I’ve arrived at the two-year mark at CTEF and it’s been an amazing ride thus far. I only had an inkling of what CTEF entailed, but I see its potential is so much more. It is incredible to see and be a part of the huge impact the ceramic tile industry’s certification, training, and educational nonprofit foundation has had, and the breadth of its current reach. But I must admit, it is frustrating that we have not been able gather support to push beyond our bounds. I feel new energy to make an impact on tomorrow, and it fuels me past the frustration!
How’s it going? This year we have surpassed the 1,900-installer mark. Since its inception 15 years ago, the numbers have grown steadily, and there is irrefutable evidence there is real value in the Certified Tile Installer (CTI) and Advanced Certification for Tile Installers (ACT) testing.
Aside from the personal achievement, these credentials offer the opportunity to prove your skills through third-party assessment, the ability to meet a national specification for qualified labor, and the learning experience of certification testing. Website traffic on our CTI Locator and CTI testimonials indicate installers receive real ROI for their time, energy, and monetary investment. With proper preparation and a passing score, installers receive INSTANT payback through $1,000 worth of manufacturer coupons. “It Really Pay$ 2 B Certified”. It’s going well, but it could be better. There are likely over 115,000 people installing tile professionally in the United States. 1,900 is only scratching the surface.
So, what’s new? Bullnose has become scarce, and more and more tile installations are moving toward profiles. Starting January 1st in 2024, we will be moving from bullnose to profiles on the CTI test. This change, along with the option for 3″ x 6″ field tile, demonstrates a movement toward current installation practices. Let me be clear – it did NOT need it. The test is based on the ability to follow directions, time management, prep, proper assembly, proper use of materials, math, layout, fit, finish, coverage, and cleanliness, all essential basic skills necessary for a reliable tile installer. The new materials are out of necessity due to supply, although we hope they do address the opinions we often hear about the test being “dated”.
What else? I have reported before on the enormously difficult task of matching host, evaluator, and installer schedules. Although we worked hard to reduce the number of canceled tests in 2023, they are still more frequent than is acceptable. Through much deliberation and number crunching, we have found a way to cover costs and hold tests with fewer than the previously-required minimum of six.
Going forward, each test will have a calculation for its own minimum number. Some generous hosts will help with the cost of evaluator travel, which allows for smaller numbers, and we hope to grow those relationships to meet installers closer to where they are. This effort should allow for more tests with smaller numbers and with motivated evaluators, our reach will be broader every year.
What about ACT? Installers long for ACT test logistics to be as easy as the CTI in terms of location and frequency, but they are just not there yet. However, with our renewed efforts to find the best hosts for these tests, there are promising sites for 2024, so stay tuned! Both our South Carolina and New Jersey locations have modules and we will certainly have test weeks in each location in 2024.
Education and Training
What do we do? We have put extensive effort into revamping our programming to meet the needs of ceramic tile professional. Whether that professional is day one in the trade attending the 100 Level Foundations course to learn grouts, membranes, and being useful on a jobsite, or someone ready to move toward being a better, full-time installer and attempting the CTI test with the 200 Level Practical course, we have a program to serve their needs. In 2024, we will introduce a new 300 Level Dynamic course to address the importance of harmony between the past, present, and future of the industry. This will complete the gap to 400 Level Inspection. The Floor Covering Education Foundation (FCEF) recently announced an exciting program that began December 1st: 100% for 100 Days. Prequalified students attending FCEF training partners’ programs can receive a scholarship to attend training…for free. Spread the word!
Where do we do it? We have always had our incredible facility in Anderson, S.C., just down the road from CTEF’s birthplace inside TCNA’s location on the campus of Clemson University. We have cleaned it up, added new lighting and environmental controls, and will have a full calendar of classes in 2024. We also have a new facility in Egg Harbor City, N.J., just outside Atlantic City. With this new location, we plan to have our 100 and 200 Level classes in the first quarter of 2024 and bring our programming to the Mid Atlantic region. Later in the year we will have our reliable Understanding and Installing Ceramic Tile and Mortar Shower Base and Waterproofing class.
Anything else? CTEF is poised to create something never before seen in our industry. Avenues have opened for us to be a pioneer in career and technical educational outlets. It is a time-consuming effort, but I strongly believe we are uniquely equipped to make this impact. CTEF will need resources it doesn’t currently have and YOU, faithful reader, may get a call. Please answer and dream about tomorrow with me.
Everything we do centers around being the best stewards of our support, growing to address today’s labor shortage and preparing the industry for a better tomorrow. If you want to learn more or partner with us, contact us today!
Brad Denny CTI #1190 has been intensely active in the tile industry for many years. He has served as Region 6 Director for the National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA), received the NTCA Dedication to Membership award – a recognition specially created just to honor his passion for methods, standards, and the internet – and chaired the NTCA’s Social Media Subcommittee as well as moderated the Tile Geeks Facebook group.
Brad also served as the Co-Chairman of the NTCA Training and Education Committee with Sam Bruce of Visalia Tile for 2020 and 2021.
In 2021, Brad received the prestigious NTCA Tile Person of the Year Award. This award is given to someone who has positively impacted NTCA through participation in the Association's programs.
Before becoming Executive Director for CTEF, Brad was vice president and COO of Nichols Tile & Terrazzo Co, Inc., a family-owned tile contractor business located outside of Nashville, Tenn., and NTCA Five-Star Contractor Member of the NTCA.