Three years ago, Reid Ribble, then the newly-appointed CEO of the National Roofing Contractors Association (NRCA), was the guest speaker at a meeting of ERA’s leadership. During his remarks, Ribble laid out his vision for the roofing industry, focusing on plans to establish a certification program for experienced workers in specific roof system installations. The program he envisioned would be designed to create a career path for industry field workers and “elevate the roofing industry to be on par with other trade professions that currently offer national certifications.” It would also protect consumers by creating national standards in the roofing industry, and increase overall client confidence that “workers have the knowledge and skills to do the job well.”
Fast forward to Summer, 2020, and that vision is now a reality, with EPDM roofing systems a prominent focus of the NRCA’s flourishing PROCertification program.
The program is designed to certify experienced installers by testing their knowledge and skills on three levels. There’s an initial eligibility requirement: every installer that applies has to get verification signed by their employer that they have at least twenty-four months system specific installation experience. In other words, someone applying for EPDM Certification needs to have twenty-four months not just of roofing experience but experience specific to EPDM systems.
ERA spoke to Frank Perna, NRCA’s Director of Certification Development who detailed the next two levels of the process.
“Once applicants are accepted for further testing, they can take an on-line test. “It validates that they understand general roofing knowledge, general roofing processes as well as safety procedures. Safety is a really big part of that knowledge exam.”
The final step requires applicants to perform critical tasks on standard mock-ups designed and supplied by NRCA. These tests can be administered at a variety of locations such as a manufacturer’s training facility or a contractor’s office. Perna explained that the test is designed to ensure fairness. “We have a mock-up upon which the test must be performed. Folks are all being tested on the same mockup and under the same conditions. A lot of times that will be indoors, so weather is consistent and the time they are allowed is consistent as well.” A NRCA certified assessor must be present to observe the applicant performing the tasks and installation steps of the specific system and score them based on those steps. “Successful applicants not only know the steps and understand the process, but can they actually get on the roof and do it.”
Currently, many applicants to the PROCertification program are individuals who are stepping forward to be tested. But increasingly “a lot of contractors are putting their crews through the process. It’s an opportunity for these contractors to raise their reputation in their market as a contractor crew that has certified installers. “
Perna says he expects this will continue. “We anticipate that we’ll have a pretty healthy mix of contractors putting their folks through the process as well as individuals who are looking at roofing as a career to pursue certification as well.”
And why has NRCA chosen to incorporate EPDM certification into the program as an essential component? Perna explained that, “We look at a few different factors when we decide which systems to develop. We look at the market share, what the workforce demographics are, what staff capacity is and what the industry needs are as determined by our leadership.” Based on those factors, NRCA “felt it was time to develop EPDM early on in this process.”
So from ERA’s leadership to the NRCA PROCertification team, Congratulations on a job well done! ERA’s Chairman, David Martiny, Director of Product Management at Firestone Building Products, points out, “At a time when we are all challenged to deliver excellence in the roofing marketplace, this is an important step forward to deliver certified quality to our customers, and provide career prestige for our labor force. PROCertification provides an excellent opportunity for seasoned installers to add to their credentials. And for those who are early in their work as installers but have experienced the ease of EPDM installation, it can provide a jump start into a respected and rewarding profession. ”