As the race to recruit, train and retain the next generation of flooring installers gains momentum, another organization has stepped up to answer the call in their area. On October 10, 2022, the Kentuckian Floor Covering Education Committee (KFCEC) kicked off its first official floor covering education course.
The KFCEC is a Louisville, Kentucky non-profit organization that was founded in January by local contractors, retailers and distributors to provide floor covering training and a career path to the flooring industry. It has partnered with the local Goodwill program who vets each student before they enter the flooring program.
According to Rod Von Busch, founding member and president, KFCEC, and vice president of operations, C.D.I. Floors, “This [program] was designed to boost the number of installers in the Louisville metro area. It’s a local program. That’s not to say that I would not take that out-of-state student. I certainly would. But the goal here is to provide training for and grow the number of installers in the Louisville area. As we expand and grow, I’m sure we will take other students from other areas.”
The 10-week course is the same course as the International Certified Flooring Installers’ (CFI) 5-week carpet class currently being taught in Georgia by Alania Lagatore, owner, All Over Flooring and CFI # 15417. Instead of a concentrated course being taught each day for the duration of the day, the KFCEC course is spread out over ten weeks, so the students can work during the day and attend class at night from 6:00pm to 9:30pm. It’s worth noting that through the Goodwill program, students have access to transportation to and from school to ensure success.
Typically, Goodwill searches for jobs for each student while they are attending class. However, the KFCEC’s program is different. The KFCEC committee members, made up of retailers and contractors, sit down with eight or nine students who have signed up for the Goodwill program, and they choose six for the flooring installation program. Each committee member sponsors a student. Upon completion of the course, each student goes to work for that committee member.
“After two weeks, the sponsors come in, and I put every sponsor name in an envelope and place them on a table and one at a time, the students choose one,” said Von Busch.
The objective with a blind draw is to create a fair and balanced selection process for the students and the employer. Students are guaranteed $18 per hour as a starting wage regardless of which committee member they go to work for, according to Von Busch.
Currently, the KFCEC is focused on carpet installation; however, it will offer classes in resilient, wood and ceramic—all at no cost to the students. “FCEF is providing some of the funding with the balance being paid by the sponsors,” said Von Busch.
There were seven students for the first semester. Six entered through the Goodwill program, and one was brought in by an independent retailer. Currently, every student in the course is between the age of 18 and 28.
The long-term goal for the program is to eventually turn it into an apprenticeship program where, at the end of a 4-year period, they will become a journeyman installer in the flooring category or categories of the student’s choice.
“We are keeping the door open to have the flexibility to do either/or, meaning if a student wants to come in and only wants to learn carpet then go work for someone as a helper, as a carpet installer, that’s fine,” said Von Busch. “If somebody wants to come in and only work on wood or only ceramic or only resilient, we’ve got the flexibility to go in either direction.”
In addition to support from the FCEF, Louisville Tile, Carpet Cushions & Supplies, E.J. Welch and L. Fishman are donating product and supplies to the course. Engineered Floors and Mohawk are supplying flooring. CFI is loaning tools and trainers to the course to keep costs down.
Before settling on its program design, the committee reviewed several other existing education programs, including the ones the FCEF is providing to colleges, universities and training facilities across the country.
“While the program is different than Kaye [Whitener]’s, I certainly want to give Kaye an awful lot of credit for being the inspiration behind this,” said Von Busch. “Everybody has always talked about doing this, but until you see somebody else doing it, you don’t know if you are really capable. What Kaye and Jim [Aaron] have done is pretty damn important.”
The installer shortage is no secret, and the fact that every trade is pulling from the same pool of employees is widely known; however, what is surprising is the actual size of the employee pool.
“The bottom line is either you grow the installation pool, or you keep raising your prices every year to try and compete with other retailers and contractors because the pool is too small for us to have our share,” said Von Busch.
As for the future of the program, the committee hopes to implement the program at the high school level where they will have the opportunity to introduce youth to another trade.
The next class will take place in January and will focus on the resilient category.
KFCEC is seeking qualified instructors for each of the flooring categories.
If you are interested in attending or teaching, please reach out to Rod Von Busch: firstname.lastname@example.org.