NTCA came out in force at The International Surface Expo in Las Vegas in January. Following are a few highlights of our time there.
NTCA came out in force at The International Surface Expo in Las Vegas in January. Following are a few highlights of our time there.
If you read our Training & Education feature by CTEF’s Scott Carothers on page 66 of our February issue, you learned about the efforts afoot by the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation (CTEF), supported by The National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA), to bring more Certified Tile Installer (CTI) exams to contractors across the country.
Carothers explained the beginning of the program in 2008 has led to the current stable of 1,600 CTIs. CTEF has been churning out about 150 CTIs a year but there’s an outcry from the industry for more opportunities to be tested, and for more contractors to have the opportunity to become CTIs.
In 2020, there’s a goal of reaching 2,000 CTIs by year’s end. Yet with the current number of evaluators at 11, that has been impossible. Until now.
Starting in the middle of 2019, the CTEF board approved an intense week-long training of evaluators – an Evaluator Training Boot Camp, of sorts. Four intense trainings have been held, each with 14 evaluators-in-training: a mixture of Contractor Evaluators (CEs) and evaluators who hail from manufacturer technical departments; most were once tile installers themselves (Industry Evaluators or IEs). The goal is to have 56 evaluators by spring 2020.
Existing CEs go through an update, to learn the new grading system. They had already taken the CTI exam themselves to become evaluators. But the new recruits go through a rigorous curriculum that includes taking the CTI test themselves.
Many manufacturers are supporting this program. “CUSTOM decided to participate in this value-add program because it aligns with our commitment to industry support through quality installation by our industries,” said Will White, of Custom Building Products. David LaFleur of wedi, added, “I agreed to become an evaluator as I saw it as a great opportunity to promote qualified labor in the tile industry. I was honored when wedi chose me as their representative to this program. The trade is suffering as a whole right now due to the lack of qualified labor. The CTEF and NTCA are doing a great job at working to improve this situation, and I feel this is a great way for me to help.”
Even though many of the IEs are technical representatives, the Boot Camp was no walk in the park. Ed Cortopassi of MAPEI said he was surprised by the “intricate difficulty of the task” especially time management when taking the CTI exam. CUSTOM’s White added, “With over 240 cuts in the certification test, you better have a plan that factors in the time allotted to complete.”
For LaFleur, “The toughest part of Boot Camp was actually taking the CTI test,” he said. “I grew a new-found respect for those who completed it and passed. It is easy to assume, given the small quantity of tile installed, that the test may not fully test someone’s abilities. I was hugely mistaken in this thought process. After being away from tile setting for about one year, it was not only difficult to finish, but certainly tested all my abilities fully. I am grateful that I was able to finish and receive a passing grade.”
LaFleur praised the enthusiasm and dedication shown by Mark Heinlein and Scott Carothers in designing and implementing the training, and for making sure IEs were well prepared to administer and evaluate the CTI exam. “I learned how important it was to be accurate and precise when evaluating a test, in order to keep the test fair to all participants,” he said. “This will keep the integrity of the test in place, helping to assure consumers can trust they are hiring someone with the skills required to complete their projects.” Similarly, Daniel Grant of Ardex Americas said he was “happy to learn that the scoring was very clear, and mostly not subjective to the evaluator’s opinion or viewpoint.”
One thing White discovered during the training was that installation technique and ability are perishable assets. “I have not installed tile on a production scale for 20 years – this camp showed me how an everyday task is not like riding a bike – you must practice this often to remain relevant and capable,” he said.
Ardex’s Grant said that in addition to the extended days in a hot warehouse, one of the tough aspects of the test was “Having to intentionally install several aspects of the module incorrectly for the evaluators to try to catch.”
After completing the Boot Camp and the CTI exam, IEs had some words of wisdom for those planning to take the CTI exam.
“My piece of advice is simple,” wedi’s LaFleur said. “Do not get worked up on the task at hand. All the information you need to pass is given to you in the study material. Treat the test like any other day at work. Devise a plan as to how you will complete the test in the time given and then execute it. The world is not perfect, so do not get hung up on any one detail.”
MAPEI’s Cortopassi added, “Make sure to attend the orientation the night before and pay attention to the many little details.”
