INSTALL Leadership Conference: Union officials stress certification as key to future

Home Inside FCNews INSTALL Leadership Conference: Union officials stress certification as key to future

LAS VEGAS—Eight years ago, the United Brotherhood of Carpenters (UBC) created the Installation Standards & Training Alliance (INSTALL) with the goal of giving members the necessary training and skills to be the best installers in the industry.

Today, nearly 2,500 people—about one- third of the union’s members—have been certified, and the program is recognized by more than two dozen mills, plus more than 100 partner companies, ranging from manufacturers to contractors to other associations. But it’s not enough, leaders stressed earlier this month during the group’s biennial Leadership Conference at the Carpenters International Training Center here.

The three-day conference brought together 270 of the industry’s best in the field— from manufacturers and sundry suppliers to contractors and installers, not to mention the national leaders of UBC—centered on the theme, “Skill, Productivity, Attitude.”

By investing more than $170 million a year into training and certification, INSTALL has quickly risen to be a force in the industry, which was shown not only at the conference, but by its participation in the national carpet installation standard currently being established (FCNews, Aug. 3/10). John McGrath, INSTALL’s director, said representatives serve on 10 of the 17 committees and sub-committees assigned to create the document.

But it goes beyond money. It is a dedicated commitment “to be the best in the industry,” noted Andy Silins, UBC’s general secretary-treasure.

To do this, he said, “We showed manufacturers our training and asked them to tell us what was wrong. We wanted to be sure our training was what the industry, and the market, demanded. They told us what was right, what was wrong, and what was out of date. They didn’t hedge or keep things back.”

As a result, “We built a training program for the flooring industry that is second to none,” Silins added. “One that ensures products are installed right, the first time and makes our contractors more competitive.”

This is because “UBC is everywhere,” McGrath added, “which enables INSTALL to grow to everywhere. “We have UBC representatives from Vancouver to Miami Beach and Boston to San Diego at this conference alone. INSTALL contractors are not headquartered everywhere, but they can work everywhere.”

Training is one thing, but having its members stand out is another. “The bottom line to increasing market share or opening the door to new markets is adding value,” Silins explained. “Certification is the key to making it happen. It is evidence our members have the skills we advertise, and that our contractors and partners rely on.”

In mid 2007, INSTALL began a five-year push to get all its journeyman certified. With approximately one-third having done so, officials said it’s not good enough.

“We have an obligation to our industry partners to make sure we meet our commitment of 100% certification,” Sillins said. “If the integrity of the INSTALL brand is to be maintained then we must redouble our efforts. We have made real progress over the last few years but we can’t do it alone.” While acknowledging the effort both mills and contractors have made in helping get people trained and certified, he explained more effort is needed. “The union will take every step to get members certified but in the end it is the contractor who puts them to work…and it is the contractor who needs to be calling for INSTALL certified mechanics.”

Silins was quick to stress certification is not a “contractor’s problem. It is our problem. And we have to tackle it together.”

McGrath put forth challenges to key parts of the process: “For facility managers… require third party endorsements of certifications. Require they are verifiable and transparent in their grading and awarding processes. For manufacturers, don’t lower the bar to make certifications accessible to every person who ever picked up a trowel or kicker. No longer should arbitrary training, or ‘It worked last time’ methods be accepted.”

Frank Hurd, vice president and COO of the Carpet & Rug Institute (CRI), said, “CRI has been trying to tackle installation since 1986, and with the development of S600, the document being created under the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) to standardize carpet installation it may finally come true.

“It covers everything from soup to nuts,” he explained, “and is something INSTALL can use because it is not a carpet industry standard, but a national one. By bringing together experts from all areas, such as those from the INSTALL network, this is going to be a standard you’ll be proud to certify to and work with.”

McGrath said that was one of the primary purposes of the Leadership Conference, to showcase the skill, productivity and attitude of the INSTALL program in hopes participants will take that knowledge home and put it to use.

Based on initial reaction, the message was understood. Fred Williamson, vice president operations for Starnet Worldwide, called the conference a “very worthwhile experience. In addition to sharing quality time with a large group of Starnet member firms that actively support INSTALL, I gained some great insight to the very impressive INSTALL program, which included finding the overall curriculum to be comprehensive.”

What impressed him the most is the type of industry support INSTALL has. “When over 100 manufacturers of products and sundry items give their endorsement, it speaks volumes as to the quality of that program, especially when it is offered throughout North America.”

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