If there's one thing every home and business needs, it's a roof. Plumbing, electrical systems or HVAC installations are all useless if a building doesn't have a roof. The problem is that there are fewer and fewer qualified roofers. It's also a huge opportunity for separating military members and veterans.
GAF, America's largest manufacturer of roofing and waterproofing products, isn't facing a lack of demand. Its main problem is finding the skilled labor necessary to install or repair its products. To remedy that, it created the GAF RoofingAcademy program, a training regimen that can have new roofers in jobs almost anywhere in the country in two weeks.
Eric Osuna is a Marine Corps veteran who left the Corps in 2002. Today, he's a fully qualified roofer, the operations manager for the GAF Roofing Academy and a training instructor. For him, training veterans is a very personal thing.
"Every time we do a class, there's someone who is in the same boat I was," Osuna tells Military.com. "When you ask them what their plans are, they have the same blank look, like they don't know what their plan is. It gives me a lot of joy to know I can help them find direction."
When GAF asked its affiliated contractors how the company could best help them, the number one answer was helping train more roofers. Osuna cites the Bureau of Labor Statistics in pointing out that there were 270,000 open commercial and residential roofing jobs in America as of December 2021. The sector is projected to have 19,000 more open positions across the country by 2028. Newly trained roofers of any age can start making around $39,000 per year.
To fill those gaps, GAF is looking for a few good vets like Osuna. Military members looking at separating or veterans who have already left the military can get started with the GAF Roofing Academy, no matter what their background, skills or education may be.
"Sometimes there's a misconception that we're working on a hot roof for 35 years," Osuna says. "Some people love that and there's an opportunity for good money there, but you can transition from being a laborer, to running a crew, to project management and to owning your own contracting business."
The training is a two-week program that can teach anyone the fundamentals of roofing, even if they've never swung a hammer. The final project of the class is helping build a home with Habitat for Humanity, putting those new skills to use for a good cause.
The free, in-person training class is on a rotating schedule for different places around the country, so if you're based in Jacksonville and the program isn't coming near Florida, just keep an eye on the schedule. It'll be in your area soon enough.
After the two-week foundational course, GAF Roofing Academy graduates will be able to start their new careers at a job site where they can begin learning more about their new career in apprenticeships, gain certifications and eventually become a fully qualified roofing professional.
For those who want more from the GAF Roofing Academy, more is available. There are courses in commercial roofing, solar roofing, sales, management and more. As their career goes on, the academy grads will have enough knowledge to pursue any avenue in the roofing industry. The academy will even connect you with a GAF contractor looking for grads in an area of the country in which you want to work.
Even after they leave the academy, there are still courses available for current GAF contractors through the company's CARE Contractor Training Center, which features classroom and "on-the-roof" instruction.
To get started, all you need is two weeks' time to get through the foundational course, an interest in roofing and nothing else.
"I'm a Hispanic kid from Southern California who served five years in the Marine Corps," Osuna says. "There's nothing special about me. I'm not better, stronger or better looking than you. I'm just a guy that wanted to learn and worked hard. And if I could do it, you can do it."
To learn more about GAF's Roofing Academy or find a training program near you, visit the GAF Roofing Academy website. Remember, if there isn't a training course in your area, keep checking back; the courses move around the country to recruit talent. One will be closer to you eventually.
-- Blake Stilwell can be reached at email@example.com. He can also be found on Twitter @blakestilwell or on Facebook.
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