Robert Varden, the founder and CEO of the newly formed, nonprofit Unite Floor Training Alliance, welcomed its first slate of board members, as well as others in attendance via teleconference, originating from Unite offices in Rockwall, Texas on January 3, 2023.

“As a 501(c) 3 association, Unite itself will do no training,” Varden acknowledged. “Unite is all about collaborating the training entities and promoting those training entities for what they do best. If we work together, there's so much more we can do than each of us in our independent training entities.”

The installation crisis in the flooring industry is very real, Varden observed. “We’ve got installers leaving the business at a faster rate than we can replenish them with new, trained installers.” Recalling his observations at past “Build My Future” events for high schoolers, he added, “The secret is for young people to first, be made aware of the installation trade and second, engage them where they are.”

Board member Lew Migliore added, “I think that if you can show these young people that there's opportunity for them to be creative—not just talk to them about it but let them see what they can accomplish. That is something that I think is going to have far more effect on them.”

In addition to the new Board members, Varden also introduced a new hire for Unite: Amy Carter, as administrative assistant.

The new Board of Directors of Unite represents leadership from across the flooring industry:

  • Sonny Callahan, co-founder and chair of the National Association of Floor Covering Technicians (Paul Pleshek, alternate)
  • Tom Cartmell, Branch Sales Manager, Diverzify
  • Val Chestohin, Lead Floorcovering Instructor for the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades’ District Council 16
  • Seth Gladden, Director of Marketing, Industrial Flooring Division, Meridian Adhesives Group/Taylor Adhesives
  • Kevin Keefe, National Technical Sales Manager, QEP Roberts
  • Ken Kennedy, Director of Technical Services, The Dixie Group
  • Larry Marvel, Field Services Technical Representative, Tarkett
  • Lew Migliore, Founder and President, LGM and Associates
  • Brett Miller, VP Technical Standards, National Wood Flooring Association
  • Danny Sherman, Technical Trainer, NFIC (Jonathan Varden, alternate)
  • Andrew Smith, West Coast Customer Relations Manager, Engineered Floors

The first formal Board of Directors meeting will be held within the next 30 days, according to Varden.

For more information about Unite Floor Training Alliance, contact Robert Varden at rvarden@ifcta.org.