RoofViews

In Your Community

Roof Raiser: Gary Pierson Is Changing Lives Through GAF Roofing Academy

By Karen L Edwards

October 26, 2023

GAF Roofing Academy Instructor Gary Pierson grabs a pack of GAF roofing shingles while on a house.

When looking to get involved in the trades, a helping hand can make all the difference. With so many options and opportunities to choose from, workers who are having trouble deciding which skills to develop can benefit from the guidance of experienced mentors and industry veterans.

That's exactly the role Gary Pierson, a senior instructor with GAF Roofing Academy, knows he was meant to play. His position allows him to educate others and give back to people who remind him of himself when he was younger.

"I had a typical background of [many] youth who are not destined for college," Gary explains. "I had a little too much energy for most environments and ended up getting into a little bit of trouble." He found himself working in construction and discovered that roofing was a good fit for his energy level and "lack of fear."

Gary excelled in the industry, working in numerous exterior construction roles including roofing, siding, windows, and doors. He says that in construction, he found a way to challenge himself, and it showed. "I went from laborer to crew leader to subcontractor and then started my own business by the age of 26," Gary shares.

Finding Fulfillment Helping Others

Unfortunately, the 2008 recession affected Gary's business. He found himself back at his previous job where he was a crew leader, but that company was struggling as well. It was a challenging time that left him feeling unfulfilled.

After talking with his wife, Gary learned a friend of hers was connected to Habitat for Humanity and began looking for ways to get involved with the nonprofit. He eventually became a construction manager, and while it was a pay cut for him, the benefits he reaped have changed his life.

"What I lacked in extra income, I made up with more time with family and got a sense of community again," Gary says. "I've lived in this town my whole life. So, I got to build homes for people I went to high school with, people that I've met through social networking, and knowing who I'm building for and seeing the changes they made in their life really made me a better father and husband."

During his seven-year tenure at Habitat for Humanity, he took the organization from building one to two homes a year to 10 to 12 homes a year, ultimately building 57 homes in a community of 80,000 people.

Gary Pierson instructing GAF volunteers

Connecting with GAF

Gary knew GAF donated roofing materials for the Habitat for Humanity homes, but it wasn't until he volunteered for a Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Work Project (Carter Work Project) event in 2018 that he met GAF team members.

On the jobsite, Gary noticed many of the volunteers were excited and eager to learn about roofing. Before the day's work began, Gary stepped up to teach them the basics of the trade, helping ensure the roofs would be properly installed and provide years of protection for the homes.

It was then that Gary learned GAF was hiring trainers for its CARE program. He says he was surprised to learn such a job existed, but he was happy and fulfilled with his work for Habitat for Humanity. A few months later, Erick Osuna, an operations manager at the GAF Roofing Academy, reached out to Gary. After learning the academy would be teaching at-risk youth, previously incarcerated individuals, and military veterans, Gary jumped at the opportunity.

Gary Pierson holds a roofing shingle as he educates volunteers

Changing Lives One Student (and Instructor) at a Time

As one of the first team members hired to teach in the GAF Roofing Academy, Gary participated in developing the program. Four successful years later, he's as invested as ever.

Gary stays in touch with his students after they complete the academy and says there's a "beacon of light" in each of his classes. He notes that one of his most memorable students is Demetris Purnell, whose profile video he shares with each new class. "Demetris was one of my students that I met who was previously incarcerated, and he didn't really have a whole lot of hope or feel that there were opportunities available for him," Gary recalls. "Just seeing him taking a shot and how successful he is now is impactful."

Many students' stories are just like Demetris'—students whose lives were changed by participating in the GAF Roofing Academy. For instance, Roz Jones says the experience helped her build confidence in herself. Shakyra Worley shares the course was meaningful to her because she learned a skill she can turn into a rewarding career.

Gary Pierson stands on a roof while a volunteer climbs a ladder

Gary says making a meaningful impact on his students' lives gives him a feeling of fulfillment every day—but he's quick to note that it's because of the individuals behind the GAF Roofing Academy. "None of this would be possible without the team that we have," he notes. "We have a dynamic team where everybody has something unique that they bring to the table. And I've learned just as much from my peers as I have from the leaders on the team."

