Yes, this is a drum we beat often here atFCI, but it’s so important to the installation industry that you’ll have to forgive me for repeating it: Training and certification are imperative to the long-term health of this industry and the careers of all professional installers and contractors.

I spoke with a wide range of trade groups this month for an industry roundtable on the importance of getting trained and staying trained. All of them mentioned training as essential not just as a belief based on faith, but one based on facts. What facts, you might ask? The facts of callbacks, of shoddy installations that fail within days or weeks, of red-in-the-face end-users screaming about a terrible mess on their hands when they were the ones who went for the lowest bid.

When these instructors train a group of fresh installers and see the light come on in their eyes as they learn new techniques and methods, they have hope for the future of this industry. When they host advanced and expert classes for installers who have been at this for decades but still want to stay ahead of the game, they realize that there are still people out there who look at this as a profession, not just another paycheck.

The writing is on the wall for those who don’t think installation training is key. The ANSI/IICRC S600 standard for both commercial and residential carpet installation is getting closer and closer to being passed, and from what I’ve heard, it will strongly lean toward recommending products be installed by accredited professionals. The tile industry, comprising both union and non-union players, recently launched the Advanced Certifications for Tile Installers program. Additionally, just last month at NeoCon, INSTALL announced its new INSTALL Warranty on Labor program, guaranteeing the work of its INSTALL Certified Contractors.

Aside from all the new programs from trade groups stressing the importance of professional installation are new technologies from manufacturers. At Coverings this year, I saw advances in self-leveling underlayments, grouts, adhesives and mortars. None of these products are the same as they were 30 years ago. New formulations, with advanced polymers and additives, all designed for the new requirements inherent in products like ultra-thin tile and ultra-wide flooring panels. If you think you know without any training how to install a 6mm thick, 5’ by 10’ porcelain slab similar to what Fiandre was displaying at the show, then boy, are you in trouble.

It’s hard to deny that the industry is placing increasing importance on quality installations. So the question becomes, which side of this issue do you want to fall on? Do you want to invest the time and energy to learn something new and be prepared for the future, or do you want to shrug your shoulders, say, “Eh, I’m getting enough work” and do nothing? Right now, it’s still your decision. But if the industry continues to demand more technically advanced installers to work with their technically advanced products and methods, the decision is going to be made for you.

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