In the April issue of FCI, we shared the thoughts of Dan Walker, a retail executive in Illinois. His idea to keep installers informed of the latest issues in the industry included creating a website and database for installers to easily locate industry practices, guidelines and manufacturers’ installation instructions; offer training podcasts organized by flooring type and manufacturer; create an e-newsletter that goes out to all installers featuring industry news, installer education and business-building tips; and launch a problem resolution page that explains, in Walker’s words, “the typical problems experienced by dealers and manufacturers due to installation errors.”

His letter prompted several responses from readers. Retailer Rob Benson said that while the plan was “fantastic in a perfect world,” it was also a “pipe dream.”

“I guess our world in rural West Virginia is way different than his. We have tried to hold installer classes at the local community vo-tech and had one person sign up. And back when manufacturers used to hold area shows with installation classes, I could get no one to go.”

He added, “While some of Walker’s ideas may work for a limited number of current installers, it does not address the shortage of new installers. I wish I had the answer, but skilled laborers in any field are getting harder to find—even with the fairly good income that a quality installer could reap…Our stores plan to shut down because of this ongoing problem.”

Don Ussery, an installer with more than 40 years of experience, lays the blame for the skilled installer shortage squarely on “the carpet industry and retailers, who have neglected the installer for so long and abused their skills.”

Training is not a priority, Ussery said, because “All that is told to workers is ‘Get the job done.’ There is no time for training for different products—so just use what you always use. Common sense doesn’t always fit the job, and neither does what the rep tells you to do.”

He said this attitude extends throughout the industry. “I have worked for mom and pops and big box stores. They are the same. Your skills mean a little, but not enough to demand top pay. The installer is always going to get the short end, whether it’s the [customer’s] complaint or the pay.”

He added that if the industry really wants to help out installers, it needs to stand up for them. “I do not see any company standing up for the installer. If an installer complains, [the attitude is to] just let them go and get another one who won’t complain. If the floor covering industry really wants to help, put your money where your mouth is and start treating your installers like professionals.”