Floor Covering Education Foundation Board Meeting Underway Now

Chattanooga, TN, November 10, 2021--The Floor Covering Education Foundation (FCEF) board has been meeting this week in Chattanooga, Tennessee to discuss its start-up and progress on tackling the installer shortage crisis.

This meeting--the first face to face since the pandemic commenced--is being run by Jim Aaron, executive director of the Foundation. The board is comprised of an acclaimed group of flooring industry thinkers. 

Based on a 2018 study for the now-disbanded Floor Covering Leadership Council, the International Certified Flooring Installers Association estimates that approximately 180,000 installers must be added over the next ten years to keep up with industry growth. 

“Failure at this time is not an option,” FCEF chairman Don Roberts said during today’s board meeting. “We’ve got a whole industry counting on us to succeed. It isn’t just manufacturers’ problem to solve, it isn’t just dealers’ problem to solve, it isn’t just retailers’ problem to solve, it’s everyone’s problem to solve."

Started with $1 million in seed money from the World Floor Covering Association in 2020-and since augmented with funds from three major backers: Engineered Floors, Mohawk and Shaw-the foundation is focused on developing means of recruiting and training for the future. In addition to building awareness of the opportunities and benefits of being a flooring installer, FCEF offers scholarships for those interested in joining the industry. Through Q3 this year, the foundation gave $58,595 in scholarships to 24 recipients. 

Goodwill Industries handed out nearly double the number of scholarships as the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation and CFI combined. Of the 15 scholarship recipients through Goodwill, “there are maybe five or six that didn’t go into the industry,” reported FCEF director of operations Kaye Whitener, “though some were absorbed by local retailers,” she added. 

“The retention rate is directly correlated to the vetting and recruiting process,” said CFI vice president Robert Varden.

As the foundation ramps up, it will begin examining its partnerships with organizations like Goodwill and CFI to better allocate its funding. “We will shift money to the ones that are successful,” said FCEF board member Steve Abernathy, who serves as CFO of WFCA. “We will not stay in a program that only yields 60% to 70%."

FCEF executive director Jim Aaron stressed that the foundation is very much still in the start-up phase and will smooth out kinks as it grows. With nearly 30% of this year’s operating expenses dedicated to marketing and advertising, a large portion of which went to establishing a website (fcef.org), “I think you will see the foundation is going to reap a lot more rewards,” Roberts said.

The ultimate goal, Roberts added, is to get dealers engaging with local schools to share their experience with students in the hope of attracting more to the industry. “After eight months in this role, I’m convinced there’s not a single solution that exists that can be solved without a lot of volunteers at the local level,” said Aaron.

The shortage of qualified installers is costing retailers. In an informal survey of 143 retailers of all sizes conducted by the foundation, 64.5% said they could grow their business up to 25% if they had enough installers and 29% said they could grow their business up to 50%. Eighty-two percent reported a shortage of qualified laborers. 

“We could certainly sell more if we were able to install it,” said Deb DeGraaf, co-owner of Michigan’s DeGraaf Interiors and WFCA board member, adding, “Better quality is higher profitability.”

Related Topics:Floor Covering Leadership Council , Engineered Floors, LLC, Mohawk Industries, Shaw Industries Group, Inc.