Training and Certification: An Industry Roundtable
How important is installation training? Ask most anyone who has seen the results pay off, and they’ll say it’s essential. But for all the men and women who undergo training and certification to better themselves and their profession, there are still thousands of people who think they can wing it, basing their skills on what has worked in the past. We spoke with several leading trade organizations about their take on the state of training in the installation industry today.
CFI. Jim Walker, CEO of International Certified Floorcovering Installers, doesn’t mince words. “There are thousands of installers that do it wrong everyday, and yet they are compensated. It would appear to me that more flooring would be sold if the customer’s expectations were fulfilled and a hassle-free installation with value were delivered every time.”
Most installers do not want to attend training, Walker noted, but get excited once they realize the new skills they’re learning. “Every time we train a new group and the excitement about a very rewarding career when addressed in a professional manner becomes realistic, I know there is a future for training and that keeps the spark going.”
He added that he looks forward to a day when manufacturers make training and certification a requirement to install their products. “If this should ever happen, training will no longer be ignored; the industry will improve and more flooring will be sold.”
CTEF. According to Scott Carothers, director of certification and training for the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation, there is “significant room for growth” for well-trained installers in the tile industry. He said the best way to advance training is to have manufacturers provide incentives “to better-quality installers through pricing discounts and/or extended warranties. This model is already in place and working through the National Tile Contractors Association Five Star Contractor program.”
In order for this approach to work, everyone in the tile industry needs to be on-board, from architects and designers, to manufacturers, distributors and retailers, on to installers themselves, he added. “The best method available to do this is to promote the use of qualified labor, which is now included in the TCNA Handbook, through programs such as the CTEF Certified Tile Installer (CTI) program” as well as the new, industry-wide Advanced Certifications for Tile Installers (ACT).
FCICA. Kimberly Oderkirk FCICA exec vp, said training is needed throughout the industry. “There are a lot of flooring contractors out there and they need training, and then you have owners, managers, installation managers, and installers – all who need different types of training. At FCICA we are setting up a program to train installation managers. These are the people in a company that can make or break a project and with our membership base we have the experts to set up this training program.” The group has also begun doing webinars as another way to train members. “Education and training are very important to us – that’s why it is a part of our mission statement.”
FIANA. Gary Verhey, Floor Installation Association of North America president, also believes in a holistic approach to training. “Training is extremely important to all phases of the flooring distribution channel. Not just the installer, but the manufacturer, distributor, and the retailers’ outside sales, inside sales, and warehouse branch personnel.”
The FIANA University training program targets these people via web-based videos or PowerPoint presentations of products and methods direct from the flooring manufacturers, accessed through an e-mail address login. “There are many courses for the individual to select from. We get the word out via our e-newsletter along with direct e-mail contact with distributor e-mail employee registrations.”
INSTALL. The International Standards & Training Alliance recently unveiled its INSTALL Warranty on Labor, guaranteeing the installation of any carpet, resilient or hardwood floor by an INSTALL Certified Contractor. (See more in this month’s Industry News.)
“We have begun to certify our contractors and we award INSTALL Certified Contractors with the INSTALL Warranty on Labor. We believe in the performance of these INSTALL Certified Contractors so much that we will guarantee their installations. The customer, contractor and installer are all rewarded for their commitment to training,” said John McGrath, INSTALL director.
He added that training should be a key component of learning throughout an installer’s career. “The main misconception is that an experienced installer will not learn from continued training, and this is a dangerous misconception. Knowledge, materials and job site conditions change. Materials change on a yearly basis. Experience may be the best teacher, but you do not want it to be your only teacher.”
NALFA. Bill Dearing, president of the North American Laminate Floor Association, sees training as essential. “An easy way to stay current is through certification classes offered through organizations like NALFA. You will also benefit from direct and privileged access to the technical support services of NALFA members and regular updates of all technical innovations in the laminate flooring world.”
The group holds four Advanced Installer Certification and four Inspector Certification classes yearly, with assistance from major manufacturers including Columbia Flooring, Mannington Mills, Mohawk, Pergo, Quick-Step, Shaw and Torlys.
“Being certified opens up new doors for your career, provides other ways to increase your income, and can lead to other beneficial relationships within the industry. You can profit from networking with some of the best flooring installers and inspectors in the industry.”
NWFA. Michael Martin, National Wood Flooring Association president and CEO, said training not only provides students with the latest information on new technologies and techniques, but also gives them a leg up on their career in another way. “Training gives them a resource for information that they might not otherwise have, such as contact with industry experts who can guide them through difficult installations. Increasing their industry network also provides them with leads for jobs and career advancement.”
Martin said the NWFA’s big push this year has been in expanding its training efforts regionally. “We worked with distributor members and other industry partners to bring training into densely populated areas so that travel costs could be minimized or even eliminated. We also changed from a full-week training format to an a la carte format. It’s an effort to make the training more cost effective, but also more meaningful for the attendee.”
WFCA. Tom Jennings, World Floor Covering Association vp, member services, is passionate about the importance of installation training. “I feel that installation is the only truly unique offering that any dealer has to sell. Since most dealers largely buy product from common suppliers, it is the greatest way that any merchant can distinguish himself from his competition.”
He said there is a long way to go to get more installers trained. “The vast majority of those who call themselves installers have had virtually no formal training. The reality is that they only know the processes of the person that they served as a helper. If these processes are not correct and up to date, we haven’t trained a new installer; we have merely cloned an ineffective one.”
Jennings points to the upcoming ANSI/IICRC S600 Standard and Reference Guide for Professional Carpet Installation as a much-needed corrective in the industry of valuing qualified installers. “I hope that the manufacturers will support these standards in a manner that will give the consumer a greater understanding that all installations are not equal. As the saying goes, ‘If you can’t measure it - you can’t monitor it.’ These standards should go a long way in giving the industry to measure by.”