MANSFIELD, MASSACHUSETTS –The Belknap White Group, one of America’s leading full-service flooring distributors, has announced the availability of free weekly educational ZOOM webinars for its customers.
“Right now is an ideal time for customers to benefit from these webinars,” stated Jillian Stworzydlak, BWG’s Marketing & Digital Media Director, “In particular, now is a great time to offer opportunities for them to develop and refine their individual skills. Our webinars range from new product introductions to hands-on installation demonstrations from our trusted vendor partners.”
“The Belknap White Group is dedicated to serving its customers with the tools and educational resources they need to help their business as they navigate today’s unprecedented business conditions”, continued Stworzydlak. “Our multi-faceted webinars are particularly useful to our audience; we want to show them we care enough to provide them this value for free.”
A comprehensive library of past webinars can be found HERE.
What is it like to be a trainer for NTCA? I’m asked that question often. This article will shed some light on my experiences.
I am very proud to represent the NTCA as a trainer. I’m still a bit confused how they decided I would be a good choice with all the other qualified candidates who expressed their interest in the position, but I’m very thankful they did. I’m happy to be part of the terrific team at NTCA that collaborates to come up with creative ideas on current and relevant topics to bring to our workshop gatherings.
Being a trainer requires a lot of travel, so the home situation needs to be conducive to it. For instance, this amount of travel would be very difficult for a married person with children at home.
I would describe this position four ways: it’s one part professor because of the teaching and training; it’s one part over-the-road truck driver, due to all the hours spent on the road. It’s one part campaigning politician because of all the personalities with whom you work and interact. Finally, it’s one part traveling evangelist since you spread the gospel of good tile setting with the hope of bringing new members into the NTCA fold.
Early on, my biggest surprise was the amount of effort that goes into preparing a workshop or regional training program. Having attended workshops as a contractor, it appeared to simply involve standing up and talking about tile for an hour or two. I rapidly discovered there is much more to it than that. A typical three-hour program workshop requires many days invested in building a PowerPoint presentation, rehearsing the program, building the hands-on demos, calling managers, board members, and ambassadors, acquiring and packing the tools, long drives, hotel
check-ins, setup and breakdowns of all the equipment and more. Definitely much more work than meets the eye.
The schedule is a challenge in itself. My typical day starts with breakfast, phone calls, emails, getting dressed for the day’s event and checking out of the hotel. I arrive at the location around 1 pm to meet the host, review the plan and set up the area, checking that all the necessary components are ready to do the event. Workshops generally start at 5 pm, when most people get off from work. After the workshop, I break down the equipment and load everything back in the van. I then drive a couple of hours to get closer to the next day’s event, and find a hotel. Many times it is after midnight before I am able to get to sleep. Then I repeat the schedule again the next day. A typical day on the road is generally between 11 to 14 hours, depending on the distance between venues and the amount of help I receive during break down.
Traveling is the name of the game. Since taking this position my work week and some weekends are filled with either traveling and giving educational programs or preparing to travel. I live in Springfield, Mo., and have the normal responsibilities of an employee and homeowner. I need to mow, take care of my property, cook, clean, wash my clothes (often two weeks’ worth of dirty clothes from my time on the road) and then pack to go again. I also need to restock, reload and organize the van along with its typical maintenance and cleaning.
That all sounds like a lot of logistical juggling, travel and prep work – and it is. But it is truly worth it to work with tile contractors, salespeople and A&D professionals all over the country, helping them understand important aspects about tile setting. And when a contractor decides to become an NTCA member at a workshop, it’s icing on the cake!
Be a trainer; see the country!
The greatest benefit of the job is all the terrific places I travel to and all the wonderful people I meet. I’ve made lasting friendships with members, state ambassadors, and board members. Their participation in our training really increases the program’s effectiveness.
I normally have workshops scheduled on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. I generally travel on Monday and Friday, so on the weekends I have the opportunity to discover some of the great places far from my home. I’ve visited National Parks, memorials and many different landmarks. I have been to beaches on the Pacific, Atlantic and Gulf Coast. I have fished in California, Florida and some of the best lakes this country has to offer – all because my work took me there. I would never have seen these places or met so many people without being a trainer for the NTCA.
