By Robert Blochinger
Why is there so little participation from installers when it comes to training? Recently in south Florida, two seminars were held for flooring installers – one on concrete moisture, the other on self-leveling cements.
The first class was a generic three-hour presentation on actual jobsites with photos, explaining the moisture issues that you would encounter. The causation of moisture, testing and remediation methods were explained as well. The other was a product-specific class (1.5 hours) on how to calculate quantity; mix and pour, and finish of Portland cement-based product. Both seminars included demonstrations and hands-on time.
The moisture seminar cost $75 to attend. It was held on a Saturday morning at a local sundry distributor classroom, and included a reward coupon of $50 towards the purchase of a quality meter. End cost: $25. The other class was free, held on a Friday afternoon at a distributor’s location. Both of these courses are necessary for achieving a successful installation.
Again, two different days and times, two different locations, two different distributors, two different counties, with two different price factors (minimal and free). Each class was advertised for 90 days in advance via posted flyers, email, and social media. The attendance? Four people at the moisture class, 1 at the self-level.
What is it you fear? Taking time off from work? Loss of a few hours of pay? Fear of getting smarter? A language barrier? Fear of inability to use the information in your daily task? Fear you won’t get paid more for the knowledge you just gained? Fear of doing a task the right way? Advancement within your trade? What is the basis of your fear? Thoughts of wasting your time? Interferes with fishing?
If you have a name for this fear, let me know! The cost of these classes is immeasurable! Installers need the correct information to perform the work properly the first time. Why is there always time to repair or perform the task a second time, but not the first?
Fear is really a cover word for ignorance of the facts, the unknown. I’ve been afraid and it’s a dangerous feeling, similar to when your first child is born. It doesn’t come with an instruction manual, so how will I perform as a parent?
Also consider the fear factor when you join the military. Fear strikes when you first wear the uniform in a training exercise. However, with education and training, fear is overcome. Keep in mind training is the how-to, and education is the why.
Granted, one must know their own limitations to perform a task beyond a perceived skill level. Obviously, with a base level and continuing education with training, those limitations are erased and replaced with confidence. Confidence improves levels of workmanship, production, earnings and finally, self-satisfaction in performance.
Now, if taking time off for training and education is your fear, in terms of earning, then ask your employer, supervisor or shop owner for compensation. Perhaps the cost of the training class could be split. Present the case with positive elements of why you should go, the knowledge you will gain and how you intend to put that knowledge to use daily. Also explain your intention to pass on the information you have learned to others – improving the team’s workmanship and production.
Providing installation services for many years and not attending continuing education is neither wise nor prudent for your bottom line. Every other trade and profession requires continuing education and training, so what makes you think it’s not relative to flooring installation? Carpet cleaners have been doing this for years. As a result, they’ve expand their service offerings to include furniture, drapes, ceramic tile/stone, as well as being on top of the various chemical agents used for different fibers.
Receiving on-the-job training (OJT) as the only learning opportunity is not the final answer for the training and education. OJT is limited to the knowledge of the supervisor or trainer! Formal classroom attendance will give you the why of the task, not just the how. In today’s world, using language barrier as a reason not to attend is an excuse since most classes provide a translator or manuals in your first language.
The floor covering industry has the most unique task and product-specific tool and equipment set within the construction trade. Not only must we know how to use our tools and equipment correctly, but we must also know chemicals, fibers, dyeing, handling, storage, substrate and environmental conditions, detailed math (measure, pattern repeat), adhesives, and so on. How can we participate in a complete installation when there is critical information missing due to the lack of education and training?
The newly updated CRI 104/105, which has been translated into Spanish, gives basic generic guidelines. However, it is not the final word for installation, as detailed instruction is still required to perform your craft. Not just in the generic sense, but from the detailed pieces of information from product manufacturers. As new products hit the market, such as sustainable products or carpet backings, you need to understand each product’s specific purpose, installation method and procedure. Don’t find out about a new product’s methods after the failure of the installation. Just reading the instructions on the adhesive can or the flyer that comes with the carpet roll is not only insufficient, it’s already too late!
Thankfully, there are several national level education programs offered by professional flooring installation organizations, such as: Certified Flooring Installers, (CFI); INSTALL from the United Brotherhood of Carpenters (UBC); Natural Fiber Installation Certification (NFIC); the Flooring Contractors Association (FCICA); and of course, there is always product-specific education, updates and training offered by the manufacturers. Look to your local distributor for updates on products, or the dealer you work for in finding support and education classes. All programs will cost time and treasure, however, the real cost is the loss of your education, skill level advancement, future earnings and promotion.
Ultimately, it’s your responsibility to educate yourself; no one can force you or decide for you but yourself. If you don’t take the reins now, then it’s your loss. Inevitably, someone who takes the responsibility to educate themselves will replace you.