An estimated 15,000 attendees, including 6,094 student competitors, descended upon the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta for the 2023 SkillsUSA National Leadership and Skills Conference (NLSC) and TECHSPO June 19-23, 2023. Competitors arrived from all over the U.S. to compete in over 100 hands-on and leadership skills competitions.

Since 1965 SkillsUSA has been hard at work empowering its members to become world-class leaders and responsible American Citizens. SkillsUSA is a national membership association serving high school, college and middle school students who are preparing for careers in trade, technical and skilled service occupations, including, among others, construction trades. SkillsUSA is a partnership of students, teachers and industry working together to ensure America has a skilled workforce.  

While the SkillsUSA skills competitions include a significant representation of the construction trades, it has never included roofing. For many reasons, the roofing industry has never actively participated in the career and technical education (CTE) space. But that is changing.

Three years ago, the National Roofing Contractors Association (NRCA) became an industry partner and supporter of SkillsUSA. The goal of NRCA has been to bring training for careers in roofing into CTE schools across the nation. To participate in the skills competition, every trade must have students enrolled in CTE programs focused on the trade. In addition to this, any new skills competition proposed must be vetted by a committee to make sure it follows the standards of SkillsUSA competitions.

NRCA partnered with the National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER) to overhaul the roofing curriculum for CTE schools and is recognized by NCCER as the subject matter expert for roofing. NCCER is recognized throughout the CTE community as the qualified source for construction course curricula.

Working together, NRCA and NCCER have set forth a plan to take students through a course of study and hands-on experiences that will, at the end of the courses and required trade experience, qualify the students to stand for the professional certification by way of NRCA’s ProCertification ® program.

Beginning with NRCA’s Training for Roof Application Careers (TRAC) course of study, students may move on to the two-phase NCCER course while obtaining hands-on experience working in the trade. The TRAC program is meant to prepare students to enter the trade at the base level. Once a student has made it through these courses and gained sufficient field experience, they may take the written and hands-on test required for professional certification. ProCertification credentials belong to the individual and are portable between roofing companies anywhere in the U.S.

In 2022 the NRCA introduced roofing to the SkillsUSA NLSC by way of a demonstration of thermoplastic membranes installations. NRCA member, Tim Stephens, Architectural Sheet Metal, Inc., Orlando, Fla., provided a demonstration of TPO welding using the same roof deck mock-up required for use in testing for ProCertification. Instructors and students took a great deal of interest in the demonstrations and asked good follow-up questions.

John Esbenshade, NRCA’s Director of Workforce Development, has since been working to bring roofing contractors and their local CTE schools together to bring about the inclusion of roofing into their construction course and to work on courses specifically for roofing. NRCA contractor members are finding there are many opportunities in their local markets to partner with CTE schools and to take advantage of funding provided by the Perkins Act and other federally funded initiatives.

This year at the 2023 NLCS, NRCA took the demonstration to the next level with the first Commercial Roofing Competition. The competition, including a written and hands-on test using the same thermoplastic mock-up as used for ProCertification training and testing, was held with four state champions competing for the title of National Champion.

The competitors were:

Indiana State Champion, Mia Pulido – Area Career Center - Hammond, Indiana

South Carolina State Champion, Brandon Lopez – Golden Strip Career Center - Greenville, South Carolina

Virginia State Champion, Leif Dampf – Virginia Beach Educational Center - Virginia Beach, Virginia

Kansas State Champion, Kyle Cameron – Hutchinson Career & Technical Academy - Hutchinson, Kansas

The competition was keen as there were a mere 120 points out of a possible 1,000 between the number one and number four competitors. In a brief ceremony on June 22, 2023, Kyle Cameron, representing the State of Kansas, was crowned the first NRCA SkillsUSA National Champion in Commercial Roofing.

Also, for the second year in a row, and with additional input from NRCA, roofing was included in the “Team Works” construction skills competition part of the competition that pitted four-person crews building a small structure from a set of plans. NRCA participated in the specifications for as well as the judging of the roofing portion of the builds.

In addition to staging the Commercial Roofing Competition, NRCA, with support of several industry sponsors, participated in the 2023 SkillsUSA Techspo. The Techspo is a trade show held in conjunction with the NLSC. Industry partners of SkillsUSA, including trade associations, trade unions, US Armed Forces, and a variety of companies come together to dispay their wares to the students, teachers, and administrators attending the NLSC.

The NRCA exhibit featured a thermoplastic welding challenge by sponsor, Johns Manville. Attendees were given a brief lesson in welding TPO and four of them with the best results took home a prize. Another sponsor, TAMKO, featured a mock-up of a sloped roof that featured a number of key details. Interested attendees could ask the experts about installing shingles with the ability to hear see the “how to” from the experts on hand.

Other exhibitors and sponsors included NRCA, SRS Distribution, Roofing Contractor, Platinum Roofing, RoofConnect, National Roofing Partners, Roofers Coffee Shop, IB Roof Systems, and National Women in Roofing. All the sponsors furnished information on their various enterprises while speaking with the many attendees about the potential to establish roofing in their local CTE schools.

There should be no argument that the industry needs more roofing workers in all phases of the trade. Thermoplastic membranes bubble to the top as they command over half the low-slope market, but TRAC and the ProCertification programs are not limited to thermoplastics. The programs will ultimately cover every type of roofing system as well as a professional certification for foremen.  

Follow the links below for more information on NRCA, TRAC, ProCertification, NCCER, the Perkins Act, and SkillsUSA. And if you want to see an amazing show of construction skills by the top CTE students in the country, come to Atlanta next year for the SkillsUSA NLSC.

NRCA | NCCER | TRAC | ProCertification | SkillsUSA | SkillsUSA Techspo | NLCS | Perkins