By Alec Doniger.
In the first-ever episode of MetalTalk, Heidi J. Ellsworth speaks with Mark MacDonald, Sherwin-Williams' sales and marketing manager, and John Sheridan of Sheridan Metal Resources, to uncover what can be done about the labor shortage in an industry that’s seen a significant increase in demand. John is a roof installer who has been in the metal industry since the ‘70s. Mark began specializing in metal in 2017. As two dedicated industry members, both John and Mark want to see the metal workforce grow.
Metal roofing is huge right now. There are more opportunities for homeowners to educate themselves today, and so many are discovering the benefits of metal. “You’re seeing it driven by weather events,” Mark says. “That demand varies by region, obviously, but you're definitely seeing, in the southeast, these big weather events happen... Every time that happens, more and more metal gets on... You've got a bunch of houses there and then a lot of them are missing the roofs and then there's a bunch of metal roofs left standing.”
With an industry growing as fast as metal is, you might think that prospective workers would see the potential in metal and make a career with it. However, there has been a stark labor shortage in the metal world.
“As the market has grown, and the number of available systems has grown, the need for skilled labor has grown,” says John. There are certainly efforts being made to address this. One such effort is Sherwin-Williams’ MetalVue package. MetalVue is designed to streamline the process of getting involved with metal. MetalVue offers various trainings, software and communities. Because of MetalVue, customers and contractors alike are having an easier time integrating themselves into the metal industry.
Another effort is ToolBelt. “ToolBelt is a startup that has been around for several years now, and what they’re focused on is using technology to decrease friction associated with labor acquisition,” explains Mark. The application is used by contractors to discover labor opportunities near them. What used to be a tedious, word-of-mouth process is now a more seamless method for discovering labor.
Finally, the labor market could dramatically shift if younger generations were made aware that roofing is a legitimate career, not a temporary job. As Mark explains, “There's no lack of people looking for work, but you have to present a package to them that makes this look like a career and a way to make a living, not just another McDonald's job where you're going to move on.” If we advocated for younger people to get involved, the labor shortage would become much less severe. Younger generations are the future for all industries, so any movements to educate them is of vital importance.
Listen to the full podcast to learn more about how we can combat the labor shortage.
Alec is a reporter for RoofersCoffeeShop, MetalCoffeeShop and AskARoofer. When he isn’t investigating the state of the roofing industry, you might find him playing drums with his bands in Denver.
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