And CUSTOM’s White said, “This is a certification test for those who earn it – not a guarantee you will pass. Study, plan and learn. May the Tile Force be with you always!”
One of the highlights of the Boot Camp was the “camaraderie from some of the other attendees,” said Ardex’s Grant, an opinion echoed by White. “What a great experience to understand we are in this together and quality can be achieved,” he said.
The National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA), the world’s largest tile contractor association, is sponsoring the World of Tile Pavilion at the Construction Education Foundation of Georgia (CEFGA) CareerExpo, taking place at the Georgia World Congress Center on March 12-13 in Atlanta, Ga.
CEFGA was founded in 1993 by construction leaders who recognized a need for quality construction skills training in Georgia. The CEFGA CareerExpo links students directly to professionals in the areas of construction, utility contracting, highway contracting, electrical contracting, mechanical contracting, energy, mining and more. The event features hands-on displays that allow students to engage with industry leaders, equipment and materials and tap into their unique skills and interests.
According to Rod Owen, president of NTCA Five-Star Contractor C. C. Owen Tile Company, Inc., the organization held its first career fair in 2005, but the tile trade wasn’t represented until 2008 when Owen asked for a space in the expo.
C. C. Owen Tile, leading tile manufacturer Daltile, and installation materials supplier LATICRETE International will be co-sponsoring the Pavilion with NTCA. Together, the four entities are working to promote the ceramic tile industry as a leading career opportunity to consider for high school age students at the 2020 event.
Owen believes the CareerExpo is a great avenue to display the opportunities that are available in the tile industry, and is planning for an impact far beyond the day of the event. While he knows many students who come to the expo may use it as an excuse to get out of class, he hopes the experience will educate some of the students or their teachers about the opportunities available. “[After attending the expo], there might be that construction teacher that listened and understood the opportunities, and is now back in the classroom counseling students and advising them about their potential in our industry,” Owen said.
NTCA Executive Director Bart Bettiga agreed the event is a good opportunity to expose students to the tile industry. “Helping to recruit the next generation of tile setters is a part of the NTCA mission,” Bettiga explained. “High school students may not know yet what career path they want to take. If they haven’t been exposed to the tile industry, they may not know what a lucrative career it can be and how many options it holds. At events like this, we can show students how they can become our future industry leaders.”
The CEFGA CareerExpo also features the SkillsUSA state championships, a competition in which students showcase their skills in a number of construction-related disciplines. This CareerExpo continues to grow each year and, in 2019, drew a record 8,615 attendees.
The National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA) recognized long-time supporter Louisville Tile Distributors at Total Solutions Plus (TSP), held at the end of October in Nashville, Tenn.
During the TSP award ceremony, NTCA Executive Director Bart Bettiga presented Robert DeAngelis, President of Louisville Tile, with an award recognizing the distributor’s support of tile industry training and education programs.
Louisville Tile, headquartered in Louisville, Ky., is a leading distributor of tile installation products and sundry items for tile installers. Currently, the distributor has 13 showrooms, located in Kentucky, Tennessee, Indiana, Ohio, and Michigan.
“NTCA realizes that without the support of distributors and manufacturers we would be limited in what we do to positively impact the industry,” Bettiga said. “It’s because of this reason we decided to thank and honor the leaders at Louisville Tile Distributors for their continued support of our programs.”
For several years, Louisville Tile has hosted and sponsored NTCA workshops at all of its locations. At many of these events, the distributor goes a step further by purchasing copies of the NTCA Reference Manual and the TCNA Handbook for Ceramic, Glass, and Stone Tile Installation and the offering them to attendees. DeAngelis said he felt it was important that attendees left with these resources saying, “That puts the power of first-hand knowledge in their hands.”
DeAngelis said while it was nice to be recognized for Louisville Tile’s efforts support NTCA, he felt in reality it was NTCA that was supporting Louisville Tile in its education efforts. Two years ago, Louisville Tile leaders decided that in addition to being a workshop sponsor, they would also sponsor and host NTCA Regional Training Programs in effort to expand the ways they provided specialized training to local installers and their customers. Louisville Tile even added an additional member to its team in order to be able to offer more training. “By adding Marc Mularoni –our Director of Technical Sales– as a full time technical person, we added a person with the dedicated ability to step up our educational offerings in partnership with NTCA, CTEF, and other industry resources,” DeAngelis said.
