Who says women can’t be roofers? For Anna Cruz it was something she never considered but when the education and employment specialists at The Gathering Place suggested an all-women roofing class, she was willing to give it a try.
“You think roofing, you think like climbing on top of the roof, throwing shingles over your shoulder, and having to climb. You know I’m old! but there is so many other things besides just the roofing” she says.
For the past two weeks R3NG in Denver has offered their warehouse space to GAF Roofing Academy which is hosting its first all-women roofing class.
“We offer multiple courses every single week across the nation, but this is the first ever all-woman roofing academy class says Kimberly Santiago-Vega GAF Roofing Academy training manager.
The academy is teaching the women residential and commercial roofing installation through a combination of classroom and on-the-roof training. The training also incorporates in home sales training that can maximize their opportunities.
“One of the things we really try to push is that if you come into the roofing industry you don’t necessarily have to be an installer, there are so many opportunities out there, and once they learn how to install the system it makes any of those jobs exponentially easier” said Santiago-Vega.
Most of the woman taking the course were recruited from The Gathering Place. It’s a center that offers services to women, transgender folx and children living in poverty.
Lauren Morley, Co-owner of R3NG and chair of the Denver National Women in Roofing Council, talked to nonprofit organizations in Denver to recruit woman for this specific course.
“The goal is to get women into roofing, and it’s really cool because you can see it in the women. It’s amazing watching how quickly they learn. You see them come in and you’re not sure what their reasoning is for being here but a couple days in, it starts clicking and they’re like I am actually pretty good at this, but it’s been really fun seeing the women who weren’t really sure and are now like I might actually be able to work in roofing,” said Morley.
Every specification of roofing is involved in the course including materials, safety guidelines, and the installment process. Divided into groups the women work on roof replicas. Through music, conversation and hammering the women work together to complete the entire roof installation process. Some of the women handling hammers and nail guns for the first time.
“I’ve held a hammer before, but I’ve never held a nail gun, and that’s what scared me was the nail gun. I was really nervous that a nail was going to shoot through, or I was going to accidently get a finger or somebody else’s hand. But it was easy!” said Nukia Holmes.
Holmes also learned about the all-women roofing academy at The Gathering Place. Holmes is currently homeless and staying at the Samaritan House. The Gathering Place helps her with housing and education opportunities like this one. Holmes says the hardest part was getting over the self-doubt but seeing the other women, she knew she could do it and advises other women to go for it no matter what anyone says.
“I was a little anxious trying to figure out what we were going to do, how we are going to do it, what was the criteria or credentials, and how hard it’s going to be to continue to do this work” said Holmes about her first thoughts going into class.
Although the women are doing the same training, they each have their own plans after receiving their certification from GAF Roofing Academy. Contractor Bridgette Tena traveled to Denver from Santa Fe, New Mexico along with her mother. After their training she is planning on taking her certification home to help others.
“I do want to open a nonprofit or partner with a nonprofit in New Mexico to hire veterans, girls, mainly people that wouldn’t get hired for whatever reason, so to be able to lend a helping hand is really what I am trying to focus on as a contractor” says Tena.
The roofing industry has been historically male dominated but the women taking this course believe they can also get the job done and with the help of GAF Roofing Academy they can do it better.
“Everything she’s taught me in laying the shingles, is so different than what other men have taught me out in the field. They have taught wrong, and I am going back with the right, with the manufacture warranty and certification” said Tena.
“I would hear guys on the job site say, it’s a man’s world when I would walk up to the site, and I would get so nervous. I would sit in my car and say this is definitely not for me and it would take me about two days just to build the courage and confidence back. The most important thing for a woman is never ever give up, never let someone who is a bit bigger talk you down.”
“Our job is 40% training and 60% placement. Our goal is to whoever comes into our class and is looking for a job, we will train them and at the end of the two weeks we will have a job fair where they meet with contractors, have interview, and will likely get hired shortly after” says Santiago-Vega.
Morley is counting on 14 GAF Master Elite contractors to attend the job fair. She says the contractors are looking to hire admin, field, and sales workers, which can benefit the women in the course since they each have different areas of expertise. R3NG is planning on keeping the classes available and will continue to talk to women in organizations as often as they can.
“It’s a pretty amazing program, I am eternally blessed honestly, to have this job. I love it and I love that I have the opportunity to teach this all-woman class. If I know that someone out of all these women is going to be successful and is going to take this and run with it, I am happy” said Santiago-Vega.