One Voice, United For Change
The NRCA And Atlas PartnerAngie Lewis, Writer
When former Rep. Reid Ribble, R-WI, became CEO of the National Roofing Contractors Association (NRCA) in January 2017, his goal was to inspire big ideas and concepts in the roofing industry.
“When I was serving in the U.S. Congress, I noticed that the only people who were coming to talk to me about the roofing industry were our professional lobbyists,” he says. “But I didn’t have many true industry stakeholders coming to me. In fact, in six years, I never had a single roofing contractor come and talk to me at all — which is surprising, because I was the only roofing industry member of Congress.”
Ribble’s first priority was establishing the association’s One Voice initiative, which focuses on advocacy.
“There were a lot of places it seemed to me that the industry had cut itself off and divided into these very small, parochial groups,” Ribble explains. “But there was really no place that the entire industry resided where we could find those areas of common ground and in a much larger way effect change for the betterment of everybody.”
To address the issue, the NRCA amended its bylaws to allow any roofing industry stakeholder to be a full-time member of the association. This change also let members serve on its board of directors, be part of its committee process and begin offering their ideas on how the industry could more effectively advocate for itself.
Plus, the NRCA has partnered with companies, such as Atlas Roofing and nearly 40 others, to help extend its reach and exponentially expand the industry’s voice. And collectively, they created Roofing Day in D.C., an advocacy event that brings the whole roofing industry together.
“I think the additional brain power that comes from having big companies like Atlas at the table and having those human resources available to advise us and counsel us has been hugely effective for the entire industry,” Ribble says.
Atlas is excited to partner with the NRCA, according to its national sales director, Stan Bastek.
“We’re proud of work this great association does on behalf of the roofing community,” Bastek says. “We believe in and support the NRCA’s mission, and we’re honored to participate in advancing our industry into the future.”
The partnership with Atlas includes the manufacturer’s experts engaging with the industry and serving on the NRCA’s committees in areas such as technical expertise, risk management, insurance issues, workers’ comp and general liability.
“Having people from Atlas participating in those activities and interacting with roofing contractor members is beneficial for both [of our] organizations because we’re broadening our knowledge base,” Ribble explains. “And it’s been a significant change by having manufacturers at that table for the first time ever. They’re bringing a level of expertise that roof construction companies typically haven’t had the ability to tap into before.
“A lot of this has been driven around the idea that we need to professionalize the industry and, as our workforce issues become more severe, trying to find additional workers. Having more people and a broader diversity of voices at the table has been hugely helpful.”
The roofing industry is experiencing a major labor shortage due in part to an aging population, with 3.5 million Americans retiring every year, as well as a restricted immigration policy.
To make sure that the roofing industry has a workforce available to it, the NRCA created its ProCertification program, providing a clear path for young people who are considering entering the roofing trade.
Eventually, the program will offer professional certifications in 18 different roofing disciplines, three of which will be introduced in 2019. If workers complete enough certifications, they can achieve master roofer status.
“That becomes a powerful tool that we didn’t have before to recruit workers, and it’s all done through independent verification,” Ribble explains. “So a third-party authenticator will determine whether that roofing worker actually possesses the knowledge and technical competence to earn that certification. This is not just a rubber stamp — they must pass a knowledge-based exam that is proctored at over 1,500 different locations in the U.S. And if they pass that knowledge exam, they can then sit for a skills exam.”
In the skills exam, a worker would have to roof a mock-up in front of an assessor who judges whether the worker can install a roof correctly.
NRCA ProCertification is currently available for foremen, asphalt shingle installers and thermoplastic installers.
“This is why having partnerships with Atlas and the others matters so much, because when we develop these certifications, their technical departments weigh in and review them before anybody ever sees them,” Ribble says.
Why The NRCA Matters
Many roofing contractors think that joining the NRCA is a business transaction where they pay their dues and get something tangible in return. That is not the case, however.
The NRCA is a not-for-profit advocacy organization that supports the roofing industry and roofing contractors.
“If a roofing company wanted to effect change at the building code level, it would be almost impossible for them to do that,” Ribble explains. “However, I’ve got five architects and engineers on staff who are experts in working in the building code arena, to make sure that the rule book that every single roofing company must follow is written in a way that’s fair to everybody.”
Rather than a roofing company having to send someone to meet with the building code agencies to write these codes, NRCA is sharing the cost of those five people across the entire spectrum of roofing contractors.
“When you contribute dues to the NRCA ... you’re getting 75 people who are working full-time for you every single day,” Ribble explains. “Think of it as a cost share. All of us are collectively contributing to having these experts to advocate for contractors. And if they tried to do this on their own, it would cost them millions of dollars a year.”