Sometimes a crisis is the catalyst for change

Home Al’s Column Sometimes a crisis is the catalyst for change

changeJust a few years ago, I remember arriving at work for a second-shift position, walking into my office to discover this weird white box with a screen sitting on my desk. On the screen was a sticky note that read: “This is our new DOS system, learn it.” No instructions, guidance or even a book to review to help me understand what I was getting myself into. Change was here and we better be ready.

So, I did exactly what was asked of me: I learned how to operate my very first computer by finding what worked and what didn’t. I couldn’t imagine then what this change would look like 40 years later, but here we are. To look back and be reminded of the moments in my life when change was happening with or without me must have been God’s way of preparing me for the hat I wear today at the Floor Covering Education Foundation (FCEF).

When the foundation was created, we had no real direction—everyone simply knew there was a major issue that must be addressed immediately concerning installation. The 2018 Blackstone Group report provided the information that qualified and quantified the current condition as an “installation crisis.” After this report was provided, an urgency was created to work together and find ways to address the decline. Then COVID-19 invaded our world and once again our industry was called to completely change the way business is conducted. As my dad used to say, “We pulled up our bootstraps and we went to work.” We came together and experienced amazing results. Manufacturers used their resources to help support the retail communities, buying groups provided additional support through their network, legal advice was freely communicated to the industry. Not only did we survive this pandemic, but we experienced growth by working together.

January 2022 provided the very first industry-supported, created and implemented basic floor covering installation college program at Georgia Northwestern Technical College (GNTC) in Dalton. After completing the second pilot program, GNTC received accreditation for this program. Next month, the second class will offer college credits for students successfully completing the training. Today we have three colleges running the basic floor covering installation program that was created by CFI, CTEF and NWFA. We have two new schools adding the program in the Fall 2023.

FCEF is currently working with 14 state colleges about the possibility of adding this basic floor covering installation program. With college enrollment down 33%, the excitement to add programs like ours could not be stronger. While we did not plan a pathway through college initially, it was the door that opened first. With this program in place now, we can begin to work with the local high school communities to introduce flooring installation as part of their four-year construction program. We have provided almost $300,000 to 171 students in scholarships for quality training either in the college program or training provided by CFI, CTEF and NWFA. We have worked with retailers and flooring groups to host local training opportunities to introduce a new generation to our industry. All the progress and success we have experienced in one year and a half is because the industry embraced change to support, create and build a stronger industry together.

Join us as change makers and invest in your future by supporting the FCEF at

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. For more information, email

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