As the industry changes, so must we.

March 2022 New Freedom/Diversified/TRI Alliance Training Graduating Class

Story & pictures by John Jensen, National Training Manager, Tile Roofing Industry Alliance

Last month we had a great experience working with Diversified Roofing, New Freedom and a group of 18 eager, capable people who are excited to learn and become a part of our industry. Pictures and comments are below the story.

We All Know There is a Labor Shortage

Are you tired of conversations about the labor shortage, ending with headshaking and blame on someone or something you can’t control? Most in our industry think there are policy changes that could help, and probably some policies that have compounded the problem. But the demographic realities mean we must think deeper. Conventional labor pools that the construction industry has relied upon for decades are not coming back soon.

Diversified Roofing & New Freedom – Creating a Win/Win/Win

Diversified Roofing President and CEO Mark Schouten called me in January and explained they were partnering with a local organization that supports people reentering freedom after incarceration. I was excited by his passion and focus. He’s a good businessman running a successful company and he believes there can be a win/win/win, connecting available labor to available jobs, and training and support that offer a second chance.

Once off the phone, my thoughts were “been there, done that.” I hired and employed people for over 25 years. I have seen drugs, alcohol and a lack of skills stop forward progress for many I hoped would be with our company for years. It’s sad to see someone fall short of their potential. It’s costly to invest time, money, and emotion into helping someone change, only to see it fail. Lisa and I have worked with disadvantaged and troubled youth, men exiting the corrections system, and people with good hearts who lacked the personal skills to climb the steps to personal and financial stability. So, before I committed my time, before I asked the TRI Alliance to fund the development of a program, and before I allowed myself to think we could be a part of success in an area where we have seen failure, I wanted to know why this would be different.

Diversified Roofing’s Director of Human Resources and Risk Management, Amy Strouse is the go-to person for everyone involved in the partnership at both New Freedom and Diversified Roofing. She connected me to Justin Proulx, the Vocational Director at New Freedom. I told Justin my concerns: Why should we do this when the success rate is so low? The short answer is that at New Freedom, the success rate is not low.

New Freedom Offers More than a 2nd Chance

I came away understanding that for members at New Freedom this is not a “second chance.” Most never really had a proper “first chance” at life because they were unprepared to navigate life in a healthy way. New Freedom’s program is designed to prepare them now, with 90 days of personal and social skills counseling. The 90-day program is delivered to successful applicants, selected from a pool of people New Freedom has worked with and counseled for close to a year before their release. Selected applicants commit to 90 days of intense training and counseling after their release. So, the men (there are women at New Freedom also) in our training sessions were interviewed, counseled, screened and then selected from a larger pool. My experience with the men in our recent training suggests the process is bringing quality people into the program.

This process seems to create an important difference in members. They are now aware they were unprepared, they messed up, got off the rails and screwed up a portion of their life. They know why, and they know they have skills now that they did not have before. They are confident in themselves and know they can bring value. They are hopeful that value will be seen and appreciated.

TRI Alliance Joins the Partnership

Tile Roofing Industry Alliance President and Technical Director Rick Olson approved purchase of the necessary hand tools and supplies, and the Tile Roofing Industry Alliance built and delivered 12 mockups. We worked with Mark, Amy and Diversified’s Safety Director Bobby Cordova to plan the 4 day event. Diversified provided the tile and flashing, Westlake and Eagle provided underlayment, battens and roll flashing. Throughout the weekend the mockups were combined and transformed into bigger decks with valleys and other details. Because their daily schedule is very full, the TRIA/Diversified Training was held on evenings and over the weekend: Friday night, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday night.

Intro to Tile Roofing – Day 1

Friday, day one we split into teams of 3 and each team had a 2 row, 3 tiles wide table-top mockup. They installed tiles direct to deck, on battens and on the Elevated Batten System (EBS) and Arched battens. Some fundamentals of tile roofing were repeated each time they took apart and reroofed their mockup. Then we added a sidewall and a pan flashing, and they saw the challenge of fastening and waterflow under the tile.

Day 2 – Layout on Larger Mockups

Saturday, we moved to larger floor mockups (5 rows high, 4 tile wide) and added Layout; adjusting the rows to fit the space. Again, they roofed the mockups direct to the deck, with 1”X2”s and with EBS and Arched raised battens. The repetitive roofing and reroofing of the same mockup kept the fundamentals in front of them. We added gable trim and various top row (ridge/headwall/weather block) details.

