We are getting a lot of feedback on two articles from the August/September issue of FCI – my editorial “Flooring Installation: Where is the Trade Heading?” and a letter to the editor arguing that training is not worth the cost in an extremely competitive industry where end-users always seem to want the cheapest labor but not necessarily the best.

Cheap labor in this industry seems to come mostly in two flavors: Young installers who do not yet realize that cheaply priced installations are no way to make a living, and immigrant workers who are paid incredibly tiny amounts of money for huge amounts of work.

The problems are twofold. Young people will not want to make a career in this industry when they realize there’s no money in it. Likewise, immigrant workers—who make up a growing pool of installers—may be stereotyped as never being up to standards, but many are never given the opportunity to learn the standards to begin with, unless they have the interest and discipline to figure it out on their own. I don’t have the solutions to these issues. People much smarter than me, and who have been in this industry a lot longer than me, are also still coming to grips with how best to respond. All I know is these problems are not going to disappear without some serious work and collaboration among all corners of the industry.

One installer, Paul, wrote that everyone is responsible for the industry devaluing the work of installers, including “the installers who have accepted this practice as the norm, the retailer who has put personal profits in front of quality with minimal respect to the installer, and the big box stores/50%-75% off next-day installers who would rather use bait-and-switch tactics instead of educating the consumer.”

He added, “The installation industry has been a free-for-all with no real structure or sense of itself, wages ranging all over the board, education for the beginner at or near zero, and unqualified people jumping into the industry on a whim when the quantity of work is there and the businesses willing to hire them.”

Another installer, Dean, believes the industry is heading for some tough realizations. “The influx of cheap labor in almost every trade is ruining our ability to make a living. I put a lot of the blame on builders who instead of going to bat for qualified installers take the lowest bid. They are not taking care of their clients.”

As always, I would love to hear your thoughts on the industry and any ideas you may have to help right the ship. You can call me at (603) 791-0215 or e-mail me at chmieleckim@bnpmedia.com. I look forward to hearing from you.