In asking this question, I’m not talking about refresher courses, or presentations made during distributor open houses. I’m talking about training for people who have never installed carpet; sheet goods; resilient or ceramic tile; wood; or laminates.

There are a lot of “old-timers” out there. Just spend a couple of days around the sales counters of floor covering distributors, and you will realize that the pool of trained, experienced installers is beginning to shrink, and will continue doing so during the next 5-10 years.

While reading the last issue of FCI, I spent some time going over the “Installation Training Clinics & Schools” section. Let me give you an idea of what many of the descriptions entail: “…two-day advanced seminar…” “…complete floor covering installation clinics at distributor locations…” “…six-day program for the experienced installer…” “…three-day basic training schools…” “…four-day installation workshop for beginning or intermediate installers…” The remainder of the list follows a similar trend regarding training time, which brings me to my point: What ever happened to the apprentice schools that combined working as a helper with classroom time of two or more years? I think back to the ‘60s and ‘70s, when I worked for Kinkead Industries. I would accompany Lee Klekamp, our installation specialist, to the Washburn Trade School in Chicago, where he conducted courses on carpet installation as part of our contribution to the industry.

Many of those students are still installing carpet in the Chicago area. But what happens when they retire? Where will the people come from to replace them?

I know that most of the resilient manufacturers have training schools, and that their distributors can enroll their installers in classes at manufacturer locations and regional training schools. The same holds true for wood and laminate flooring manufacturers.

However, the majority of carpet manufacturers do not conduct any installation training programs. A few of them will sponsor “CFI Certification” seminars, as will some distributors, but these seminars are intended to test an installer’s capabilities and knowledge, not teach them how to install carpet.

As the industry that reaps the benefits of the sales of more than 70% of the floor covering sold in the United States, I think it is time for the manufacturers of carpet to establish a training school in Dalton, GA., to teach the “Standard Practice for the Installation of Commercial and Residential Textile Floorcovering Materials” as published in CRI 104 and 105. The cost of the program would be more than covered by the amount of money being paid out for installation claims.

On a different subject, as 2000 draws to a close, I would like to take a moment to thank Ron VanGelderen for the leadership he has provided the carpet industry with for the last 20 years. I met Ron in 1990, when I was asked by the Environmental Protection Agency to represent the carpet adhesive industry in the Carpet Policy Dialogue of the Office of Toxic Substances, a yearlong effort that established a procedure to measure TVOC emissions from carpet floor covering products, and to reach an agreement on acceptable emissions levels.

Ron was the driving force that brought the carpet industry, the carpet-cushion industry, and the carpet-adhesive industry together to establish programs to meet EPA expectations. Ron retired in November, but his efforts on behalf of the industry are a legacy that will last for a long time.