Day 3 – Installing Tile, Gaining Speed

Sunday, we combined the floor mockups to create two large decks. The guys had been learning and kept throttled a bit by the piling on of new details, so we let them go. They set up the decks, loaded tile for installation and then one man at a time installed tile on the deck with speed. Quality is paramount, but speed is an important part of installing 5,000 pieces of tile to complete a home. Members had the chance to feel what it would be like to go fast and see a finished product they could be proud of. We added valleys, cut tile using the layback method, and roofed and reroofed the mockups.

Day 4 – Demonstrations, Support & Graduation

Monday evening was a chance for the members to show us what they had learned. Mark Schouten, Amy, Bobby, Justin, Lisa and I watched as they stepped up to various mockups and described the installation, pointing to various components and the advantages and challenges of each system. I was impressed with the retention, the enthusiasm, and the pride they had in their work. Mark and Amy presented each with a Certificate of Completion.

The Diversified Roofing Commitment

Diversified has made a commitment to hire graduates from New Freedom who choose a career in roofing. New Diversified employees will learn more in a week on their jobsite than they did in this training. But, they will learn more, faster because of the Introduction To Tile Roofing course. They will be familiar with fundamentals and understand where and why various components are used.

The “win/win/win” Mark Schouten envisions is possible. The need is real in our industry, and there are people eager to help as they reenter the world of freedom. Support, counseling, and training is needed to ensure they are prepared for a second shot at a first chance to carve out a space in society for themselves. Trades training is needed, a job opportunity is needed, and the type of support New Freedom provides is critical to the potential success of each person.

Programs in Other States

Lisa is working and learning more with the Idaho Business for Education (IBE). IBE is part of a statewide coalition that includes the Idaho Department of Labor, Idaho Department of Corrections, the Workforce Development Council, Idaho Career Technical Education and more. Maureen O’Toole with IBE says “As the demographic drought of skilled workers continues, rethinking how we recruit, train, and retain labor is necessary. Training and retention are critical.” IBE recently hosted Ron Hetrick, a Labor Economist who shared interesting data and analysis of the labor market post pandemic. Here is a link to a similar presentation from him.

If you are interested in learning more reach out to us and we can share what we have learned and connect you to other resources.

Diversified Roofing CEO Mark Schouten

“First, I appreciate John and Lisa, as well as the TRIA support in building the industry. The opportunity to pass knowledge on to willing individuals to help grow the workforce, specifically in the tile roofing industry is critical and much appreciated. Also, I feel it is important to continue developing relations with various social groups across the country and we should all focus on making those connections to broaden our workforce.” ~Mark Schouten, President and CEO, Diversified Roofing

Pictured: Mark Schouten congratulates member Nathaniel Fowler for completing the 4 day TRIA “Introduction to Tile Roofing”

Justin and JoeI believe what we are doing here is changing the industries, as well as the community. These men and women are hungry for an opportunity. They expect to work hard. For most of them college has never been a thought, so the opportunity to have a career outside of that where they can support their family is their only hope. The trades provide exactly that. Our typical member has been mentored by us for 9+ months prior to release from Department of Corrections. Then they volunteer to come here. We put them through a rigorous week, so the ones taking our trades training classes are signing up for weekends and nights. Our training is a four-week basic training, but then goes on to an advanced training while members are in our program for 90 days. ~Justin Proulx, Vocational Director, New Freedom

Pictured: Joseph Calzada representing Team 2, shows his work to New Freedom Vocational Director Justin Proulx

Mark, Amy and Kyle

“It was such a pleasure to see Lisa and John in action.  Their enthusiasm and passion for training was felt by everyone and made the experience enjoyable, not intimidating for these men that are new to roofing.  We very much appreciate their time and efforts in putting together an organized and well attended class that will further our efforts in bringing the roofing industry to the next generation of roofers.”
~Amy Strouse, Director of Human Resources and Risk Management,  Diversified Roofing

Pictured: Amy Strouse, presented a certificates of completion to Kyle Barnett. Amy works to onboard members after they graduate from the 90 day program at New Freedom

“It was a pleasure to support the partnership between Diversified Roofing and New Freedom. The enthusiasm of the class participants was contagious. They took direction well and were eager to help with every task. The best part was watching them gain confidence over the 4 days, to the point of being able to share their knowledge on graduation night, with the support of their peers, in front of their future employer. Knowing they will have a job with Diversified and continued support as they re-enter the workforce was inspiring. Everyone made us feel like we were part of the family. We look forward to following the success of this group, and working with Diversified and New Freedom more in the future.” ~Lisa Jensen, Training Director, Tile Roofing Industry Alliance

New Freedom


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