FCEF’s continued progress requires support.
The Floor Covering Education Foundation (FCEF) was established to address the installation crisis plaguing our industry. I became its executive director in March of 2021 and I’ve seen, experienced and learned a lot since then. It’s been two years of building the foundation of a foundation, building exposure for the initiative, researching successful programs by other trades, building and executing a replicable plan and … adjusting expectations.
In less than two years, we’ve facilitated the development of the industry’s first comprehensive Basic Floor Covering Installation course for implementation into technical colleges. This program now carries college credits through the accreditation at Georgia Northwestern Technical College. This is historic for our industry. After two successful pilots, it’s now running full time in two Georgia colleges. In addition, we have commitments from five more colleges across the U.S. to begin the program in 2023. We’ve proven we have a plan that works!
But in those two years, I’ve also witnessed a lack of urgency on the installation crisis issue primarily from those not directly or currently impacted.
We are extremely grateful to our founding partners: Shaw, Mohawk, Engineered Floors, the WFCA and the others that have stepped up since then. But there are many others that aren’t supporting FCEF. For example, while there are 11 total manufacturers and distributors currently financially supporting the FCEF, that represents less than 3 percent of all the exhibitors present on the TISE show floor in 2023.
Recently, someone shared this opinion with me: “The reason more manufacturers aren’t financially supporting the FCEF is because they haven’t been negatively impacted by the crisis yet. Their sales numbers over the last few years are good. This issue won’t really get their attention until their numbers start declining and the reason can be directly attributed to this issue.”
I sure hope that’s not true. I can tell you with 100 percent certainty that if that’s the case, it will be too late, and this industry will be changed forever. A powerful storm is coming regarding installation labor. It will be further accentuated by an overall decrease in job participation rates, an aging workforce and competition from other trades who are more well known, greater funded and better organized than ours. The time to act is now.
I’ve spent time researching successful programs utilized by other trades. This has opened my eyes to how far behind our industry is compared to others in addressing the need for skilled installation labor. Industries like plumbing, electric, HVAC and automotive repair have long ago developed programs where the entire industry financially supports the recruiting and training of the next generation of craftsmen. This is new to the flooring industry. I get it — change is hard. But as Jack Welch (CEO of GE) said, “It’s easier to change before you have to.”
2023 will be a pivotal year for the FCEF. To grow, replicate the technical college program across North America, and provide scholarships for recruit trainees, we need the entire industry’s support. And by support, yes, I mean financial support. And when I say the entire industry, yes, I mean the entire industry. That includes all parts of the supply chain — manufacturers, distributors, retailers, buying groups, etc. We must follow the lead of other industries that are already decades ahead of us on this issue.
A list of donors to the FCEF can be found at this link: fcef.org/about-fcef/donors/. If you are a distributor or manufacturer not yet supporting the FCEF, what are you waiting for? This is your customers’ biggest issue. Show them you care about what’s important to them by getting on board. The time to act is now!