FCEF focused on taking its message to the streets
IIf the Floor Covering Education Foundation (FCEF) wasn’t already on your radar, it should definitely be top of mind now. The group, whose primary mission is to bring together representatives from all aspects of the flooring industry to address the installation crisis, has made the rounds at virtually all major flooring industry conferences and trade shows to raise awareness and support for the cause. increase.
“There is no panacea; solving the installation crisis requires multiple efforts on multiple fronts,” said Jim Aaron, who took the lead as executive director of FCEF earlier this year to lead the group’s mission of addressing the shortage of flooring workers.
Indeed, the goal of FCEF requires a joint approach. The group has partnered with leading trade associations and conference organizers to network with professionals representing different segments of the industry and brainstorm with opinion leaders on ways to recruit, train and place flooring installers. A prime example of this effort was the group’s participation in the recent National Wood Flooring Association (NWFA) Expo, which coincided with Coverings, the largest North American ceramic tile and stone exhibition, in Orlando.
“Labour and material shortages remain a concern for many,” said Michael Martin, NWFA president and CEO, during a panel discussion with representatives from FCEF. “In addition to the labor gap that we have been dealing with for years, the pandemic has additional impact. NWFA is working with FCEF to develop strategies to attract and train new employees as we move forward.”
That spirit of cooperation is inherent in FCEF’s dealings with other parties and clients. Last June, FCEF held its first in-person board meeting with Aaron at the helm on Surfaces. Topics of discussion included ways to recruit and identify potential recruits, fundraising goals and initiatives, as well as marketing. “Each board member brings a different perspective to the table,” he noted. “We all agree that solving the installer shortage is essential to the continued success of the industry.”
Prior to the board meeting, several board members and the FCEF leadership met with representatives from the Technical College System of Georgia (TCSG) and representatives from the state of Georgia. Aaron and the FCEF executives said they feel strongly that floors are not being laid, as a study of high schools and technical colleges has perpetuated the constant decline in the number of floor installers available. The discussion focused on how floors can become part of the curriculum offered at TCSG schools across Georgia. “We are exploring all options in our quest to showcase the floor trading opportunities,” Aaron said. “If we can make this work in Georgia, we can replicate the program across the country.”
Industry members are encouraged by what they are seeing so far. “It’s exciting to see this all come together,” said Bill Gaddis, FCEF board member and vice president of strategic sales at Mohawk Industries. “After years of discussion of the issue and a delay due to COVID-19, we are excited to see action and all that Jim has accomplished in his first few months.” To date, thanks to more than 100 sponsors and donors, FCEF has announced 24 scholarship recipients for a total of $57,000 (approximately $2,500 per scholarship).
Continuing the momentum FCEF has generated so far, Aaron noted, will require a more sustained effort coupled with face-to-face meetings with interested parties and institutions. FCEF said it plans to continue participating in upcoming flooring industry events, encouraging participants to visit FCEF members to learn more about how they can be part of the solution.
“We’re starting to make progress,” Aaron said. “But we can’t do it alone. This is an industry problem and it will take industry support to solve it.”