FCEF, GNTC pilot program gains accreditation

By Ken Ryan—Students are one step closer to becoming flooring installers thanks to a partnership between the Floor Covering Education Foundation (FCEF) and Georgia Northwestern Technical College (GNTC) that has recently received accreditation.

Starting this fall, students enrolled at GNTC’s Dalton campus can sign up for a 3-credit course (FI-41 – Flooring Installation Technician)—on a path to a technical certificate of credit.

The 15-week program will include 3 credit hours per discipline, which is carpet, resilient, hardwood and tile for a total of 12 credit hours per program.

FCEF said it hopes the accredited program at GNTC’s Dalton campus will serve as a springboard to the technical college’s 22 sister campuses throughout Georgia and then on to other states. “We are extremely excited about this announcement and what it means for our industry,” said Kaye Whitener, director of operations, FCEF. “So many opportunities will come from this first open door, and we will be able to also support the industry’s certifying associations and help lift their voice for additional training and certifications.”

The inaugural 10-week pilot program started Jan. 10, 2022, with eight students, all of whom completed the course. Instructor Dave Garden, a CFI Master II-certified installer, said, “these kids were willing to learn mostly because they wanted to be there.”

In fact, one student traveled from his home in Cincinnati to Dalton each week to attend the class.

The accredited GNTC program is viewed as “undergraduate-level training,” meaning that students who graduate will still likely require more advanced “graduate-level” training from the likes of Certified Flooring Installers (CFI), Ceramic Tile Education Foundation (CTEF) and the National Wood Flooring Association (NWFA). From there, they will be available for on-the-job training.

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Student installer learning the basics of installation during spring program.

During a conference call, flooring retailer Don Roberts, who serves as chairman of the board of the FCEF, lauded the flooring industry for coming together to make this happen after years of operating in silos. “I use the analogy that everyone wants to be the one to frost the cake but they don’t want to put in the work to make the cake; in this case, we had a lot of people step up to make the cake.”

Roberts invited Shaw CEO, Tim Baucom, and Dixie Group COO, Kennedy Frierson, to visit the school during the pilot program. Roberts said the executives took time out of their schedules to attend the class and speak with the students about their goals and the opportunity that exists in flooring installation.

“We’ve been trying to get to this point for 20 years, to get everybody on the same page,” Roberts said. “We can only sell as much product as we can get professionally installed; the only way we are going to grow, to solve our problems, is by getting it professionally installed. It’s going to take this effort to keep it rolling.”

FCEF and GNTC are running a spring installation program (non-credited) that starts May 16 and runs for 10 weeks. Whitener said the first application came from a woman.

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