The Floor Covering Education Foundation (FCEF) just returned from the American School Counselor Association (ASCA) Annual Convention in Austin, Texas where it represented the flooring industry as a potential career option. The ASCA convention brings school counselors, college professors and school counseling supervisors together to network and share best practices. This year’s convention focused on a myriad of topics. Among them was career development, career readiness and career opportunities.

Attending the convention positioned the FCEF in the direct path of middle and high school counselors to showcase the flooring industry's many career opportunities. According to Kaye Whitener, director of operations, the interactions with school counselors was valuable. This experience combined with the organization’s efforts over the last 15 months has yielded a number of open and sincere conversations that boil down to a hefty to-do list for the industry.

Whitener points out the need for workforce sustainability through education and training programs as well as through industry support is a must; this not only benefits the flooring manufacturers, retailers and installers but also requires their help. Secondly, it is imperative to elevate the trade itself, citing that for many years, flooring installation, and all trades for that matter, have been poorly viewed. This includes the perception that trade careers are second to a four-year college education and therefore, reserved only for those who cannot succeed in college. Lastly, the industry must recognize the importance of training and certifications as a way to bolster the incoming and the current flooring installation workforce.

The message that a four-year degree is the only path to a successful career has been reinforced over and over. However, that attitude is changing and, according to Whitener, this convention shone light on this shift. “[School counselors], just like us, are faced with the same thing; we know we messed up saying that all kids needed to go to a four-year college,” she said. “If you will be running your own company, you need to go to college, but do it on your own terms and not because you feel you have to do it to have a great future. But you still have to continue your education. What that education looks like may not be in a college setting, but you need to continually grow your skillset and your business knowledge.”

When asked about those who feel the FCEF is not moving fast enough, Whitener says they are at the point of talking about solutions and no longer mulling over the problems. “I’ve been in the industry for 38 years, and [the installation shortage] has never been addressed except in small pockets in different places,” she said. “So, for the industry coming together for the very first time, it’s acclimating itself on how to move forward. It’s just going to take us some time to really see some major results, but I’m excited about the results we’ve seen in 15 months.”

Whitener points out that ultimately “we’ve gotta get outside of our industry and start talking to the public about what we can offer them.”

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