By Ken Ryan
Industry installation experts Sonny Callaham and Paul Pleshek recently announced the formation of the National Association of Floor Covering Technicians (NAFCT), a new, non-profit 501(c)(6) trade association created to improve the flooring industry by partnering with industry experts, manufacturers and other flooring associations to provide locally accessible, affordable and advanced hands-on training, re-training and certification programs.
NAFCT—not to be confused with the National Academy of Floor Covering Training, which predates the new association—is keenly focused on continuously working to provide a solution to the installation shortage the industry has been experiencing. “New, enhanced and ongoing training services are needed to elevate the skilled trade status of flooring installers,” said Pleshek, executive director and co-founder of NAFCT.
Callaham, co-founder and chairman, and Pleshek bring extensive knowledge and experience within the flooring industry. Both have served on many committees and board of directors for organizations such as NWFA, FCICA, NICFI, CFI and IICRC.
“These flooring organizations and others are working tirelessly to improve the industry and combat installation shortages,” Callaham said. “All have run into the same hurdle—costs. The costs of attendance, travel, continuing education, membership, etc., have come to a point where too many small businesses or single operators cannot afford to attend. Manufacturers within the flooring industry have been ardent supporters of such organizations, as well as implementing their own training programs to further educate their end-users. However, due to logistics, liability and lack of multiple category trainings, manufacturers commonly do not offer certification. NAFCT was developed to assist in bridging this gap and bringing low, no-cost certified trainings directly to the installer.”
Positioning the group as a collaborative partner, Pleshek and Callaham said they have held Zoom calls with representatives from the aforementioned associations on ways they can work together to deal with pressing issues impacting the flooring industry—the shrinking labor pool chief among them.
With finding the next generation of installers a huge issue, Callaham said NAFCT is working with non-profits across the U.S. to help kids and adults find opportunities. AMIkids is one such program. The non-profit organization seeks to help troubled youth develop into responsible citizens. In February, prior to the official launch of NAFCT, Callaham and Pleshek took part in a flooring installation apprenticeship program in Merritt Island, Fla., where they helped train 17 students on installation.
The event was arranged by Don Herndon, owner of Classic Wood Flooring, Melbourne, Fla., who is an AMIkids board member. “That program literally changed my life—it was one of the most rewarding things I have ever done,” Callaham told FCNews.
Callaham noted AMIkids has a 73% success rate of kids who go through the program successfully without becoming a repeat offender.
Through programs like AMIkids and other grass-roots efforts, NAFCT hopes to train students and adults on installation methods and help with job placement. NAFCT is looking to certifying 15,000 individuals in 2021. “We feel we can be a feeder program,” Callaham explained. “And just because you install today doesn’t mean you will until you retire. There are endless career path choices for installers. We want to be an advocacy group for them.”