I googled “how do I become a roofing contractor” and this was the advice of the first option:



  1. Know how to roof.



I laughed.  I started looking around for trade schools that focused on roofing and, although there were a few, ones that focused on Slate and Sheet Metal were limited.  Seemingly, the specialty roofing trade is primarily passed down through experience here in the States.  This is worlds apart from the education provided in Europe if you want to master a trade.

Believe it or not, a roofer is a respected trade in Europe whereas reputations of roofer’s in the states are sullied every day.   The lack of education needs to be a primary focus if the slate and sheet metal roofing industry wants to thrive.  A detailed look at education methods in Europe would be helpful.

Compagnons and Journeymen

compagnons_aujourd_hui_hautFrance and Germany (I’m sure other country’s do as well) both offer apprenticeship programs to teach the trades.  In France, it’s called the Compagnons du Tour de France and in Germany a Wandergeselln, or journeyman, sets out on the Wanderjare, to enhance their real world experience.

France – In the first year of becoming a Compagnon, you are are required to live in the Compagnon house with as few as 5 or as many as 100 others.   Trade lessons are Monday – Friday from 8am to 10 pm and Saturday, 8am-12pm and 1:30pm-5:30pm.  During this period, if you like the Compagnon life and wish to be part of the family of the Compagnons you apply for the adoption ceremony.  At the adoption ceremony, you will have to do your Travail d’adoption which is a project that must be submitted to become an Aspirant.

As an aspirant you work full time in your trade and are still required to live in the Compagnon house.  An aspirant stays in several towns over the next 3-5 years working with prior Compagnons to learn the trade.  A ceremony of reception is where an aspirant must present a masterpiece to the board of compagnons for review.  If accepted, you receive your Compagnon name.  STILL needed to become a Compagnon Sedantaire (when you can work anywhere you want) are 3 more years of touring.

Here are few of the works found in the Musée du Compagnonnage:

journeyman_outfit-208x300Germany – A longtime tradition in Germany revolves around the Journeymen years.  This is a 3 year working trip (minimum of 8,000 hours) where they perform work, free of charge, to people within a city.    A few conditions must be met to become a journeyman: Only those who have passed the journeyman’s exam, are single, and have no children or debts, may go on the road. On the road they may not be within 30 miles from their home to avoid temptation to quit. They cannot make money, drive, or have luggage. They must wear their Kluft in public at all time, which simultaneously serves to identify the traveling journeyman as such.

To become a master, a journeyman has to submit a master work to a guild for evaluation.  This is becoming less popular as 3 years on the road is a long period of time without money.  There are about 600-800 current journeymen.

It’s important to note that there are also many more schools dedicated to these trades than here in the USA.

10552613_694712607282609_2540051706077397398_nUSA – Education, or lack thereof, is hurting the industry in the United States.  Our roofs have transitioned away from long life materials such as slate and metal to materials such as asphalt shingles and rubberized roofs.  This is mainly because it requires much less skill, is easier to install, and cheaper.  Creating an interest in finer roofing trades is difficult unless you can show how being an expert has a payoff in the end.  Time will tell but here are a few links to classes here in the states.

Metal Roofing Training Info

SRCA Slate Training Course

VM Zinc Training Course on Zinc