Jean Allain, Vice President, and Yves Bradet, President & General Manager of Atlantic Roofers are prime examples of working your way up through a company to the top.
Jean started with the company from the ground up 35 years ago. Yves started with the company as an estimator 26 years ago.
Three years ago, they became co-owners of this 45-year-old company, which has six offices located in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, and PEI.
They offer roofing solutions for commercial, industrial, and institutions of all kinds, including hospitals, schools, and government offices.
There are about 145 employees, many with 35-plus years of hands-on experience in the roofing industry. They have a staff of 10 on PEI and are working hard to increase that number.
This company offers long-term career opportunities with benefits. “When one of our foremen started here on PEI, the company said they would try him for two weeks, and he has been here for 32 years,” says Jean.
“Another guy has been with us for 40 years, another 36 years. They have made their careers here. They have a pension and a home. They made their life with us and have made a decent living.”
Changes in the profession
“Most of our work is on the commercial and institutional side, which is mostly flat roof work,” says Jean. “We contract out the residential work. Flat roof work it is not as physically demanding.”
“Technology has changed designs and materials,” says Yves. “It is a rewarding career, and if you learn the trade you can do a variety of jobs. You could be ripping a roof off and the next day you are building a new roof using a totally different system.
“Depending on the roofing system, the equipment used can vary from a robotic heat welder to an induction welder to a sophisticated adhesive applicator to a propane torch. Cranes bring everything up to the roof, which makes it less labour intensive.”
Jean says safety is very important. “Working on flat roofs is very safe, and we provide all the safety training and equipment necessary.”
Job titles, hiring and training needs
Jobs in the roofing trade include Journeymen, Foremen, Apprentices, Labourers, Estimators, and Managers. “Roofing jobs have become the most difficult to fill,” says Jean, who is also the President of the Construction Association of PEI.
“During the winter months, we advertise positions to get ready for the busy spring season. Over the years it has become more difficult to have the right number of staff available. This year is looking like a great year for projects, so the industry is looking at ways to make people aware of the many career choices on PEI.”
“Labour shortages are also a challenge in the other Atlantic provinces,” says Yves. “The labour pool is getting smaller because of an aging population, so we have to change the way we recruit and train people for this viable trade.
“We are also working on partnerships to bring newcomers into the profession, and to make sure training is in place so staff can be apprenticed. We are working with the New Brunswick Roofing Contractors Association to better manage the apprenticeship program.
“The roofing apprenticeship program is a Red Seal program recognized across the country. We want to make it an apprenticeable trade on PEI. During the winter when there is no work, the apprenticeship program would be a great focus. We will help as much as we can to make this happen.
“The association bought and is renovating a building in Saint John, New Brunswick where the Apprenticeship program will be held,” says Yves.
Wages and benefits
The starting wage on PEI for a high school-aged labourer is $14 an hour. “If the person shows potential, the wage could increase by $2 before the end of the summer,” says Jean. “For anyone who starts with us, if you show us that you can do the work we will start investing in you.”
Atlantic Roofers offers a medical and a pension package.
“Work could be year-round, but the weather can keep us from our work at times,” says Jean. “We try to move staff around from province to province, depending on the needs of the project and the staff.
“We also try to have winter projects on the go to keep the staff working year-round.
“We are working on ways to guarantee people a certain amount of weeks each year and to make sure we have the staff to handle the work load.”
How to apply
They advertise on their website and on job posting sites such as WorkPEI, Job Bank, and Kijiji. They also work with organizations to welcome women into the profession.
Best way to get started in this profession
Jean says the best way to break into the trade is to start as a labourer and get a feel for the work. A good percentage of roofers start as labourers.
“When we interview people, we ask them to be honest with us. We will give them a try if they let us know how long they plan to stay. If they are interested and we see potential in their work, we will invest in more time and training to help them work their way into the trade.”
For more information about Atlantic Roofers, contact Jean Allain at [email protected].
The Manager for the PEI office is Jeff Casford and the Office Administrator is Karolyn Willis. Applicants can drop by 314 South Winsloe Road to fill out an application. Call 902-368-1011. Visit www.atlanticroofers.com.