Paying It Forward

Because of the commitment GAF makes to communities through its Community Matters initiative, Gary is still able to volunteer for the causes that are dear to him, including Habitat for Humanity and the Carter Work Project, among others.

Curious to learn more about the GAF Roofing Academy and the success its graduates have found? The commercial and residential roofing industry is booming, with demand for 19,000 new jobs expected by 2028, and now is the perfect time to begin a career in roofing with the GAF Roofing Academy. Explore all that the program has to offer, and see how you can get started by visiting the GAF Roofing Academy website.

About the Author

Karen L. Edwards is a freelance writer for the construction industry and has a passion for roofing, having worked in the industry for 20 years.

Related Articles

Group of Roofing Academy students speaking with Trevor Leeds of BYLTup
In Your Community

Roof Raiser: Trevor Leeds, Elevating the Roofing Industry

The roofing industry has long been a competitive space for contractors, but that healthy competition has helped drive innovation and lift up independently-owned businesses across the country. BYLTup, Inc. is one such business, and CEO Trevor Leeds is committed to elevating the greater roofing industry through everything his company does.After many years in roofing, Trevor partnered with his brother, Brady Woodside, in 2022 and co-found BYLTup, Inc. in Southern California. The pair started from scratch with a blank slate, allowing them to create a culture and brand experience that raises the industry bar, which is important to them.Trevor knew GAF would be a part of their success from the start. He experienced GAF-certified contractors'* support through his previous company and knew the organization's vision and innovation would be key to building the business.Enhancing Roofing Professionalism and SafetyTrevor is passionate about the roofing industry and believes everyone—from manufacturers and distributors to the contractors performing the installations—should work together to create a professional and positive customer experience. Even more importantly, Trevor advocates for the industry's employees and their experiences; safety is an area he wants more people to consider."We need to be making sure that we are taking care of employee safety," Trevor says. "Everyone should be focused on that. Everyone should be concerned about their employees going home safe and sound every single night. When an accident happens in the industry, it's devastating to the business owner and the individual, but it impacts the industry too. We all feel that in some form or fashion."Guiding the Next Generation through GAF Roofing AcademyTrevor's concern for employees and the industry's future led to his involvement in the GAF Roofing Academy. While he didn't have an immediate need for labor in his business, he recognized that taking action now could contribute to building a pipeline of skilled workers that would benefit the roofing industry as a whole.Trevor observed the pool of talent and skilled workers dwindling during his time in roofing. "You have the baby boomer generation that is retiring and a younger generation that wants to get into tech and doesn't want to get into the trades," he notes. "We've got to be able to hire and attract young talent back into the industry or we're all going to suffer."Training Students at the SoCal Roofing AcademyTrevor first learned about the GAF Roofing Academy at a regional conference and stepped up to assist. His company was involved in the first SoCal Roofing Academy, which had three tracks: residential roofing, commercial roofing, and sales training. BYLTup hosted the training's residential portion, and Trevor was impressed by the students' interest and engagement."I was blown away at how engaged they were. GAF had certainly done a very good job screening and prepping these individuals coming in, but they were green," he says. "The trainer was fantastic. The students were shingling after three days."Once the groups completed the tracks, they were brought back together for their graduation ceremony, which was a life-changing experience for many. "I realized that many of these people had probably never been recognized like this before," Trevor says. "They were very proud, holding their certificates and sending photos to their families."Making an Unexpected Hire at BYLTupJust before hosting the SoCal Roofing Academy, GAF Roofing Academy Operations Manager Erick Osuna reached out to Trevor and shared recent graduate Jose Navarro's resume. Jose had completed the commercial roofing training program and stood out to Erick, so he connected with Trevor about possibly hiring him."At that time, I wasn't looking for someone on the commercial roofing side. We weren't really expanding that crew, but we were looking for a production role," Trevor shares. "Long story short, we loved him. He was going to be a great fit for the company, and we hired him as our assistant production manager."Jose excelled on the job. BYLTup quickly moved him into a full production manager role, hiring an assistant to work with him. Trevor says Jose was a great hire. "He's young, he's hungry, he wants to learn. I've never seen another individual in the industry that just wants to learn roofing, and he's a sponge."Committing to Supporting GAF Roofing AcademyTrevor has seen the caliber of students attending and graduating from the GAF Roofing Academy, inspiring his commitment to support ongoing trainings. "I was pleasantly surprised at the overall outcome of the [Roofing Academy] event," he notes. "It encouraged me to the point that I said, 'I want to do this, whether we benefit from it or not, I want to support this at least twice a year, and we want to get more contractors involved in it.'"Want to get involved in supporting the future of the roofing industry? Learn how to participate in a future Roofing Academy and discover the training opportunities available to your team through GAF CARE.*Contractors enrolled in GAF certification programs are not employees or agents of GAF, and GAF does not control or otherwise supervise these independent businesses. Contractors may receive benefits, such as loyalty rewards points and discounts on marketing tools from GAF for participating in the program and offering GAF enhanced warranties, which require the use of a minimum amount of GAF products. Your dealings with a Contractor, and any services they provide to you, are subject to the Contractor Terms of Use. Visit www.gaf.com/gaf-contractor-terms-of-use for details.

