FCEF Holds First Flooring Futures Summit

Dalton, GA, September 21, 2022-With the industry losing an estimated 5,000 to 6,000 installers each year and the average age of an installer at 56 years old, the Floor Covering Education Foundation (FCEF) is working to stem the tide of a full-blown crisis by promoting the trade through awareness and educational resources.

FCEF's first Flooring Futures Summit, held yesterday at the Dalton, Georgia Convention Center, drew a crowd of roughly 50 industry attendees from across the country. Those in attendance heard from a variety of leaders including Shaw's Herb Upton, the Resilient Floor Covering Institute's Bill Blackstock and FCEF board chair and retail veteran Don Roberts, as well as representatives of FCEF's training programs. 

FCEF currently offers a five-week course through Goodwill Industries' technical school in Augusta and Macon, Georgia, as well as a recently accredited ten-week program at Dalton State through the Technical College System of Georgia that is in the works of being replicated at other technical schools across the country.

FCEF director of operations Kaye Whitener said two additional schools in Georgia are already confirmed and another ten to 12 nationwide are projected to come online in January. Conversations have begun with four additional Georgia schools in the hopes of bringing them on next academic year, she added, explaining that it takes about six months from the time the conversation starts until they are ready to take the program live.

Start-up costs for each school are roughly $62,000, though donations of tools and materials can help offset that. Whitener said the organization just rented a warehouse in Dalton to be able to store the truckloads of flooring materials that have been donated so far, and the hope is to be able to pull from an ongoing supply in order to furnish each new class.

In the ten-week program, students learn the basics of carpet, resilient, hardwood and ceramic, while the five-week program focuses on carpet. Both programs had full first classes, and the recent graduates are now working in the field. 

Representatives acknowledged that the training is not meant to make the students fully qualified installers but to give them an introduction to the industry and equip them with the basics so that they can hopefully continue learning in the field. However, FCEF executive director Jim Aaron and Goodwill director of career development Bernadette Fortune said they've run into issues with companies not wanting to pay them a fair wage.

Companies are needed to provide equitable employment opportunities, outfit classes with tools, materials and sample room design schematics, and partner with local colleges in their area to help get more programs off the ground, but Whitener said the biggest need is financial donations. FCEF offers scholarships of up to $2,500 to help accepted students with academic expenses not covered by available state and federal grants.

Just to provide scholarships to the 5,000 to 6,000 new installers needed each year would cost $12.5 million to $15 million.

Related Topics:Shaw Industries Group, Inc.