Bettiga offered the distributor his sincere thanks for its support and efforts over the years and hopes its example will encourage other distributors to do the same. “Louisville Tile offers us an example of the difference an independent distributor can make in the industry through its support of installer certification, training and education,” he remarked.
DeAngelis also commented about the importance of being an industry education sponsor. “Our business is driven by the tile installation trade and businesses,” DeAngelis noted. “It is more than a contribution to our industry; it is a necessity for continued health, growth and improvement of the tile trades that support our industry.”
This year, Total Solutions Plus (TSP) was held at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center in Nashville, Tenn. This is the tenth year for the conference known for bringing the tile industry together. More than 600 attendees benefited from the networking, educational sessions and keynote presentations that this year’s conference offered.
TSP was sponsored by the Ceramic Tile Distributors Association (CTDA), the National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA), the Tile Council of North America (TCNA), and Tile Contractors’ Association of America (TCAA).
NTCA President Chris Walker of David Allen Company noted that TSP is an event where industry association members come together to collaborate and help the tile industry. He stressed the importance of this collaboration saying, “The more involvement we have, the stronger our associations become and the more capable we are supporting our industry.”
The first day and a half of the conference was filled with technical and association meetings. Then many attendees participated in Nashville tours that included behind-the-scenes looks at the iconic Grand Ole Opry and the Ryman Auditorium, as well as a tour of the Dal-Tile Dickson Plant.
The conference was filled with an array of business and technical breakout sessions all aimed at helping industry professionals and their businesses. In his opening address, TCAA President and Chairman of the Board Brad Trostrud, of Trostrud Mosaic & Tile Co., Inc., mentioned that 2019 had been a challenging year for the tile industry. He urged attendees to participate in the sessions because they will provide attendees with information that will be useful in daily business activities. He said he was confident attendees will benefit from their TSP participation because it shows the commitment they are making to learn and improve.
This year’s conference was the first for many attendees, including Jane and Lee Callewaert of Dragonfly Tile & Stone Works, Inc. Lee was honored as NTCA’s Tile Setter Craftsperson of the Year. Jane said she was glad they had the opportunity to come. “Our TSP experience was so positive all the way around,” she said. “Doesn’t this industry have the most amazing group of people? We were so honored to meet so many of you.” Callewaert’s husband received his award at the NTCA Awards Lunch on October 29. At the same ceremony, James Woelfel, president of Artcraft Granite Marble and Tile Co. in Mesa, Ariz., was honored as the 2019 NTCA Ring of Honor recipient, and Louisville Tile received special recognition for distributor support of NTCA Education and Training Programs. The conference concluded with a country western-themed dinner and dance, where attendees were treated to lasso and line-dancing lessons.
Total Solutions Plus 2020 will take place Oct. 24th – 27 at the Hyatt Regency Indian Wells in Indian Wells, California.
The NTCA Training Team has wrapped up another year of cross-country training. This year, the team taught 16 regional training programs and over 100 workshops across 35 states.
Jim Olson, NTCA Assistant Executive Director, dubbed 2019 as a year of growth for NTCA training programs. “This year, we increased the number of regional training programs – our all-day training sessions – that we offer to NTCA members. Also, to keep up with training demands, we increased our presenter staff, adding Randy Fleming.”
Fleming, a tile contractor from California, joined the team at the start of the year and said his first year with NTCA has been a good one. He feels the association has experienced a positive response to its workshop program this year and he is enjoying having the opportunity to share his knowledge with other installers. “The best thing about being part of the NTCA team is having the pleasure to address so many talented and experienced installers and introducing them to tile industry standards,” he said. “I’ve met highly-experienced tile professionals that are not aware industry standards exist and don’t understand how the standards can help them professionally.”
Olson said there has been a high demand for the regional training programs this year. “Attendance at our regional programs continues to increase with most programs attracting 20-24 or more hands-on attendees and many additional attendees in an observation capacity,” he said.
For those who haven’t been to a NTCA training program, past attendees like Kris Nardone of K Nardone Custom Tilework, LLC, highly recommend you catch one, noting the sessions offer more than just training. “It’s a great experience if you attend one of these NTCA workshops,” Nardone said. “There is a ton of information that’s talked about in the couple hours varying from shower receptors, expansion joints, proper installation methods, and a lot more.”