The impact of COVID-19
COVID-19 has made my life as a trainer very different. Travel restrictions suddenly emptied my schedule. A plan was quickly made for conducting virtual workshops – something we had never done before. These required meetings, videos, and rehearsals. I was also asked to shoot NTCA TileTV videos, review NTCA University curriculum and write articles for the TileLetter. I continued to receive and answer technical questions, plus the usual organization of materials and tools.
It is good to have work during a time when so many don’t. I’m thankful, but like many others, I’m ready to get back to my normal schedule. What will the job look like after coronavirus? It’s hard to say. The goal of each NTCA event is to have as much participation as possible with many people in attendance. Will the virus affect the numbers of people wanting and able to attend? In the short term, yes. Eventually I hope we can return to a new normal.
This is an overview of what it is like to be a trainer. I would like to thank all the members of the NTCA who allow me to represent you in this capacity. My desire is to always make you proud and do the best job possible.
A new initiative to promote qualified and quality labor
The industry – and the world as we know it – has been going through some changes. But in the midst of the upheaval, some new initiatives and energy are emerging to move the industry forward in a positive way.
Even though the Certified Tile Installer (CTI) tests have been put on hold in light of COVID-19, in the latter part of April, some discussion began percolating about crafting a message that summarized the mission of the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation (CTEF) and the broader mission of elevating the tile trade as a whole. This phrase would need to be easily and readily accessible by those on social media.
CTEF board member Joseph Mattice, of On the Level Tile in Greenville, S.C., together with NTCA Assistant Executive Director Jim Olson, NTCA Training Director Mark Heinlein, and CTEF’s Scott Carothers and Cathey McAlister, explored several slogans and tag lines. One of the contenders was “Transform the Trade,” which originally emerged from discussions with Mattice, and other newly-named CTEF board members, Erin Albrecht of J&R Tile, San Antonio, Texas; Trask Bergerson of Bergerson Tile & Stone, Astoria, Oregon; and former CTEF Industry Liaison and Promotions Director Heidi Cronin.
Mattice brought this catch-phrase, as well as several others, to a Zoom meeting of CTIs the last weekend of April for feedback. “We polled everyone about messages – not just about the [CTI] test, but how it correlates with CTEF mission statement,” Mattice said. “Transform the Trade”
(#transformthetrade) was the overwhelming favorite of the group.
The alliterative phrase was also chosen because of the different ways it can succinctly highlight other core messages of the CTEF mission, such as:
Transform the Trade – Take the Test
Transform the Trade – Prove yourself
Transform the Trade – Become a CTI
Transform the Trade – Join CTEF
“We determined to begin using #transformthetrade as a hashtag on our posts and emails and YouTube, etc.,” Heinlein added.
From there, Mattice connected with CTIs Jim Tsigos of Tsigos Construction, Delran, N.J., Ken Ballin of Skyro Flooring in West Creek, N.J., and Brandt Garrison of Garrison Tile & Renovation in Heyburn, Idaho, to create a Facebook group. The Facebook group is intended as both a place for CTIs to exchange information, but also where those who are interested in taking the test can come to get information from existing CTIs. Once live tests start up again, an announcement will be posted at the top of the page with locations and dates, Mattice said. Mattice also runs weekly Zoom meetings to address various aspects of the effort, such as addressing social media and programs for CTEF to support CTIs.
“Transform the trade” gives a context to discuss elevating standards and qualified labor in general: “It’s where we all want to go,” Mattice said. “It’s not just about taking the test – it’s also about getting industry partners involved. For instance, distributors have to eat a lot of terrible installs, so it benefits them to focus more on quality and qualified labor. And qualified contractors tend to buy better product, so that benefits the manufacturer. This is about the overall trade – the test is just one element of it.”
Mattice is proud to be part of this effort. “An exciting thing is the energy the CTIs have poured into this in 1.5 weeks!” he said. “It just blew up! It’s a positive focus and a call to action. This is a step you can take that will actually transform things.”
San Diego, CA, May 12, 2020 – The University of Ceramic Tile and Stone (UofCTS) offers a certification accreditation program for experienced tile and stone professionals who have a minimum of two years full-time, on-the-job experience within their respective tile or stone industry.
