Accessible Training for Floor Covering Installers
It is the copy machine factor.
The copies from the original document are clear and crisp. However, once you start making copies from copies, and additional copies from those copies, pretty soon the documents in your hands become blurred, smudged, and nowhere near presentable. I relate this scenario to floor covering installers because so many in our trade only receive on-the-job training from the installer(s) they work with. Chances are this is the way their "trainers" learned as well.
The difference is that, with the document copies, all the information has been relayed to the duplicate. With on-the-job installer training, this is rarely the case. A lack of structure limits training exposure to the type of work the employer obtains, nothing more. There is not nearly enough time spent in all facets of floor covering installation.
The production pace that is required in today's marketplace doesn't provide time for a crew leader to relay adequate instruction. The training that does occur is what I refer to as “monkey see, monkey do.” A more politically correct term would be "task training." Here's the door trim; cut it like this, nail it like this. Here's the adhesive; this is a trowel, apply the adhesive like this. Here are the two pieces of carpet; cut seams like this. End of story.
Once a few skills are semi-mastered, bang, it’s time to move out and run your own jobs. Better yet, start sub-contracting work on your own, hire your brother-in-law, and turn him into another marginal copy. Frightening, isn’t it?
On-the-job training is an essential ingredient in creating a floor covering installer, but it is not the only ingredient. A structured classroom provides the best environment for learning. It is away from the job pressures, and allows for information to be transferred to the student. It is where you can teach why a certain notched trowel is used, or what sub-floor conditions need to be primed prior to patching.
Classroom training also includes another ingredient, hands on. No one gets to a job and says, "Okay rookie. That six-by-six sheet-vinyl flash-cove room is all yours. Start practicing." Classroom hands-on training allows for mistakes to be made and corrected. That is part of the learning curve. Students need to handle the various flooring products and experiment with different techniques. That way they build confidence, which leads to better productivity and fewer problems in the field.
Time is also a necessity. There are no weekend wonders or six-month heroes. We need to allow the time for our trainees to learn the trade and fully develop before throwing them into the ranks.
A good written curriculum is the road map for an instructor. Several smaller companies could easily band together and start training their employees and sub-contractors. Talk to your distributor about getting involved. Contact a floor covering association and your manufacturers for assistance. The FCICA has the FIT program. The WFCA has the RITE program. Labor unions really created the model programs for this industry. You may want to look into their approaches to training.
The point is, do something to elevate the trade. Raising skill levels is an excellent step. It is very frustrating to just get a copy of a copy of a copy when you want an original.