Addressing the Workforce Shortage

Fri, May 10, 2024 at 1:40PM

Trent CotneyAs anyone in the construction business – and roofing in particular – knows that hiring and keeping a skilled crew is a huge challenge. Many workers are aging out of the industry and luring younger workers can prove difficult.

Understanding the Problem

Based on a model developed by Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) in recent months, demand for labor is so high that in 2024, the construction industry will need more than 500,000 additional workers, above the usual hiring pace. And the need for new workers will likely be almost as high in 2025.

The ABC model is based on inflation-adjusted spending growth and payroll employment in the construction industry. It calculates a need for about 3,500 jobs for every billion dollars in spending.

The construction unemployment rate is only 4.6 percent, a rate that has held steady for two years, matching the second lowest level recorded. In addition, job openings are quite high, averaging more than 370,000 for most of 2023. It is estimated that one in five of all construction workers are at least 55 years old, which means a large segment could be retiring in the near future.

Solutions for the Roofing Industry

The roofing industry employs nearly one million people and is a critical $100 billion sector in the U.S. economy. Its workers provide essential services that are integral to the nation’s housing, healthcare, education and infrastructure. Each year, the industry seems to face more and more workforce shortages as too few men and women have the necessary skills and desire to work in the industry.

To address these issues, lawmakers and other leaders have proposed these and other options:

Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA): This legislation was enacted in 2014 and a current bill, A Stronger Workforce for America Act (H.R. 6655), is set to reauthorize and enhance WIOA. It calls for increasing the level of skills development provided under the law, strengthening connections between the workforce system and employers and providing more Americans with pathways to successful careers. Some of its highlights include:

  • Upskilling workers through individual training accounts (ITAs), on-the-job instruction and other initiatives.
  • Allowing states to use allocations to create “critical industry skills funds,” focusing on priority industries in each state.
  • Ensuring that eligibility programs are aligned with the hiring demands and skill needs of employers.
  • Emphasizing work-based training for youth workers and improving the quality of year-round and summer employment options.
  • Strengthening programs to help those released from prison to gain skills and transition to meaningful employment.

Immigration Reform: Although immigration is a hot-button issue across the country, our industry can agree that we rely on immigrant workers.

  • Essential Workers for Economic Advancement Act (H.R. 3734): This promising piece of bipartisan legislation would create H-2C, a new visa category. It would allow temporary workers coming to the United States to work in year-round, nonagricultural positions. It would be valid for 36 months with two consecutive renewals. The number of available H-2C visas would vary based on market conditions, giving employers the flexibility to address their needs while protecting workers. Participating employers would be required to use E-verify for new hires.
  • Temporary Protected Status and the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program: The roofing industry would also benefit if the provisions of these programs were revised to allow immigrants permanent status.

Perkins Career and Technical Education State Grants: Each year, Congress allots funding for career and technical education (CTE) programs but that monetary amount is markedly less than what is provided to four-year colleges and universities. Increases in CTE funding would be a boon to the roofing industry, allowing students to pursue skills-based careers that serve their communities.

Final Thoughts

It can be challenging to thrive in today’s roofing industry when hiring and retaining workers seems so problematic. Take the time to research the legislation that is being discussed and do not hesitate to contact your representatives and let them know where you stand. Often, they can get caught up in the politics of immigration reform and other issues and they might overlook the impacts on small businesses across the nation.


The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.

Trent Cotney is a partner and Construction Practice Group Leader at the law firm of Adams and Reese LLP and FRSA General Counsel. You can contact him at 813-227-5501 or

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