The flooring installation industry is poised for some exciting changes in the coming year. Now, “change” can be a scary word, but it’s also the only way to evolve and survive. Change is what brings advancements and new ways of thinking to the industry. I’ve been talking lately in this space about how the industry is facing a crisis in unqualified people moving onto professional installers’ turf. That problem is not going to go away overnight. In fact, I often get e-mails from installers who are sick and tired of being treated like bottom-dollar commodities instead of deeply proud craftsmen and -women.

Now, personally, I disagree with the notion that there is only one way to a solution. From what I’ve seen in my 12 and a half years writing about this industry—not to mention in interviews with experts who have been in this industry a lot longer than I have—it takes many years of collaborating, of seeing what works and what doesn’t, to hone an idea to a workable point. And then it takes more time for that idea to take root, be taught to more and more people, until what seemed strange and unique at first has suddenly become commonplace and obvious. At that point, people can begin innovating using that original idea as a foundation. It’s what we really mean when we say things like “technological advancement” or “professional development.”

Professional development in this industry comes in many forms. It can mean forming a new business partnership with someone who becomes a mentor. It can mean polishing your skills and learning the latest techniques through training and certifications from groups including the International Certified Floorcovering Installers Association (CFI), the National Wood Flooring Association (NWFA) and many others. It can also mean something as simple as joining a new profession.

 Recently, a new group has formed in the industry: the Flooring Academy of Specialized Training (FAST) Career Institute. Its goal is to attract a new generation of installers, including younger people and more women, through a quick (six days a week for four weeks) training program in Dalton, Ga., followed by placement with an installer as a flooring apprentice. The apprentice will then work a five-month paid internship with the installer to complete training.

According to Don Barrett, FAST CEO, the idea is to plant seeds so new trees—in the form of a healthier industry—can grow. You can read his words in his guest column in this issue. We’re certainly not saying FAST is the only way to building a career as a flooring installer, but it is heartening to see continued forward momentum as more people grapple with the problem.