Installers needed!

State of the industry remains the same

Lee Senter, CFCRA president

I was on the phone with the president of the National Institute of Certified Floorcovering Inspectors (NICFI), Bob Blochinger, recently talking about the state of our industry. Bob is the head of a couple of other industry groups, including the consortium that is investigating the labour market and more specifically the shortage of flooring installers.

From what I understand, in North America, with the normal attrition in the industry we are still going to be short 20,000 installers each year.

How are we going to make up for this? Well one of the major ways will be do-it-yourself installations, and another will be products that are easier and faster to install such as Mohawk’s Air-O.

But this will not solve the problem of the shortage of installers. Industry associations such as the International Certified Flooring Installers (CFI) have classes all over America and the CFCRA implements the program in Canada. But getting attendees is for these classes is very hard. I am really unsure what to do about it.

I am writing this column today for the purpose of saying — what is wrong with us? We know there is a lack of installers. We know the current group of installers is often lacking the basic skills to install floorcoverings. We are replacing floors for simple issues that should never have occurred.

Some retailers are often scared to get angry with installers because retailers just find it hard to find any installer, let alone a good one. We say we cannot afford to train our guys? We say we cannot free up the time to let our installers go to class for two to eight days at a time? We are afraid that the installers we train will leave and we will not get a return on our investment?

Look! At this point we are in such a bad shape that the price of sending an installer to a two-day certification class at $25/hr. for two days is $500, plus tuition of $395. That’s under $900, and we are worried about investing this much into our industry? It’s the industry that matters. It’s the end result of what happens to the floor that you, your family, your friends, your clients and the whole dang world buys that matters. This investment is a pittance and until we get some basic skills out there, the lack of skill will continue to spiral out of control.

The CFCRA is looking at multiple memoranda of understanding with other groups in an effort to be able to get the word out on training. One of the most interesting is the potential to work with ISSA Canada. ISSA is a huge international cleaning association with a lot of resources. They can help on the cleaning side (which is not much better than the installation side of the business) and they can help with administration. But it is the manufacturers and distributors that need to help the dealers and their installers. I do not believe product-specific training is enough.

It has been my experience that the installers only want to listen to other more experienced installers who can explain how to do the installation without taking a lot more time. I remember when we had a series of install classes at Rosedale in Mississauga and a few good-old-boys came up from Dalton, Ga., to show us how it was done. They pointed out that to properly powerstretch the carpet it would take an extra 20 minutes to install three rooms. Twenty minutes! Still there was a lot of grumbling, like doing things correctly was not worth it for 20 – 40 minutes extra per job.

I just wish we would turn this attitude around and say — we just have to do it correctly. We should treat every single job like it was your mother’s house. (Hopefully you love your mother.)

Now this is a big white elephant in this room so to speak. But you know how you eat a big elephant? A little bit at a time. The industry itself, all companies, need to make a bit of a budgetary adjustment this year and ensure that our installers’ skills are improved. It’s the least we can do. Because otherwise, what will the state of our industry be in, say, five years?

The CFCRA will be holding the CFI installation classes again in the New Year and we would love your thoughts on what would make it work best for you, so you can do your little bit in making our industry as a whole a bit better.

The Canadian Flooring Cleaning and Restoration Association (CFCRA) was preceded by the Flooring Institute of Ontario (FIO), a not-for-profit organization which proudly served the needs of flooring industry professionals in Ontario since 1962.

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