Educational and training opportunities available across entire industry

Home Inside FCNews Educational and training opportunities available across entire industry

Mills, associations, trade shows offer array of options

by Matthew Spieler

(First of two parts)

Good times or bad, top professionals continually seek out educational and training opportunities that will help them improve their craft. In flooring, this means keeping up with such things as the latest consumer and product trends—from the different types of floor coverings to the tools used to install them; technological changes from how products are made to ways of communicating with both suppliers and customers, and changing standards, rules and regulations.

Fortunately, someone looking to upgrade to or maintain a more professional standing has more options than ever before. Educational opportunities are available to everyone in the industry and in nearly every part of the country. And you don’t even have to leave your office as many training classes are conducted online. In addition to not having to schedule time away from work, these learning opportunities are available 24/7.

To help readers better understand all that is out there, FCNews has put together a sampling of the leading educational opportunities from a national perspective. This list is certainly not the end all as distributors and local associations do a tremendous job in holding classes, but these are generally regional and space does not allow us to include everyone and everything.

Part 1 of this two-part feature explores what some of the major manufacturers and trade shows are offering. Part two will look at industry associations and buying groups.


AmericasMart Atlanta

As the host of the summer and winter editions of the Atlanta International Area Rug Market, AmericasMart offers retailers from around the globe a complete package, including education, noted Mark Furlet, a senior vice president at the Mart.

In addition to the vast array of product and exhibitors, he said AmericasMart provides retailers with the opportunity to expand their knowledge of both rugs and business in general. The general curriculum is geared toward buyers in all industries and features a slate of facilitators, including consultants, designers, writers/authors and business practitioners.

In addition to general business classes, AmericasMart features specific seminars for rug buyers—many of which are presented and sponsored by AmericasMart area rug association partners—and led by rug industry experts. And, the classes are complimentary.

Also, as part of the ongoing educational programming for experts and those interested in learning, the Oriental Rug Retailers of America (ORRA) sponsors a number of seminars during the July market.

Visit or call 800.285.6278 for complete details about the seminars.



Armstrong has a long history of offering some of the finest training and certification. While sessions continue to be offered at its Lancaster, Pa., headquarters, Katie Raymond, independent channel marketing manager, said Armstrong also works “[with] our network of distributor trainers” as well as with trade associations such as the NWFA, INSTALL and CFI. “We do our best to offer training or certification at the local level.”

In addition, Armstrong introduced brief, interactive and educational tools specifically for retail salespeople to get comfortable with new merchandising and products, and learn how to make the Armstrong brand work even harder for them. Training videos on 2012 new and featured products include Performance Plus hardwood, vinyl sheet, Luxe Plank and Alterna premium tile.

For more information on Armstrong’s eLearning tools, visit For more on Armstrong’s general training opportunities, call 866.502.8792 or email arm



Anyone who’s ever attended Coverings International Tile & Stone Expo knows the show’s conference component consistently is rated outstanding, said Karen Fendrich, director of Coverings for National Trade Productions (NTP) Coverings show management.

Seminar tracks are customized for each of the market’s key business sectors—retailers and distributors; contractors and installers; stone fabricators, and architects and de-signers, Fendrich noted. The menu of session choices typically reaches 70 during the four-day event each year. “Liter-ally, there’s something for everyone—up-to-the minute and relevant technical information, marketing and business operations skills, sustainability issues and insights on how to leverage the Internet.”

Because so much of the programming touches on topics of universal interest about improving business practices and state of the industry progress, attendees are unrestricted in their choice of sessions. And with sustainability a hot button, organizers have ramped up the offering of green building sessions on all tracks.

This year’s show in April was further enhanced by the addition of media-minded workshops directly on the show floor in a space dedicated to digital—Coverings Central. Here, 15-minute sessions included topics such as “Social Media: The Art of Indirection,” “What Makes for an Effective Online Presence,” “How Social Media Helps the Online Retailer,” “The 24-Hour Social Media Campaign,” “Website Development,” “Getting Started on Twitter” and “Social Media: A Vital Tool for the Tile and Stone Industries.”

For more information, visit or contact NTP at 703.683.8500.



