One of the biggest obstacles that the tile industry is facing today is the shortage of skilled labor. As we look to the future, it does not seem that this problem is going away, as there are fewer young people entering the trades. There are many reasons why our youth are turning away from the trades: society has told us college is the way to success; social media has every other teenager striving to be an influencer; and there’s even regulation that has taken trade programs out of the high schools. The challenge is: What is the tile industry going to do to solve this problem?
The shortage of skilled labor affects everyone in the tile industry. At Total Solutions Plus in Palm Springs last year, this was a big topic of discussion during the closing keynote session. The speaker had the most engagement from the attendees when addressing the shortage of skilled labor. Representatives from tile manufacturers and material manufacturers shared that skilled labor is needed to install their products and without them they have nothing to sell. Tile contractors shared that they would hire more tile installers right away if they were available. The positive to this is everyone in the industry recognizes the problem and it’s being discussed, but what action are we actually taking to solve it?
There have been many initiatives that have helped with a solution, such as CTEF certification programs that have set a standard of skill to be achieved. These certifications have acknowledged the existing skills of some tile installers, but it has also made many tile installers more skilled as they had to train and educate themselves to be better at their craft to pass these certifications.
It is well known that the NTCA is constantly training at workshops and regional events and it has contributed solutions by developing apprenticeship programs to be used by its members. I use the Tile Finisher Apprenticeship Program in my business and I have seen its benefits firsthand. Not only has it made my workforce more skilled and efficient, but it has also propelled many who have completed the program to take the next steps of becoming a tile setter at a much faster pace than those who have had on-the-job training only.
The Tile Setter Apprenticeship Program is currently in development, and I can’t wait to see the impact that it will have on my workforce. The NTCA’s Apprenticeship Program is one of the most underutilized benefits of being a NTCA member and could have the biggest impact in a tile contractor’s business. These apprenticeship programs have potential to help with recruiting initiatives at the high school level and with other educational training programs that are meant to show our youth the opportunities in the tile trade.
As an industry, we have all the pieces to combat the labor issue that we will continue to face for years to come. CTEF and the NTCA have made big contributions to help with the shortage of labor and they are positioned with great leadership and tools to help the tile industry recruit and train the next generation.
I encourage NTCA members, other contractors and industry personnel to take advantage of the over 230 training and education opportunities detailed in this issue, and to invite some youth to a workshop in your area. Give a young person a firsthand taste of what standards-based training is all about and introduce them to peers, NTCA trainers and vendors who are keen on helping them succeed. This can stimulate a lifelong interest in the tile trade among the younger generation and both help breathe new life into our industry and ensure they are learning standards-based methods from the get go. We need people with a passion for the tile industry who can make a difference at a local level or on a larger scale. We need you!
Best to your success,