Scott Halloran, a 35-year veteran of the floor covering industry and currently an operations manager for a mid-sized commercial flooring company based in Scottsdale, Ariz., wrote in to share his thoughts on the lack of qualified professionals in the installation trade. He stated:

“Here in my state, we struggle with a shortage of skilled labor. There are many contributing factors. We are a ‘right to work’ state—no union representation or apprenticeship training. The majority of installers have never received any professional, organized training or classroom educational training. They just practice what they’ve learned from fellow untrained workers. This leads to an ever-growing population of unskilled, uneducated and unprofessional workers.

“Our proximity to an international border is also a major contributor. Although this affects every state to some degree, it’s magnified along our Southern states. Our neighbors to the south are some of the hardest working individuals I’ve ever hired and worked alongside with for many years. I’ve personally trained many of them and they are now earning a good living with solid reputations locally—but this is the exception, not the rule, by a long shot.

“A lack of compassion, cooperation and communication on both sides only exasperates the problem in the floor covering industry. Owners, contractors and dealers all recognize and acknowledge there is an issue, but I have yet to meet anyone in my industry talking about a solution.

“Why not put our collective thoughts and ideas into words/actions? This is a problem that will never solve itself. In my current role as an operations manager, I deal with this issue daily—a non-stop struggle to find and retain a skilled workforce. I have no employees who can communicate effectively with the installers we hire to work for us. Should I force them to learn a second language? Do I fire an employee and replace them with a bilingual one?

“I can’t force my installers to learn to read and write English. Do I discriminate and only hire installers who can? As I stated earlier, we are already facing a crisis of unskilled labor and a shortage from a very limited pool. None of these scenarios are good for the success of our business or the employees I manage. If I became more selective, I couldn’t staff one large-scale project, let alone eight simultaneously. I would be out of a job in a week.

“I know I’m not the only person struggling with this issue. So what’s the solution? How do we change attitudes and accepted practices, and break through this complacency?”

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