I don’t envy the Floor Covering Leadership Council (FCLC). They took on a very big job when they convened their Installation Summits over the past few years to tackle the issue of bringing more qualified installers into the workforce.
The first Summit, held in Dallas in 2016, was full of energy and enthusiasm. It featured passionate back-and-forth discussion between installers, contractors and manufacturers. The industry experts on-hand hammered out a roadmap to help come to a multi-tiered solution. Back then, the labor gap was called by some parties—including me—an “installation crisis.”
The term “crisis” points to a major issue that requires immediate action to solve. As we can most all agree, the action has definitely not been immediate. At this point we’re so used to the labor gap that it’s much less a “crisis” and much more the status quo.
To its credit, the FCLC struck at this issue when it was at its most visible. The trade press (FCI included) weighed in constantly. Trade shows featured panels and discussions on recruiting and retaining a qualified labor pool. What’s changed in the three years since? Not much. Maybe the media focuses on the issue a little less than we used to, but trade shows still regularly fill the seats with discussions about finding qualified installers.
My colleague, Tanja Kern, attended the recent FCLC meeting in Dalton, Ga, where results from a survey commissioned by the FCLC and conducted by The Blackstone Group were shared. The survey paints a scary picture about the financial burden incurred through the installation gap.
Installers are probably rolling their eyes at this point and saying “What else is new?” Well, here’s why I don’t envy the FCLC. It’s very easy for me (and you) to pass judgment on the molasses-like crawl of progress. But the FCLC needs these hard numbers to start swaying the manufacturers, retailers and contractors to their side. It’s a very slow game of applying pressure and knowing when to back off; in short, it’s politics—and that never creates immediate results.
While the FCLC is working on the issue from their end, my advice is to start working on it from yours. If you’re a contractor, get involved with the local high school to get kids interested in the trade. If you’re a seasoned installer, take someone under your wing who’s just starting out. And if you’re an installation manager, treat your crew with respect and make them not only want to work for you but get their friends involved as well. The labor gap is not going to solve itself. It’s time for all of us to act.