Experience Oriented Career Development
There are many ways people can enter professions. Many gather experience while in college or trade school, graduate and find work in their chosen sector. Others begin in one department and work their way up through the organization. For others, essential skills are acquired through a Labor for Learning program.
Labor for Learning and other mentorship-training programs allow companies to utilize workers while also teaching skills in exchange for the labor. While participants benefit from learning new skills they can apply to their field, it also yields positive results for the company. In a study conducted by Sun Microsystems, introducing a formal mentorship-training program increased retention rates by 23 percent for participants. According to the Economics & Statistics Administration, Siemens USA obtains at least a 50 percent rate of return on its apprenticeship program, compared to hiring machinists off the street.
Looking for Experience
Beacon Roofing owner Ryan Wilkins is a product of the Labor for Learning program. When Wilkins was looking to get into roof cleaning, he researched the processes involved, including the chemicals and tools needed. While he was able to find nearly all the answers to his questions, the one thing he knew he still needed was experience.
“At that time, there weren’t any classes or trade shows to participate in,” he said. “It was an unknown industry, so I reached out to a guy who was knowledgeable and had been in business for about 20 years. He let me go to Tampa and work for a few days for free, and he taught me how to do it the right way.”
Since Wilkins’ apprenticeship, the opportunities for others to learn about the roof cleaning industry have expanded, as trade shows and classes now provide the tools for many individuals to grow and learn. Wilkins, for example, teaches many seminars on various aspects of the profession, such as the cleaning process, as well as government and commercial sales techniques.
A Benefit to Workers and Companies
When looking back on his Labor for Learning experience, Wilkins remembers taking away multiple things. For example, while a cleaner’s ultimate goal is to kill the mold on a roof, the proper use of bleach and chlorine is critical, as the chemicals can have damaging effects on the plants below. Safety is also an important factor in the roof cleaning process, as there is much more to cleaning than getting on a roof and spraying chemicals.
“You’re walking around with a hose and also wearing the proper safety gear with harnesses and respirators, so this presents some challenges,” Wilkins said. “It’s one thing to be able to walk on a roof, but it’s quite another to walk on a roof with a respirator and harness tied to you, with a rope dragging behind and a hose that’s pumping out cleaning solution.”
The skill sets gained in the Learning for Labor process are not only essential for workers looking to achieve success in the industry, but also for companies looking to avoid problems that could be costly to their businesses.
“If there’s a large influx of people trying to get into roof cleaning or who have been in the cleaning industry but haven’t done roofs, it can cause problems,” added Wilkins. “If they’re on a roof, using the wrong products, damaging roofs, putting their lives at risk, all of our insurance rates will increase as a result.”
For Wilkins, the experience he gained in Tampa has paid off. Beacon Roof Cleaning is a successful business, with commercial and residential clients located throughout Brevard County, and it has set the standard in roof cleaning in the region. Despite the success achieved in the industry, Wilkins still remembers being given a chance to learn the craft, and today he values sharing his skills with aspiring professionals.
“I do it because the experienced professional in Tampa did it for me,” he said. “He helped me out, and I appreciate that. Now I feel obligated, and honored, to help others in the industry.”
“It was an unknown industry, so I reached out to a guy who was knowledgeable and had been in business for about 20 years. He let me go to Tampa and work for a few days for free, and he taught me how to do it the right way.” – Ryan Wilkins