“All the information is great but getting to meet other local tile installers and making new relationships is priceless,” he added. “I try to attend at least one of the workshops each year. I always leave feeling pumped about our industry and am motivated to go out to set some tile correctly per industry standards. I highly recommend it to anyone who hasn’t attended a NTCA workshop ever before. Any member or non-member can attend at no cost to you,” Nardone said.
In addition to the regular training assignments, the NTCA Training staff is preparing to conduct the regional events. This will allow NTCA to increase the number of regional training programs offered to NTCA members by 30% in 2020.
Fleming said he is looking forward to next year’s training programs. “The information we present at these events has the power to enrich people’s work and, in turn, their lives,” he said. “I’m excited about the future and what is to come in 2020.”
Olson reminds anyone interested in a NTCA Workshop or Regional Training Program to check the schedule regularly since it is often being updated. To see a list of all currently scheduled sessions, visit the NTCA website under the “Education & Certification” tab.
The National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA) has chosen James Woelfel, president of Artcraft Granite Marble and Tile Company in Mesa, Ariz., as its 2019 recipient of the NTCA Ring of Honor.
The NTCA Ring of Honor is a lifetime achievement award that recognizes NTCA contractors and associate members whose efforts have helped grow the association and assisted in achieving its objectives. Recipients are chosen by NTCA executive officers.
Bart Bettiga, Executive Director of the NTCA and last year’s NTCA Ring of Honor recipient, said Woelfel was chosen because of his dedication to the association and the tile installation trade. “James has provided leadership and passion to our association. He has been a constant advocate for the professional tile contractor in the development of standards and methods and is a staunch proponent of qualified labor. He has served on the executive committee for many years and is most deserving of this prestigious recognition.”
Woelfel has been the chairman of the NTCA Technical Committee since 2007 and is a voting member of the TCNA Handbook and ANSI A108, 118, and 137.1 Committees. He served as president of the NTCA from 2015-2017 and was the 2011 recipient of the NTCA Tile Person of the Year Award. Woelfel is also an NTCA Recognized Consultant and a highly-rated speaker at industry shows such as Coverings, The International Surface Event (TISE), and Total Solutions Plus.
“Receiving the Ring of Honor shows that James’ peers have recognized the years of meaningful work he has done for the NTCA,” said Bettiga. “There is nothing more honorable and laudable than what this award represents.”
Woelfel’s father, Butch Woelfel, was the 2007 NTCA Ring of Honor recipient recognized for his career contributions to the association. The Woelfels are the only father and son to both receive the NTCA Ring of Honor recognition.
Woelfel will receive the award on October 29th, 2019 during the Awards Luncheon at the Total Solution Plus conference in Nashville, Tenn.
The National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA), the world’s largest tile contractor association, hosted its 2019 NTCA Five-Star Contractor Annual Summer Meeting in Montreal, Canada. The objective of this year’s meeting, hosted by Schluter Systems, was not only to provide valuable education, but also to help the attendees form connections so they would feel comfortable reaching out to one another when advice or support is needed.
“The NTCA Five-Star Contractor group is grateful to Schluter Systems for their support in this endeavor,” said NTCA Five Star Program Director Amber Fox. “They helped us create a unique experience to connect and to refine and grow our businesses together.”
The NTCA Five-Star Contractor designation recognizes NTCA members who have demonstrated integrity, professionalism, and craftmanship and has a proven track record of success in tile and stone installation and business management.
“One of the great benefits of being an NTCA Five-Star Contractor is the custom educational opportunities that come from generous supporters, said Fox. “This meeting creates multiple opportunities for NTCA Five-Star contractor members to come together and work on their business through speakers and from each other.”
Keynote speaker Mike Moore opened the event with a session on how to approach the task of attracting, developing, and retaining inspired motivated employees. Moore’s process will help the NTCA Five-Star Contractors separate themselves from their competitors by creating an organizational culture that delivers a higher quality of work and customer experience. Besides being a professional keynote speaker, Moore is the author of Build Trust and a leadership, sales and peak performance coach.
