Dalton—The Floor Covering Education Foundation’s (FCEF) 15-member board of directors convened last week in Stone Mountain, Ga., to discuss the progress of the foundation and ways to address the challenges that lie ahead. Since the last board meeting in November, FCEF said it has achieved some significant milestones in combatting the shortage of flooring installation craftsmen, but FCEF leadership warned: “the road will not be short, or easy.”
Technical college programs take off
At the beginning of the year, FCEF piloted a Basic Flooring Installation program at Georgia Northwestern Technical College (GNTC). The 10-week program covered all major flooring types and taught students through hands-on learning. The second session of the program is now underway and GNTC will offer a new, 15-week accredited version of the program in the fall. In addition to the program at GNTC, nearby Atlanta Technical College (ATC) will also offer flooring instruction starting this fall. The ATC program will be embedded in the construction program offering students exposure to flooring installation along with other construction disciplines.
“We now have programs active or approved in three states—Georgia, Oklahoma, and Utah—and we have nine states with program development in process,” said Jim Aaron, executive director of FCEF. “We’re overwhelmed by the interest in this program. Representation of flooring installation in technical colleges is long overdue and we’re proud to say we’re finally getting out seat the table when it comes to technical colleges.”
Connecting to native communities
Special guest, Edith Baker, owner of Native Business Strategies, shared with the FCEF board the progress being made with Native American Tribes. Baker is a consultant that helps connect organizations with tribes and navigate the cultural and political aspects of bringing a program to Tribal Nations.
“Native American communities have been on the list of great opportunities for FCEF,” shared Kaye Whitener, director of operations for FCEF. “Edith has helped us make more connections and opened up more opportunities than we’ve been able to without her knowledge. For the first time, we’ve got some real movement with Native American communities.”
Reaching students through trusted advisors
This week, FCEF will head to Austin, Texas for the American School Counselors Association (ASCA) for its annual convention. The event draws thousands of school counselors who are exploring opportunities for their students, the group said. FCEF will be exhibiting alongside military representatives, other large trade groups and some of the nation’s largest educational organizations.
“We need to start spreading awareness while students are still in school,” Aaron said. “And that starts with counselors, teachers and parents. We need to show that there are other options out there for students and that a trade career is a fulfilling and financially fruitful option.”
Just in time for the ASCA event, FCEF is also launching a new recruit-facing website flooryourfuture.com. The site focuses on the career path, detailed information about the flooring craftsman career and how to access training opportunities.
Local digital activation
The FCEF team shared how they will be helping to activate supporters on the local level with a digital awareness kit available to any donor who commits to a $100 per month donation and a Job/Career Fair kit available for a $500 donation.
“There is absolutely no scenario where progress will be made on the installation labor crisis that doesn’t involve engagement at a local level,” Aaron said. “Our job is to make that involvement as easy as possible for the flooring industry.”
The road ahead
FCEF has made great strides over the past year and continues to push forward to grow programs and reverse the current trends and shortage of installers.
“It will take more than a year or two to make significant progress on an issue that has existed for over thirty years,” Aaron said. “But we are making progress and there is promising news as more and more secondary schools embrace trade skills curriculums and trade careers are beginning to get more attention and respect.”
To learn more about how to support FCEF in their ongoing work, visit FCEF.org.