Industry associations ramp up training efforts

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Organizations across the industry are updating their training and educational programs to aid installers, sales representatives and other flooring professionals in perfecting their craft. Among the lengthy catalog of in-person, hands-on industry training that is widely accessible, numerous online programs are also available to provide easy access and allow participants to learn at their own pace. A number of these associations also offer certifications that give industry professionals added credibility.

Following is an overview of some of the installation training programs and initiatives that are available.

The International Certified Flooring Installers association (CFI) offers educational programs and certifications across multiple categories such as carpet, resilient, hardwood and ceramic tile and stone. Within these categories are hands-on certification classes that cover basic and advanced topics.

Most recently, the Commercial Advanced program for the carpet category has been updated to focus more attention on pattern matching and pattern correction. CFI’s hardwood training courses cover everything from how to install a floating floor to direct glue down or stapling. “We take them out of the methods they learned from somebody else in the field and teach them how to install within the manufacturer’s spec,” explained Dave Garden, executive director of education. “We teach them the standards, then we test them.”

The Ceramic Tile Education Foundation (CTEF) offers local, regional and national training programs for industry professionals, installers and sales associates who are interested in ceramic tile.

In addition to its classes, CTEF also has a certification program. “Although not training programs, many installers find taking the challenge of third-party evaluation for the Ceramic Tile Installer test and the tests for the Advanced Certifications for Tile Installers events where they learn key information about installing and something about themselves as well,” said Brad Denny, executive director of CTEF.

Taking a grassroots approach, the nascent Floor Covering Education Foundation (FCEF) has been working with colleges across the nation implementing the 10-week Basic Floor Covering Installation program. A prime example is the work the organization is doing in conjunction with the Georgia Northwestern Technical College (GNTC), which received accreditation for floor covering installation instruction. FCEF said it hopes the accredited program at GNTC’s Dalton campus will serve as a springboard to the technical college’s 22 sister campuses throughout Georgia and then on to other states. “We are extremely excited about this and what it means for our industry,” said Kaye Whitener, director of operations, FCEF.

Through partnerships with industry training groups such as CFI, CTEF and NWFA, FCEF has created an accredited program introducing students to hardwood, resilient, tile and carpet installation. “The technical college program is one of many programs that we are currently working on as well as developing a program that can be embedded within the four-year construction program at the high school level,” Whitener explained. “Our ultimate goal is to implement this program in as many local technical colleges as possible across the country to even begin to address the installation crisis. Our industry is losing 4,000-6,000 installers each year.”

The Flooring Contractors Association (FCICA) provides a forum to connect with and learn from other commercial contractors, distributors and manufacturers with similar challenges and experiences. “FCICA fosters relationships between contractors and manufacturers,” said Catherine Church, executive director, FCICA. “If you run into an installation issue or have a question about a product, you have the name of the person to contact at the manufacturer to help you and ultimately your customers.”

One of FCICA’s signature initiatives is its Certified Installation Manager Program (CIM), which launched in 2016. The program is geared toward floor covering installation project managers and has over 200 graduates to date, according to Church. The program can be completed online or in-person at one of FCICA’s CIM training events.

The International Standards and Training Alliance (INSTALL) recently rolled out a new course on hardwood flooring that focuses on installation and sand-to-finish practices. The curriculum was developed by the Carpenter’s International Training Fund based on standards from the NWFA and United Brotherhood of Carpenters.

INSTALL also offers comprehensive training across various flooring categories providing a minimum of 160 hours of formal training per-year. Topics covered include floor prep, general hand and power tools, jobsite check procedures, adhesives, general layout and more. “In addition to learning technical skills, these installers develop soft skills such as business management and communication through jobsite training and interaction with the industry’s leading instructors,” said John McGrath, INSTALL executive director.

The National Association of Floor Covering Technicians (NAFCT) offers certifications and training courses on various topics such as subfloor/substrate prep. This certification consists of an online course and an in-depth, one-day, in-person training session. “We focused on the sub-floor/substrate because if it is not properly prepared, it doesn’t matter how well the flooring gets installed,” said Sonny Callaham, chairman of the board, NAFCT.

In addition to its subfloor/substrate certification, NAFCT offers a Modular Resilient Installation Course and Heat Weld Training and Certification course. “Resilient flooring is leading the industry and helping installers properly layout and install this type of flooring is important,” Callaham explained.

The National Wood Flooring Association (NWFA) offers a comprehensive training program consisting of instruction at its headquarters, at regional locations around the country and online. The objective, according to Brett Miller, vice president of technical standards, training and certification, is to bring training to as many new markets as possible. “Our intentions are to be in just about every part of the country we can be in to bring training to people,” he explained, citing new locations such as: Clarksville, Tenn; Dallas; Baton Rouge, La.; New York; and more.

In addition to its more traditional courses, Miller said the organization is trying to develop more one-day workshops. NWFA has also developed virtual training programs via its NWFA University initiative. “They’re small, bite-size pieces of content where people can jump in 10, 15 minutes and they’ll complete a course,” Miller explained.

Formed in 2003, the University of Ceramic Tile and Stone is an independent, online training university for the tile and stone industry. The organization offers essential courses such as the Understanding of the Basics of Ceramic Tile and Understanding the Basics of Natural Stone as well as the Complete Guide on Developing Tile & Stone Specifications with Architects—a new course offering.

Aside from the plethora of educational courses that are available for purchase, UofCTS offers a Certification Accreditation Program for experienced tile and stone professionals who possess a minimum of two years of full- time on-the-job experience in the tile or stone industry.

The World Floor Covering Association (WFCA) is the industry’s largest advocacy organization offering numerous educational opportunities to its members. This includes 50 video-based modules covering topics such as selling skills and back office management as part of the WFCA University. According to Scott Humphrey, CEO of the WFCA, the organization is in the midst of developing a full leadership certification program for all levels of management within the industry.

In addition, the WFCA offers opportunities such as Profit Matters and GROW Groups. Humphrey also conducts Leadership Live—a weekly, prerecorded segment providing members guidance on what it takes to be a world-class leader in life and at work.

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August 15/22, 2022

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