While at the meeting, attendees had two opportunities to attend sessions that focused on addressing current challenges they were facing. The first consisted of small peer groups that tackled specific obstacles attendees were experiencing. Attendees benefitted from insights and solutions offered by their group members. The second session was structured as an in-depth roundtable discussion that covered topics attendees had pre-selected via a poll that was distributed before the meeting. The four topics chosen were:
- Growing and improving your labor force
- Customer and employee engagement/communication
- Vendor relationships
“This year’s attendees returned home with new plans and strategies designed to help them start, manage, and successfully finish their jobs and reinforced connections that will offer them support they need to help their business to continue to be prosperous,” Fox said.
To learn more about the NTCA Five-Star Contractor Program, visit www.tile-assn.com/page/FiveStar
NTCA simplifies DOL-approved “earn as you learn” opportunity
If you’ve been in the tile industry for any length of time, you know one of the most common themes is the shortage of qualified labor to do the tile work that is ripe for the picking. Another theme is that fewer young people are choosing a trade over college, so the trade is starting to “age out.” And still one more is carving out a clear career path for those who enter the tile trade.
The National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA), a.k.a. “The Voice of the Contractor,” has been working on a range of ways to approach these problems. And now, with the help of a team of staff members, NTCA Five-Star Contractors and government officials, the NTCA is pleased to announce that the “National Guidelines for Apprenticeship Standards for the National Tile Contractors Association” have been approved by the Department of Labor (DOL).
What it is
National Guidelines for Apprenticeship Standards for the National Tile Contractors Association provides a structure that a NTCA member in any state can use to develop a DOL-approved apprenticeship program, tailored to the needs and goals of their individual company. The program combines classroom time and on-the-job learning (OJL) components in a two-year finisher program and a three-year setter program. It incorporates coursework from NTCA University and OJL into a hybrid program. That means apprentices are not locked into the 144 hours of classroom time and 2,000 hours of OJL and experience. Instead, focus on core competencies means individual apprentices who excel can satisfy a reduced time investment in the OJL component, while still logging the 144 classroom hours.
“We’ve taken the difficulty of trying to navigate the system,” said Becky Serbin, NTCA Education and Curriculum Director, who has been spearheading this program.
Why it’s important
With the National Guidelines for Apprenticeship Standards for the National Tile Contractors Association, member companies can offer interested young men and women, veterans, those who have grown disenchanted with college, and others seeking work in the tile trade a chance to learn in a way that best suits the company sponsor. And apprentices are paid as they learn and progress through the program.
“We need to cultivate and bring qualified people into the work force regardless of job climate and construction economy,” said Bart Bettiga, NTCA Executive Director. “We are an aging work force. Young people aren’t coming into the trade to replace older people in the work force. We have a worker shortage even if the economy dips.”
This program also offers a career path in the trade. “Until we could get these guidelines approved, we couldn’t show a clear path for those who came into the trade,” Bettiga said. “Going through apprenticeship, they are getting training and education as well as jobsite experience. We’re confident we will attract more capable, qualified people into the industry by showing them a career. When you have apprenticeship – and they master each task, take their online courses, get trained in classroom and get field experience – they can earn more income as they go. It’s an incentive to master the trade.
“The beauty is we have a better story than a four-year undergrad degree,” he added. “Apprentices start earning immediately; often there is money available to offset costs of tools and student expenses or even scholarships for at-risk students who can’t afford it.”
How it started
The idea for this program started years ago with NTCA member Jim Isaminger of DMI Tile & Marble, Inc., in Birmingham, Ala., who developed a DOL-approved apprenticeship program in 1996. Through a passionate commitment by Dan Welch of Welch Tile and Marble in Kent City, Mich., and staff member Dave Rogers, along with NTCA’s Becky Serbin, the program evolved to including recorded learning modules that facilitated offsite learning on phones and devices. Other industry members and volunteers worked to revise the outlines for the setter program and write curriculum. Serbin, Welch, Bettiga and Dave Jackson, the DOL contact for the state of Michigan, advanced the project, and Serbin’s work of synthesizing all the information into a cogent program was highly praised by the DOL.
