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Wood: Latest training programs help installers bring their ‘A’ game

April 11/18, 2016; Volume 30, Number 21

By Reginald Tucker

Screen Shot 2016-04-22 at 1.59.26 PMOne upside to the bevy of new hardwood flooring products hitting the market today is retailers have seemingly more choices than ever to satisfy ever-changing consumer demands. The challenge, however, is making sure installers stay up to speed on the new formats, construction types and innovative finishes that are available.

Spearheading the training efforts in this regard are some of the industry’s leading trade associations as well as many of the manufacturers responsible for these innovations. Take the National Wood Flooring Association (NWFA), for example. The organization offers a comprehensive array of technical sessions for wood flooring professionals at all skill levels ranging from basic to intermediate and advanced to master craftsmen.

“We’ve made quite a few changes in our training programs over the last couple of years,” said Brett Miller, vice president of training and education for the NWFA. “For example, in our progressive training schools—which start with the basic principles of wood flooring that cover installation and sand and finish—we’ve broken up [instruction] into two segments so we have the option of doing a four-day install school and a four-day sand and finish school.”

Similarly, at the intermediate and advanced levels, classes can be divided and expanded accordingly. Beyond that, the NWFA conducts what it calls “specialty training,” whereby craftsmen teach students custom, specialized skills. “There are different options on how we put that school together depending on where we are and what we’re doing,” Miller said.

Regional NWFA instructors who conduct training attest to the importance of the program. “NWFA not only gives the installer the opportunity to learn the proper techniques but also offers a chance for a better future,” said Jon Namba, owner of Namba Services in Salt Lake City. “Our workshops focus on real-world scenarios. We give installers the tools and share life experiences to help them further their skills and their businesses. They get to learn from the best of the best in the industry and work with instructors who are willing to share information.”

Students who have attended some of NWFA’s training sessions in the past have benefitted both personally and professionally. Case in point is Paul Young, an installer with Schumacher & Co., who first came to the basic NWFA training classes about a year ago before eventually moving on to the intermediate level. With the training he received, he was able to boost his production from one job a day to three per day. “NWFA sets the standard for installation in the wood flooring business,” he said. “All the things I’ve learned from the instructors and what they bring to the table are things that I can bring with me to my job. And when I walk into the customer’s home it’s good to be able to say, ‘I was trained by the NWFA.’ It makes the homeowner feel more comfortable.”

The benefits don’t end there. By attending the training sessions and workshops, installers often build long-lasting relationships with the instructors as well as other students. “The classes provide students with invaluable networking opportunities,” Namba said. “They can always call someone if they don’t have the answer to a problem they might face on the job site.”

The NWFA is not the only association working to help hardwood flooring installers improve their skills. The World Floor Covering Association (WFCA), which absorbed the Certified Floor Covering Installers Association (CFI), recently expanded its training curriculum to include wood flooring instruction, including a comprehensive two-week hardwood course. And in the true spirit of collaboration, the NWFA is working in conjunction with the WFCA and CFI on a program that guarantees students get interviews with potential employers upon completion of their training.

“I think the WFCA really hit a home run with this program,” said Jeff Krekelberg, president of Gold River Flooring, Rancho Cordova, Calif. “We will definitely be using it for recruiting new installers as well as training existing installers in our stores.”

For more information on training dates, course registration fees, etc., visit nwfa.org.