Talent acquisition: How GAF is using Roofing Academy to train skilled workforce

Ricky Gass, 23, was looking for a way to get a civil job. GAF, the largest roofing and waterproofing manufacturer in North America, wanted to teach and train the next generation of skilled workers for its products.

The two came together through the GAF Roofing Academy, a two-week technical training program that GAF has been running at a location in Randolph since the first quarter of 2020.

GAF, based in Parsippany, works with schools, including Vo-Techs, and various community organizations to find participants. It was linked to Gass through the Edison Job Corps, a technical program that connects young men and women from underserved communities with skills and educational opportunities.

Gass, who lives in Newark, was thrilled to find the opportunity. Gass, who completed the program in February 2020, quickly got a job at Solar Landscape helping work on the state’s first municipal solar project, which completed in Perth Amboy in January.

Students of the GAF Roofing Academy. (GAF)

Brian Cornelius, program director at GAF Roofing Academy, said that Gass and others will have many opportunities in the future. He said the tuition-free GAF Roofing Academy is designed to help potential workers build the skills necessary to begin careers in the roofing industry.

The program combines classroom and rooftop training with access to job openings from GAF’s national network of contractors looking for talent in an industry that analysts have expected to grow 10% in the coming years.

“Access to a skilled workforce is the major challenge limiting the growth of the roofing industry and its ability to meet the growing demands of home and property owners,” said Cornelius. “The GAF Roofing Academy was founded to meet this need, to create jobs and to further expand the industry.”

GAF runs the program nationwide. This month alone, programs will be offered in Florida, Illinois, Kansas, California, and Washington. And that’s not a virtual effort. All courses are held in person, with COVID-19 protocols, including masks and social distancing, Cornelius said.

Cornelius said the goal now is to expand the program. GAF has worked with schools in various New Jersey markets and provided information about the program to their students and alumni to help them embark on a career path in the umbrella industry.

“We also have team members who attend school and community-sponsored job fairs, board meetings, educational events and promotions to further promote our program,” he said.

In addition to schools, according to Cornelius, GAF also cooperates and recruits students through non-profit organizations at local and national level and works with federal and state programs that support groups in their search for training and employment opportunities. And while GAF does not work directly with the state’s Ministry of Labor and Human Resources Development, GAF works with a number of DOL-funded programs, according to Cornelius.

Cornelius said the founding of the GAF Roofing Academy had its challenges – particularly due to the pandemic – but was a welcome addition to the company and the industry.

“The passion and drive to grow your industry is paramount to starting such a program, as is the recruitment of your people,” he said. “At GAF, we really value the qualified professionals who teach Roofing Academy courses and know that they are the people who help inspire the next generation of roofers and expand the industry from the ground up.”

Gass, who was introduced with Governor Phil Murphy at the community solar project commemoration ceremony in Perth Amboy, said he was happy to have a job and a new career.

“I am incredibly grateful that I had the opportunity to attend the GAF Roofing Academy,” he said. “The staff was so professional and I could say how much they wanted to help us train and certify us for the start of our careers.

“Getting into the roofing industry has given me a stable career and enabled me to have a positive impact on the lives of so many people across the state, which is very important to me.”

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