We received a provocative response to one of our columns about the skilled installation crisis recently, and I thought it was worth taking time to respond.
Here is the comment, left on our website: ‘The so-called ‘installation crisis’ is really about the self-proclaimed ‘poor’ grumbling that they’re hungry. (I’m not insensitive to actual poverty and hunger as they are genuine problems.) What’s downright ridiculous is the attention the flooring industry and this installer publication in particular spends on the outcries of penny-pinching dealers of luxury. There are plenty of qualified, talented installers in the industry; there is a lack of these same installers willing to work for dealers crying poverty with a turkey under each arm. It’s not an installation crisis per se. It’s the T-Rex syndrome—too many dealers with short arms and deep pockets.”
If I’m reading this comment correctly, the writer believes there isn’t a crisis at all—just retailers crying foul because they can’t continue to charge bottom dollar for qualified installers. So they manufactured a phony “crisis” to give weight to the fact that these qualified people are out of their reach.
It’s an interesting perspective, and it is quite possible that a percentage of dealers are doing nothing more than griping and using those gripes as leverage against installers. However, that line of thinking also misses the point of what this crisis is actually about, and why industry and installation experts were convened last year to address it.
Leaving out the often-fraught relationship between dealers and installers entirely, the biggest issue discussed during last year’s Installation Summit was the continued graying of the industry and a lack of new installers coming in. The action plan that came out of the summit centered on ways to attract the next generation of installers through a variety of means, including more outreach at the high school level and marketing the trade as a satisfying and creative way to make a living.
Did wages come up during the discussion? Yes, but not on an individual basis—more as a collective ill that can put the damper on a potential candidate wanting to join the flooring trade when other trades may offer more money. However, this was seen as only one of many obstacles that may keep a young person out of the industry—not the defining characteristic.
While I agree with the commenter that yes, there are plenty of qualified installers out there, how many of them are getting older and creakier? And who will replace them when they retire? According to the many installers, contractors, instructors and experts I’ve chatted with, that is the root of the crisis.