A small group of high school girls traded in the books for nail guns and hammers this week to learn how to install roofing.
The special training is designed to present new opportunities to girls and spur interest in the industry.
Most of the girls didn’t have jobs in construction, much less roofing, on their radar.
“I’ve never, ever thought about construction or roofing ever,” said Daniela Marcia Escobar, a Manassas Park High School junior said. “It’s never ran across my mind ever, because I was always around women that did cleaning, cleaning and just housewife things, so it was never brought to my attention ever.”
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She still has her sights set on college but said hammering shingles and learning how to install a roof has opened her eyes.
“My takeaway from this so far is that as a girl, I can do anything a guy can do,” she said. “I am literally capable of doing everything a guy can do. I can sit there and watch an instructor show me and I can do it as well, just as much as a guy can do.”
The roofing academies are organized by a company called GAF along with National Women in Roofing.
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Trainer Kimberly Santiago worked at a university before she was drawn to the field, took classes and started her own roofing company.
“I was an A through Z roofer, I’d say. I did sales, I did the business, I did front office, but I was also on roofs installing,” she said.
About one in 10 construction workers are women. The 1.2 million in the field in 2020 set a new record. But with the current labor shortage, it’s hoped more women can be attracted to the trades.
“We need to fill that gap, and why not fill it with women who are skilled and knowledgeable and willing to do the work. Who have the guts to get up there and show up every day and just put their all into it,” Santiago said.
Junior Leslie Guzman is exactly the kind of student the roofing academy targets. Her father works in construction, and she plans to bypass college to do the same.
“Possible career paths would have been more in management of roofing, which is why I wanted to join the program to learn more about what happens behind the scenes of roofing,” she said.
Santiago agrees the experience is about much more than recruiting future roofers.
“This isn’t just about building knowledge and skills in the roofing industry,” she said. “This is about building these girls up as well.”