By Authors Karen L Edwards

June 17, 2024

GAF worker applies StreetBond®, a solar-reflective pavement coating, to an asphalt court.
In Your Community

GAF Partners with the Orlando Magic to Revamp a Sports Court

A newly renovated basketball court at Chambers Park Community Center in Kissimmee, Florida, is a slam dunk for local children and families. GAF is proud to have partnered with the Orlando Magic, AdventHealth, and the city of Kissimmee to make this community's hoop dreams come true.The Chambers Park Community Center is a focal point of the Kissimmee community. The facility offers after-school programs, community events, and camps. It also features a popular neighborhood playground and basketball court where friends and families gather.The collaborative work involved in upgrading the sports court—which reopened on January 10, 2024—is just one example of how the GAF Community Matters program supports and celebrates neighborhoods nationwide.Renovating the Court's Coating and DesignThe inspiration for this project came from wanting to enhance the quality of life for the residents of Kissimmee and provide a safe, vibrant place for families to play outdoors. GAF understands the importance of building resilient communities, so the company donated cutting-edge materials and covered the cost of installation labor to ensure the Chambers Park Community Center's new sports court was a perfect outdoor place to play. To make the asphalt court as safe and durable as possible, GAF used StreetBond® solar-reflective, durable pavement coating with Invisible Shade™. The product can help reduce pavement surface temperatures by an average of 10°F while also helping to protect the pavement from premature degradation due to heat and UV rays.In areas where heat collects, also known as "urban heat islands," there tend to be few trees and minimal shady vegetation, so blacktops and hard surfaces—including parking lots, roadways, concrete recreation areas, and roofs—absorb and release heat well into the evening. Over time, these excess temperatures may contribute to heat-related health effects and negatively impact quality of life for local area residents. This wasn't the first time GAF deployed pioneering cooling strategies to enhance a community's experience. As part of the GAF Cool Community project in Pacoima, California, StreetBond® was used to help diminish urban heat island effects. GAF quickly completed the work in Kissimmee and the facility was opened to the public shortly afterward. The sports court's vibrant design uses custom-made colors inspired by the blue retro logo honoring the Orlando Magic's 35th anniversary court.Celebrating the Court's OpeningCurrent and former Orlando Magic players and Kissimmee's Mayor celebrated the court's unveiling. Team mascot STUFF the Magic Dragon joined the festivities to the crowd's delight.Sixty youth from the Chambers Park Community Center after-school program also attended the court's reopening. The students were thrilled to join in a fast-paced basketball skills clinic. The newly launched court was their chance to meet their sports heroes up close, take photos with them, and enjoy their new playground.Investing in Communities of the FutureThe Chambers Park Community Center's sports court is an important gathering space where youth and their families can safely play, build relationships, and develop their skills.With this project, the GAF Community Matters initiative continues its longstanding partnership in neighborhoods across the country. GAF is committed to making a positive difference by offering roofing expertise, resources, and products to help build more resilient communities.Providing safe, high-quality sports courts where residents can gather helps build resilient communities while promoting active, healthy lifestyles—and GAF is proud to play a role. To learn other ways GAF supports communities across the country, visit www.gaf.com/communitymatters.

