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NTCA Regional Training programs educate and inspire

In 2018, NTCA rolled out its program of Regional Training events, with special programs designed for its NTCA Five-Star Contractor Members. 

In the late fall, two NTCA Five-Star Regional Training events took place, presented by NTCA Training Director Mark Heinlein. The first program was unveiled at Grazzini Brothers & Company, Eagan, Minn., one of the largest union contractors in the country, as well as a NTCA Five-Star Contractor. A couple of weeks later, Mark delivered the program to the expansive commercial contractor David Allen Company in Raleigh, N.C. Both of these programs were met with great enthusiasm, and brought essential information to tile setters, foremen, and office staff of these companies. 

Grazzini Brothers & Company

At Grazzini Brothers & Company, it’s important to note that the program served as key complementary training to the skills union contractors learned as part of their union apprenticeships. “Even quality tile setters trained in formal apprenticeship programs need to participate in educational workshops and training programs, especially because the technology in our industry is vastly different than when they were trained in proper tile installation,” said NTCA Executive Director Bart Bettiga.

Grazzini Brothers Project Coordinator Steve Olson gave the program high marks. He called the classroom portion of the program “invaluable because it helped me become more familiar with a resource that I use almost every day: the TCNA Handbook. When putting together a bid it is critical to investigate the specified setting methods. In many specs the setting method contains components that aren’t listed or shown elsewhere, making it easy to miss items you will be on the hook for later. 

“For example,” he continued, “F113A is a standard thinset install but F114 is a reinforced mortar bed install with cleavage membrane and epoxy grout. Just missing that one number difference could be a loss of hundreds of thousands of dollars on a large job. After going through the training, I know I can also use the TCNA Handbook to learn about different kinds of tile, the characteristics of various grouts and setting materials, substrate tolerances, and of course setting methods. Clearly it can be very worthwhile to learn more about and gain experience with the TCNA Handbook.”

But that’s not all – the hands-on portion of the program also opened Olson’s eyes about correct ways to install tile. 

“Having started out working in the office, I have very little field experience with tile,” Olson said. “This meant that while I knew the business side of a tile job, I only knew the basics of how the tile was installed in the field.

“The hands-on portion of the training was very useful because it showed me the correct way to prepare for and install tile,” he added. “We learned about some of the common mistakes installers can make, and the problems they can lead to down the road. The most useful and interesting part was seeing how different trowels, mortars, tiles sizes, pressure, and back buttering can affect mortar coverage. This also will be useful from a budgeting standpoint, as it was helpful to see how much more mortar a large- format tile uses compared to something like a 4-1/4” x 4-1/4”.”

Kristin Simon, who works in the Grazzini Brothers & Company office, also benefited from the training.

“The classroom portion of the day included several things that directly apply to my daily work,” she said. “Several definitions regarding tile were clarified. I learned where to find more information on tile installation methods as well as tile, substrate, and installation specifications.

“As someone who works from the office, it was good to get a chance to see people working ‘in the field’,” she added. “We got to watch the tile installers actually use several preparation and installation products. One of the most interesting parts was learning how they find and correct problems in the substrate. Overall, it was a very informative experience that will help me as I continue in this career.”

David Allen Company

NTCA’s Mark Heinlein (l) and CTEF’s Scott Carothers, presented a dynamite training at David Allen Company in the fall of 2018.

Martin Howard, David Allen Company (DAC) Executive Vice President-Operations, Tile, Stone & Pre-Construction and immediate Past President of NTCA, was over the moon with the Raleigh training. 

“This event was a smashing success, from the first introduction to the last tool going back on Mark’s truck before heading out of town,” he exclaimed. “The work that Mark and Scott (Carothers, Director of Training and Education at CTEF) and their team did to set up all the work stations, the thought and preparation of materials, tools, scripts – it was all the absolute best event I have ever seen or heard of or could have imagined. We started day one with about 43 attendees including 24 participants and finished day three with 32 attendees and 24 participants. This program never lost any momentum, but just keep getting better with each segment.

“These guys worked so hard and long to make this the BEST!” he added. “I can’t thank them enough for investing in this type of training and education. We had 30-year veterans to first-year newbies and they all could not stop talking about how much they learned and how grateful they were for the opportunity to be a part of the event. Another of our experienced lead installers just came by my office to tell me how much they learned. They wanted me to know how grateful they were that DAC values them enough to bring such an outstanding educational experience to them. He also wanted to know how soon we would be doing it again. I told him it would probably be a couple of years before we could get Mark and Scott back, but if he would give me the topics he wanted to learn more about, we would do our own version of this event more frequently.

“Creating this kind of hunger for knowledge and training is difficult to achieve, so hat’s off to you guys for making it happen!” he concluded. 

NTCA Training Director: future programs

NTCA Training Director Mark Heinlein reflected on the slate of programs for the last year that culminated in these two NTCA Five-Star Contractor Regional Trainings. 

“Whether remodeling a bathroom or producing the next training program, I feel it is always very important to build the current project or program with an eye toward making the next one even better,” Heinlein said. “Much was tried and learned in all of our 2018 programs and the Raleigh program benefitted from those that came before. The new things we tried in Raleigh will be used again and perfected for future programs.

“Our standards-based training programs are unlike anything else being done,” he continued. “While we introduce and use a wide variety of tile, installation materials and tools, these are not product demos. These are as real-to-life as possible classroom sessions and hands-on experiences. As I like to say – ‘How cool is that!?’

“This year with our regional programs especially, I have been fortunate to work with many respected and knowledgeable industry experts across the country,” Heinlein added. “Much has been and tried and improved on and replicated. In my opinion, NTCA is truly forging a valuable new traveling educational experience for our association members and industry in general.”

Bettiga added that the NTCA Regional Training programs are not simply about training attendees but also inspiring contracting companies to incorporate key concepts into their own in-house training efforts. “Perhaps part of our future efforts can be to provide mentorship, concepts of training, and ways that they can mix online education with these regional training programs,” he said. “We will never become obsolete if we continue to reach out to the thousands of members and potential members in this way, and we will continue of course to update all of our members on new developments, new technology, etc. 

“One of the most important components of the type of value we can bring to our members is this: If Grazzini Brothers and David Allen Company found value here, (two of the largest and most successful union and open shop contractors in the country), there is no reason to think others will not find the same value.”

Stay tuned for information about the 2019 schedule of Workshops and Regional Training Events, beginning in February.

Editor at | [email protected] | + posts

Editor for TileLetter, and TileLetter ARTISAN publications.

Lesley Goddin has been writing and journaling since her first diary at age 11, and drawing and sketching since she could hold a pencil. Her penchant for observation led to her becoming a paid professional as a trade journalist, publicist and is editor for TileLetter. She has also written for Guideposts, Walls, Windows and Floors, Floor Covering Weekly, and Low Carb Energy.

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