Educating retailers on the Daltile and American Olean brands continues to be a top priority for Dal-Tile, said Mike Ferris, director of training and development. The bulk of Dal-Tile’s training efforts stem from instructional support offered through its parent company at Mohawk University, he noted, which offers training on tile product knowledge, basic installation techniques and retail selling skills. “We also support and partner with aligned flooring dealer groups such as CCA Global, Alliance Flooring and others for sales training workshops and seminars.”

Because an educated customer is the best customer, Ferris said providing training directly to designers, architects and installers “is equally important and ultimately beneficial in supporting retailers.” As such, Dal-Tile partners with a number of professional and trade groups, including the National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA), the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID), to provide education courses to their members.

For members of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID), he noted Dal-Tile also provides continuing education workshops. Topics range from basic product knowledge, applications, product selection and design to more advanced discussions involving sustainable products and green building certification programs.

For more on Dal-Tile, call 214.309.4868.



At a time when many companies and industry groups are reducing retailer support, Mohawk continues to provide dealers with the gold standard in training and education. In fact, Training magazine has ranked Mohawk as one of the Top 125 training organizations for seven straight years, placing it in the same category as powerful companies such as Best Buy, Microsoft, Verizon and UPS.

Mohawk University has long been regarded as the leading retailer training program in the flooring industry. Mike Zoellner, Mohawk’s vice president of marketing services, says this leadership position stems from the way the company engages retailers to help shape Mohawk U’s course curriculum.

“All our program ideas are derived from retailer recommendations,” he said. “We talk to our retailer partners about their businesses’ strengths, weaknesses and areas where they could use some additional guidance. We listen to what they say about what works, as well as what doesn’t work for them. The result is a Mohawk U curriculum tailored to the retailer’s unique needs.”

Mohawk University continues to broaden its on-demand, web-based learning offerings. Zoellner said this approach is increasingly popular with today’s time-strapped retailers. Online classes have proven an effective way to promote positive growth and drive problem-solving business solutions without taking retail owners, managers and staff away from the store.

“We are trying to help retailers better leverage their time by moving more resources online,” Zoellner said. “We still offer a limited classroom schedule for our most popular programs like our sales college series, product knowledge, and installation training and certification through CFI.”

Mohawk University offers live Webinars each month, which address all-new topics requested by the company’s retail partners. These free Webinars are also available on-demand from the Mohawk University website, allowing retailers to listen and learn at their convenience. Sessions from 2011 are also available on the Mohawk University website.

“We are cultivating a Mohawk University online library,” Zoellner said. “This ensures the right resources are available to our retailers and their sales associates at the right time. Our mission at Mohawk University is to provide retailer training that is productive, as well as time and cost efficient.”

To learn more about Mohawk University, go to



The Shaw Learning Academy (SLA) is dedicated to providing quality learning opportunities for both internal and external associates. Because of this commitment, Training magazine has chosen to recognize SLA as a Top 125 training company every year since 2004.

One segment of primary importance is the area of customer training, said Chris Clement, director of corporate sales training. “We strive to serve as a trusted advisor rather than simply a vendor.” As such, “the academy continually seeks innovative methods to deliver training in a format that will benefit customers.” Whether it’s training on the Shaw corporate campus in Dalton, customized training delivered at the customer’s location or easily accessible online modules, “getting training in the hands of the retailers remains a top priority.”

In addition, he said, “We encourage dealers to bring specific challenges their organizations face. Each retailer has unique opportunities, therefore the training solutions must be customized to meet the emerging needs of their business.”

While SLA offers a broad and diverse learning curriculum, he highlighted some of the core training solutions:

Floor Tech. Offered in specialized segments with a residential or commercial focus, the comprehensive three-day course covers all aspects of the industry, Clement explained. “Floor Tech started at the request of a customer who wanted us to provide on-site training including mill tours. Seventeen years later, it continues to be the flagship program of the academy’s Center for Sales Excellence and is offered both in Dalton and on the road.”

Retail SALT (Shaw Academy for Leadership Training). SALT is an intense, three-day leadership experience for retail owners/managers designed to assist the decision makers in developing a roadmap for business and life. Mary Rose Threet, an SLA Center for Retail Excellence specialist, said participants are challenged to leave SALT with a leadership development plan they will incorporate into their businesses. “The experience has carried over into giving them skills that help at work and home.”