By Authors Wendy Helfenbaum

May 28, 2024

GAF CARE Video Real Talk
Residential Roofing

10 Ways to Use Video in Your Business Strategy

Using video in your business strategy can be a powerful way to engage and build rapport with your customers. The best part? All you need is your cell phone.GAF Real Talk LIVE host Alan Lopez sat down with GAF video specialist Pablo Nivar to discuss low-stress, low-budget, start-today actions that contractors can use to introduce video content into their business strategy. Here are some of the lessons and easy-to-follow guidance highlighted during the pair's conversation.Why You Need VideoIn today's modern world, engaging customers on multiple levels is key. Video allows you to connect face-to-face in a sense and create engaging content that's not overly promotional, which can encourage users to buy. According to a 2021 study, 80% of consumers consider trust a deciding factor in their buying decisions.Don't Stress—Start SimpleFear about entering the professional video space is the biggest hurdle Nivar says he encounters among contractors as a GAF CARE video specialist. Fortunately, you don't need a big budget or professional equipment to successfully begin your video strategy.At the start, your videos are about building relationships. Use that to your advantage by working with what you have, and focus on engaging topics instead of fancy videography.Think Authentic Videos, Not MarketingHave the instinct to sell, sell, sell? Nivar explains why you should think again and create the kind of social media video content you like. Prioritize genuine content that tells a story and builds connection.If this sounds hard, Nivar and Lopez break down 10 types of videos for you to create. For each video type, Nivar gives examples and wording you can use. You don't have to reinvent the wheel; making videos can be easy and even enjoyable.10 Types of Videos to Create for Your Social Platforms1. Before and After VideosBefore and after videos can be a powerful way to showcase your work and benefit your brand without being overtly "salesy."2. Client TestimonialsClient testimonials can build a foundation of trust for future customers, helping them see the quality work you've completed and how you've collaboarated with past customers.3. Educational ContentYou can offer educational content without giving away your expertise for free. Think about what's relevant to your regional audience and focus on teaching, not selling.4. Your Company StoryCreating a company story video shouldn't be your first action, but it can be an impactful way to imbue humanity into your brand down the line. This presents a great opportunity to share your mission and vision, as well as introduce the people that help run the business.5. FAQAnswering questions you often receive is a great way to directly engage your customer base with content that's relevant to them.6. Time LapseTime-lapse videos can fulfill the need for "how it's done" content and show the value of your work. An entire project can be distilled down to minutes.7. Tips and TricksSharing tips with homeowners builds trust with your audience and gives them something valuable to take away from the video.8. Repair How-TosEmpowering homeowners to do their own minor repairs doesn't put you out of a job. In fact, it can show them you're committed to helping them solve their problems. Keep in mind that you should never inspire customers to climb onto their own roof, and instead encourage them leave that work to professionals.9. Customer AppreciationEveryone likes to feel appreciated. Making videos that show customers you value them for choosing your business—and how it makes a difference—can potentially lead to future work with both existing customers and new clients.10. OffersLeaving sales videos for last on your creation list can actually net you more business. You want to promote your business, of course, but it's best to make authentic connections first.Tips for Great VideosKnowing what to record is one thing, but understanding how to take video to benefit your brand is another. During their conversation, Nivar and Lopez not only cover how to use video in your business strategy but also need-to-know logistics. Important topics of discussion include video length, creating calls to action without being pushy, what not to say so you don't alienate customers and other businesses, and how to engage viewers with dialogue that hooks from the start. Additionally, the pair shares tips around enhancing the customer experience during installation using quick video recordings, which just might help earn extra praise in your video testimonials.Introducing Video to Your Business StrategyIf you've never jumped into the world of video content creation, Nivar and Lopez offer simple solutions that give you the tools to launch immediately. Watch their GAF Real Talk LIVE episode for in-depth information and exact steps you can take to start creating your videos. You can even contact the pros for more guidance. Be sure to also follow GAF on Facebook for more Real Talk LIVE episodes and other quality roofing content.Remember, you don't have to go it alone. You can keep expanding your business power with the free trainings, education, and support available to GAF contractors through the CARE Contractor Training Center.

By Authors Annie Crawford

May 14, 2024

Don't miss another GAF RoofViews post!

Subscribe now