In 2018, I authored an article that focused on the importance of education, training and certification for our industry. In that article, I mentioned that we have serious issues plaguing our industry by not recognizing these education and certification opportunities, especially concerning installation.
Fast forward to today, I now have had the privilege of living out my words by taking on the role of director of operations for the Floor Covering Education Foundation (FCEF). One of the defining moments in my career is the day I accepted this position. My naivete of believing that our industry fully understood the importance of building a stronger platform and foundation to bring new people into the industry was quickly affirmed.
Industry professionals speak about the importance of change and how their new products are developed to meet the evolving needs of a consumer. Yet as an industry, we are singularly focused on creating beautiful products without ensuring the consumer will receive a professional installation. The flooring product has no value to the consumer until the product is professionally installed. If installed incorrectly, the consumer will ultimately have a negative perception and distrust of the product, the installer, the retailer and the manufacturer. If we do not demand quality installation and create a system to train and educate our installation community, then we will continue to fail the consumer and our industry.
Our industry has many creative opportunities to entice a new generation of talent for a career consideration with unlimited career possibilities and advancement, yet we have never told “our story.” We created a pathway by creating the FCEF, a foundation that exists to bring awareness to the floor covering industry, create pathways for recruitment, scholarship training and help with job placement. In the past two years, the FCEF—in partnership with CFI, CTEF and NWFA— created the first Basic Floor Covering Installation program through the technical college system. This program is currently in two colleges in Georgia. FCEF has commitments from three other colleges to execute the program in 2023. Our goal is to have this program in 200 technical colleges within five years.
The college program, and the development and implementation of high school programs, will be the long-term delivery of new talent to our industry. Our focus is concentrating on working with immediate recruiting efforts through programs for the military, refugee groups and helping flooring dealers understand the importance of bringing and supporting local training to their communities.
Someone recently stated that the FCEF cannot fail in mission and purpose. While I agree with the statement, the facts are clear: Without the entire industry’s financial support, we simply will not survive. This is the biggest challenge I have ever faced in my life; however, the commitment to succeed outweighs the fear of failure. Thank you to everyone that has committed financially to the foundation, but now we need every flooring manufacturer, distributor, supplier, retailer and installer to support the cause by donating today at fcef. org. We cannot continue to move forward and make a difference without your help.
Kaye Whitener is director of operations for the Floor Covering Education Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting recruitment, training and retention of floor covering installers.