FCI Editorial Director Jon Namba led a recent discussion on a hot industry topic: finding and retaining employees. Weighing in, Michael Martin, president and CEO, National Wood Flooring Association; Jim Hieb, CEO, National Stone Institute; and Bart Bettiga, executive director, National Tile Contractors Association, shared experiences and recommendations—from an association’s point of view—that we think you’ll find helpful as you grow and strengthen your teams and businesses.

1. Recruit Locally

  • Apprenticeships
  • Trade schools
  • Internships
  • Temp agencies
  • Employee recruitment incentives

Bettiga: If our associations are going to be successful, it needs to be a grassroots approach. That can involve a lot of different ways, but our associations can support our members locally with the programs that we have. One example we’ve got is, a member of ours in Alabama is working with 12 local high schools to develop an apprenticeship in that area.

Martin: In Wisconsin, we work with one of our members to put our curriculum in a high school carpentry program. What we’ve found is that, if a high school has a carpentry program, they are very open to supporting wood flooring training at their school. Typically for a carpentry program, they may be building a house as part of that process and we can go in and do the installation through the high school and that’s real-life experience for the students.

Hieb: We had a member in Connecticut that had been working with local community colleges to hire interns to come into their stone company, and that same company was very active with our Women in Stone initiative, which its mission is to recruit, retain and advance women in the industry, but this internship program is gender neutral. What we did is, we took that platform and we created a syllabus that had everything from assignments to evaluations to courses on stone and stone applications, and then we rolled it out to the general membership. We housed that internship model on our online university and we are very proud to say that since March of 2020, we’ve had a number of stone companies download that curriculum and they are deploying in their local companies.

2. Federal Programing 

  • Visa program
  • Apprenticeship grants
  • Back to work programs

Martin: The federally funded Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act provides some wage assistance when employing the unemployed or the underemployed. The apprenticeships are available for funding through the Veterans Administration—that happens once your program is registered in the state—then the apprenticeship is eligible for GI Bill funding.

3. Association Training Opportunities

  • Webinars and online libraries
  • Onsite education
  • Conferences
  • Industry suppliers 

Bettiga: Our online university has been highly successful for us. For the sole proprietor members of ours that are using the courses to train and better educate themselves, to the mid-size companies that have 10-15 employees that are using it on weekly and monthly meetings to do training, to show the video and the practice it right at their warehouse, all the way to our larger contractors who are doing full scale apprenticeships.

Hieb: We’ve recognized how education is deployed in the field. That next generation of employee is very comfortable with online learning and so forth, so we do see a lot of single user use on our platform, but we also designed the program recognizing that not every employee in the field has their own computer, much less their own email address. We built it so that you can put your employee in front of a computer to do the online learning, or you can download the resources and administer that course in a group setting.

Martin: We’ve had an online university now for almost five years and we’ve completed right at 90,000 total courses during those five years, so we know it works. Since this is all an evolution, we are working with some companies to personalize their own employees’ training experience, where they can brand their own learning platform with some of their own training, or we can help them create that training, and then use ours as part of theirs so it’s co-branded. They have the professionalism of the National Wood Flooring Association behind their training and they know that’s the industry standard, yet they can also integrate some of their company needs as well.