Most recently, SLA has partnered with Shaw’s marketing team to provide smaller “learning bite” segments online, Clement said. Retail sales associates can log into the Capture the Spirit website and take “quick hit” courses designed to be completed within 45 minutes or take a mini-module as time allows. “This rapid approach to learning has paid off in dividends.” Since April more than 1,800 people have completed at least one of these courses.

To learn more about SLA or to sign up for classes visit or call 800.811.2404.



Kelly Cooper, senior marketing manager, said the industry’s largest and most comprehensive trade show offers flooring’s most comprehensive and affordable educational offering, “bar-none. Surfaces provides the best forum for wide-ranging, industry-relevant subject matter presented by some of the top minds in floor covering.”

She noted the show, which is produced by Hanley Wood Exhibitions and sponsored by the World Floor Covering Association (WFCA), offers a series of more than 75 two-hour workshops, 90-minute seminars and 60-minute mini sessions focused on eight targeted tracks—business, sales, marketing,  installation, building de-sign trends, stone fabrication/installation, sustainability and care/maintenance/restoration—with many of the workshops and seminars qualifying for certification through AIBD, ASID, IIDA, IDCEC, AIA, CFI, IICRC and WFCA.

In addition to the classroom program, Cooper said Surfaces enables attendees to see the latest products, tools and techniques without having to leave the show floor. The S2 Theater, formerly known as the S2 Main Stage, hosts various product and installation demonstrations throughout the three-day event.

New for 2013 will be the Business Enrichment Center (BEC) in which attendees can get answers to their day-to-day business challenges from industry experts via formal presentations as well as experience the latest in technology and digital solutions that will improve their productivity by making their businesses run more effective and efficient.

She added floor covering professionals can expand their knowledge by visiting key areas on the StonExpo/Marmomacc Americas show floor in The Cage and Stone Live Stadium. “The Cage will showcase countertop installation and repair techniques with a live feed projected directly into the Stone Live Stadium, where attendees can watch these demonstrations on monitors while sitting on bleachers and enjoying a cold beverage.”

For more on Surfaces and its educational offerings, visit or call 972.536.6400.



Since the beginning, the World Floor Covering Association (WFCA) has been committed to enhancing the industry’s professionalism and profitability through education, said Cammie Weitzel, general manager. Part of this mission includes WFCA’s Trade Scholarship program, which has awarded over $1.7 million in funds for educational training. Regular members are eligible for up to $500 in scholarship money each year that can be used toward professional enhancement in areas such as installation, inspection, sales, business management and many others.

Another aspect of WFCA’s commitment to education, she explained, is through its support of the International Certified Floorcovering Installers Association (CFI). “Each year WFCA designates funds to support the critical hands-on multi-level training that takes place at CFI both domestically and internationally.”

Jim Walker, CFI’s CEO, said, “Through WFCA’s support, CFI has trained over 49,000 individuals worldwide. WFCA is the leading industry supporter of education through not only a substantial financial commitment, but as a promoter of the value of training for installers and sales associates.”

To extend WFCA’s reach, regional training programs have been made available through WFCA affiliates, which are located across the country. Each organization offers personalized training programs such as carpet recycling, marketing, installation, sales and design.

In the retail sector, Weitzel said WFCA offers educational programs designed to help companies and professionals distinguish their businesses and gain a competitive edge. Certification courses are available in three key areas: Certified Flooring Executive (CFE) for owners and managers, Certified Flooring Sales Consultant (CFS) for sales personnel and Certified Flooring Professional (CFP) for those members whose professions primarily include other technical certifications, such as restorers, cleaners, inspectors and installers.

Launching January 2013, WFCA will unveil a new component of its educational program consisting of a collaboration with the University of Pennsylvania School of Arts and Sciences. Called Partnership for Executive Development and Business Growth, it will consist of a customized program of traditional classroom work with online courses targeted to business owners and managers, she explained. “It will focus on developing the essentials of business management including marketing, family business planning and financial management.”

In addition to these programs, WFCA offers sales training videos and information on business operations, marketing research, legal and legislative issues in the “members only” section of its website,

For more information about WFCA’s trade scholarships and other sponsored training opportunities, call 800.624.6880 or go to

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