofer to business owner and now works for the largest roofing manufacturer in North America.
It all started when Fuentes was purchasing roofing materials and met a representative from roofing and waterproofing manufacturer GAF, whose expertise helped open new doors. "He explained the differences between shingles without dismissing any other brands or promoting GAF; he was just there to help me," said Fuentes, who found a mentor in his fellow roofing professional as he built his business.
Passionate about sharing his knowledge with others, Fuentes later became a trainer at GAF's Center for the Advancement of Roofing Excellence (CARE) where he teaches courses in Spanish to roofing contractors. He and other industry experts guide more than 364,000 professionals across North America, teaching them everything in roofing—from installation to sales techniques. The courses are provided in both English and Spanish and range from live, hands-on training in centers across the country, in locations such as Minneapolis, MN; Michigan City, IN; Dallas, TX; Parsippany, NJ, and more, to virtual seminars that cover the industry's best practices and trends.
Today, Fuentes is referred to by his peers as The Maestro because of the way he's helped and impacted others through roofing. A teacher, roofer, business owner, and GAF CARE trainer, he represents the roofing community's passion for lifting others up.
No Formal Education? No Problem, in Roofing It's All about the Training!
Roofers are among the construction industry's unsung heroes—they help families and communities protect what matters most, starting with the roof over their head. There's a need for skilled roofers and demand for 19,000 new jobs is expected by 2028.
Roofing is a profession with few barriers—no degree or schooling required and national programs like GAF Roofing Academy help people of all backgrounds get into the field. Roofing Academy started three years ago and today includes a free two-week training course that combines classroom and on-the-roof training, led by expert instructors that prepare students for an entry-level position. After completing the program, graduates have access to job opportunities from thousands of GAF-certified contractors nationwide.
To date, GAF Roofing Academy has trained over 2,000 graduates and, in 2022, 57% of its students were placed in jobs across the country. Training goes beyond installation and includes skills for roles such as solar installer, sales, estimator, foreman, project manager, and more. More than 20 trainings are expected to take place across the country in 2023 from Baltimore, MD to New Orleans, LA to Kansas City, MO, and beyond.
Apprenticeships and training programs like these are also critical to diversifying the workforce and increasing earnings. More than a third of 2022 GAF Roofing Academy students were at-risk, justice-involved, or transitioning military. More than 60% were Black or Hispanic and nearly 15% identify as female.
Roofing Teaches You Skills in Construction—and Beyond
The roofing industry opens the door to multiple career paths—some don't even require you to get up on a roof every day. Kelvin Thomas, for example, has had a 44-year career in roofing operations and held 16 different positions that helped expose him to opportunities in manufacturing, maintenance, quality, supply chain, and human resources in multiple cities.
His first "real paying" job was in his hometown of Tuscaloosa, AL, starting on the clean-up crew at a GAF manufacturing facility. Over the course of his 44 years with GAF, Kelvin explored careers at GAF and held roles that ranged from a Lab Tech, a Regional Manager of Warehouse Operation, to a Sr. Director of Distribution. Today, Kelvin holds the position of Vice President of Operations Culture and Employee Engagement. This leadership role has brought his career full circle, giving him the opportunity to shape the culture and develop the future for frontline manufacturing professionals—the exact place his career started. Being a leader for the next generation of frontline employees allows him to share the valuable lessons he's learned in his roofing career, while driving continuous improvement in roofing operations and beyond.
"Sometimes our qualifications don't check all the boxes, but if you keep trying and have faith in yourself, someone will be willing to take a chance on you," explains Thomas.
Roofing is an often overlooked opportunity for anyone interested in starting a career with endless opportunities for professional and personal growth. It's also a chance to make a meaningful impact on communities, helping neighbors to protect their homes and build resilience that can have a lasting impact on their families and lives.
More information about roofing programs and opportunities can be found at gaf.com/LearnToRoof.