August 28/September 4: Volume 32, Issue 6
By Ken Ryan
Orlando, Fla.—After two years at a Courtyard Marriott in Grapevine, Texas, the Certified Flooring Installers (CFI) moved its annual convention to the expansive Rosen Shingle Creek, an opulent 255-acre, AAA Four Diamond resort with 500,000 square feet of meeting/ event space.
The change in venue was no accident. “It was time to step up our game,” Robert Varden, vice president of the CFI division of the World Floor Covering Association (WFCA), told FCNews.
Since merging with the CFI three years ago, the WFCA—led by Scott Humphrey, CEO—has championed the installation trade for its craftsmanship and value to the flooring industry. Moving the 24th annual CFI convention to Rosen Shingle Creek was a nod to the CFI’s importance. “This is a phenomenal team, and the core of this team has been consistent,” Humphrey told members.
As it enters its quarter century, CFI is growing and evolving. It is no longer primarily a training and certification body. Given the current lack of qualified installers, CFI is actively recruiting the next generation. It was noted during the conference that the average age of a flooring installer working today is 56 years old. To canvas for new blood, the association has made recruiting, training and deploying new installers a major priority.
“These programs are really starting to take off,” Varden said, noting that CFI in the past year has graduated three classes in Cincinnati and four in Forney, Texas (about 40 in all). Some of these students had no previous training in installation; however, after five weeks of rigorous course work and mentoring, they were able to graduate and start working. “When these students leave they are really proud,” Varden said. “In fact, their chests are about 3 inches bigger when they complete the course. The industry is in desperate need of recruiting and we needed to add to our program and be able to take someone who had no experience whatsoever and turn him into an installer. We have shown significant growth both in the trainings we are doing, which can be done anywhere in the country, and the exposure to the brand.”
On the whole, things are looking up for CFI. “I told our staff the time is now to up our game,” Varden said. “Our vendor participation rate is growing, and attendance at the show is up. We’re trying to attract more segments of the industry here. Our convention is a big deal—it really gives us exposure to the industry.”
Industry observers applauded CFI for its efforts to bring more awareness to this critical issue. “CFI is at the forefront with the installation issue,” said Don Styka, director of field services for Tarkett North America. “CFI has set a training protocol that you’re going to learn the right way to do things. They teach people how to use the tools properly, what tools to use, etc.—and that’s half the battle.”
CFI organizers expanded the scope of its educational programming by moving beyond installation-related matters. For example, WFCA’s Humphrey led a session titled, “Leadership Strategies That Work,” and Jeff King, counsel for the WFCA, conducted a presentation, “Are You Ready for an Immigration Raid or Audit?”
In his talk, King noted there are 27 million foreign-born workers in the U.S. today, or nearly 17% of the workforce; 13% of construction workers, which includes flooring installers, are undocumented. “What would we do without them?” King asked. “You think you have installation issues now? Without them, there would be no installation.”
King said President Trump has committed to adding 10,000 investigators to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) taskforce to go after undocumented immigrants; he noted that the construction industry is a likely target.
CFI announced it is in the process of finalizing a contract to open a new training facility in Shanghai, China. The office is expected to open Sept. 4.
Lastly, CFI announced several personnel changes. Jill Sheets, who served as the association’s training advisor, has left the group for an opportunity outside the flooring industry. Her replacement will handle outreach and recruiting. And in a related move, CFI is closing its Lenexa, Kan., facility and moving all operations to Forney, where its main training facility is based.