How to put this to use in your business
NTCA members interested in putting an apprenticeship program in place can visit www.tile-assn.com/apprenticeship. Serbin will reach out to interested contractors to discuss the program and contact the office of apprenticeship in the state. She’ll then begin working with their office to determine what additional paperwork may be needed. After all the paperwork is assembled, the company submits it for approval. Once the DOL gives it the green light, they will have their own DOL-approved apprenticeship program. At that point the company – or coalition of companies – can begin recruiting apprentices.
“NTCA members need to reach out to us and let us know their interest,” Bettiga said. “This program needs a state or local administrator, which can be a contractor, technical school, vocational school, construction school or chapter. They don’t have to be a large company to be an administrator or have their own program.” In Portland, for instance, the Columbia Tile Trades Training Trust is a co-op of NTCA member contractors united in apprenticeship, with a program administrated by the Pacific Northwest Chapter of the Associated Builders and Contractors (see TileLetter, July 2018 for the story).
“In addition to helping NTCA members navigate through the paperwork, NTCA can help them navigate through the process no matter what state you are in,” Bettiga said.
The program is in a state of ongoing development. A team of NTCA members is helping Serbin finish the content on NTCA University, and Serbin is finalizing paperwork and documents that will be used by members.
“We think the tile industry has a unique story to tell and a unique allure compared to other construction trades,” Bettiga said. “We want to tap into people who have that artistic flair, across gender lines. If you are trained as a tile installer, your work is visibly seen and admired; our craft is visually observed by consumers.
“With the National Guidelines for Apprenticeship Standards for the National Tile Contractors Association, NTCA member companies now have an effective tool that can attract quality people, and train them in the way that best suits their company,” Bettiga added. “They can support apprentices, and as apprentices are trained the right way to grow their company, they in turn support the trade. This goes beyond the opportunity to make money setting tile. Installers have gone onto positions in estimating, project management, outside sales and technical sales. But they all started as knowledgeable tile installers. That makes you marketable in many sectors of the industry.”
Welch added, “There’s no easy button. This takes a lot of investment. If you are going to develop people, it’s a journey, not a race. This is one step that rewards more competent people who possess core competencies that now can be measured on the road to advancing through pay grades from apprentice, journeyman, master. It’s a road map for you to do with what you will.”
Modern Aspect Tiling & Stone works to establish and update standards in Australia
Of NTCA’s nearly 1,600 members, a number of tile contractors make their homes and operate their businesses outside of U.S. soil – allowing our membership to spread to Australia, Mexico, Canada and other countries around the world.
One such world member is Tim Christopher, owner of Modern Aspect Tiling & Stone in Canberra, Australia, who has been a tile contractor for 20 years in Australia. Upon completion of his three-year apprenticeship, Christopher was awarded Apprentice of the Year in his state.
From there, Christopher formed his own company, Modern Aspect Tiling & Stone, which has completed various types of work including rural, residential and commercial. Modern Aspect Tiling & Stone has been contracted to work on several of national buildings such as Parliament House of Australia, and Australian Treasury.
Attentiveness to new technologies and products keeps Modern Aspect Tiling & Stone on the cutting edge of new products as they have become introduced in our market. “Moisture-sensitive stone would be a good example of this,” Christopher said. “My company was one of the first in my region to successfully install this type of product in a market where many failures were occurring through misunderstanding products such as reconstituted stone.”
Christopher is currently vice president of the Tile and Tiling Industry Association of Australia (TTIAA). “This is a small association set up to benefit the industry here, in an environment where tile is not particularly well supported as far as up-to-date training or establishment of relevant guidelines,” he explained. “I am actively supporting the update of our Australian Standard for tiling, as it is very outdated. Indeed, our standard was written when the iPhone wasn’t even in existence.”
In a quest for better training, standards and guidelines for his company and his country, Modern Aspect Tiling & Stone became a member of the NTCA. “It is evident to me that the USA is probably the most active region for ongoing support of the tile industry across all areas,” Christopher said. “The development in the area of setting tile is second to none. The Gauged Porcelain Tile Standards are an example of this. The guidelines in the USA are established with relevant input from all concerned to produce practical standards. I believe this approach would be of benefit to us here in Australia.”
Currently Christopher is undertaking some consultancy work for tribunals. “There is a certain failure rate of tile installations in Australia as in the USA,” he said. “I hope to help educate our industry through the knowledge I have gained by continuing to be a member of the NTCA.”
Modern Aspect Tiling & Stone Projects