Ceramic Tile Education Foundation’s (CTEF) Scott Carothers responded to our Letter to the Editor last month about whether training is worth the cost. He writes:

“While I agree that many installers are underpaid, much of the low pay is due to the survival mode many of us have had to endure in the lackluster economy of the last seven years. However, the economy is turning around and good work is becoming more plentiful. The new and real problem is that in many areas there is not enough qualified labor to meet the demand.

“Speaking only for CTEF, an existing quality-oriented ceramic tile installer can receive training and certification while not incurring the costs of travel, hotels, meals and course expenses. CTEF through the Certified Tile Installer (CTI) program provides incentives with the help of major manufacturers that see the value of certification and its benefit to the industry. Upon successful completion of the written and hands-on CTI tests, the tile installer receives a coupon package which is provided through the generosity of tile-related manufacturers that covers not only the cost of the certification exams, but also their day’s wages while completing the hands-on test and money left over to place in his or her pocket.

“The letter’s point of training salespeople (and others in the trade) is also well taken. Everyone involved in this industry process including the architect, specifier, manufacturer, distributor, retailer, designer and the installer needs to do their part. If one piece of this chain is broken, the industry gets a black eye. CTEF also provides a home-study training program, Fundamentals in Thin Bed Knowledge (FTBK), which includes a tile knowledge test to bring these folks up to speed and hence, do a better job.

“As to always losing the job to the low bidder, the short answer is don’t bid in that arena. I realize that is the easy answer for a difficult situation, but if an installer places a labor bid based solely on a square footage price, they will almost always lose. In just about every market, there is the guy down the street who will undercut your price by a quarter and get the job.

“But, if he or she were to bid the total cost of the job (labor and materials) along with providing their certification documents, documentation of completed manufacturer’s training, a list of the industry accepted methods being used on the job and certificates of insurance, the consumer now has a bid package on which other bidders will be judged. This method may sound as though you are giving away all your secrets, but you are not. You are providing the consumer with a tangible number that means something. Unfortunately, the unsuspecting consumer doesn’t know or understand what they are not getting with the low bid. Tell them what you are providing and why your price is higher.  Sell them on quality not low price.

“This method will also combat the ‘free labor’ advertising issue. Bidding the entire package places your price in direct competition with the free labor price (with all its add-ons and extras) and many times, you will get the job. However, there is one part of your bid that you NEVER reveal: your material quantities.

“Get out of the low bid whirlpool, change your bidding technique and step up to the better and higher paying jobs.”