The UofCTS Certified Tile Specialist (CTS) program covers ceramic tile, glass tile, specialty tile, and related installation products. The UofCTS Certified Stone Specialist (CSS) program covers natural stone, engineered stone, manufactured stone and related installation products.
The UofCTS Certified Specialist Program is an effective way to teach and update experienced industry professionals with:
Product knowledge, industry standards,
Learning how to draft MasterFormat Architectural Specifications,
Learning proper selection and installation methods for tile and stone applications,
Learning how to properly, clearly and effectively communicate with clients.
The Certified Specialist courses have been developed with an emphasis on preparing students for their dealings with clients in a consultative manner. The training program builds confidence, enhances credibility with clients, and improves professionalism, which ultimately leads to more sales. In addition, companies that have certified professionals on their staff are more likely to avoid costly job failures.
In order to be eligible to display the acronym designating an individual as a UofCTS Certified Tile Specialist (CTS) or UofCTS Certified Stone Specialist (CSS) professional you must:
Provide proof of at least two years of full-time experience within the respective industry, including letters from employers.
Achieve a passing grade on either the UofCTS’ courses, Understanding the Basics of Ceramic Tile or Understanding the Basics of Natural Stone.
Achieve a passing grade on the UofCTS Tile Installer Thin-set Standards (ITS) Verification course and remain current.
Achieve a passing grade on the UofCTS The Complete Guide on Developing Tile & Stone Specifications with Architects course.
Pass the respective UofCTS Tile and Stone Certified Specialist Final Exam that includes 78 true/false and multiple-choice questions and five essay questions. The prerequisite for taking the exam is to first complete and pass the three respective courses and provide the verification of employment.
Approval from UofCTS Certification Board after reviewing and scrutinizing the student’s final exam results and their course results to verify that they did complete each section of each lesson in each course.
You can order the UofCTS Certified Specialist Final Exam by clicking on the respective acronym: CTS Exam or CSS Exam.
Candidates who purchase the respective final exam will get the following:
30 days access to each of the three respective courses that are associated with the CTS or CSS designation. This will allow the candidate to prepare for the test by reviewing or retaking each of those respective courses.
Once the candidate is prepared, within those 30 days of access they can take the test.
The test will be proctored via a cell phone app like FaceTime or WhatsApp or an online web conferencing app like Zoom or Skype.
Final exam that includes completing 78 true false and multiple choice questions and five essay questions to be completed within three hours.
UofCTS Certification Board will grade essay questions, will review student’s course results, and student’s qualifications to determine if they will be issued the respective certification.
Upon approval from the UofCTS Certification Board, student will be mailed a certificate of accomplishment and the respective Certified Specialist pocket ID card.
The designated Specialist will be required to renew their certification every two years by retaking the online Certified Specialist Exam for which they previously earned the Certified Specialist status. It is very important that industry professionals review this material every two years in order to stay current with industry products, methods and standards that are continually changing and improving.
The UofCTS will issue a diploma and an ID card with the industry professional’s name and date in which he/she completed the UofCTS Certification program along with an expiration date. These cards can be presented to potential customers in addition to other credentials. Having a UofCTS Certified Specialist designation will provide added credibility for tile and stone professionals and will give companies a competitive advantage over their competition.
The UofCTS CTS and CSS certifications are not a guarantee that the certified industry professional will perform satisfactory work, nor will it be an indication of their level of competency. It is verification by UofCTS that a given industry professional has received a passing grade on the respective UofCTS online courses covering industry products, standards and methods, and has demonstrated that they understand this information.
Aliquippa, PA, May 7, 2020 – ARDEX Americas has created an easy access virtual learning flyer to help customers connect with an extensive video library. This video library features learning options such as; project showcases, product demonstrations, the “Ask the Expert” series and many more.
The videos are available in English, Spanish and French by making one simple “click” on the flyer, providing flexibility and convenience. In addition, the flyer can be easily shared and downloaded for ease of use.
Annika Oeing, ARDEX Americas Marketing Manager notes, “We see a high demand for educational content and want to share our creative video options in an easy access format. Something that is straightforward and concise, helping customers with direct access to virtual learning.”
To access this new virtual learning resource, please click here to download. For more information, and to register for an upcoming webinar, visit www.ardexamericas.com.
Dekton University offers intensive training opportunities to qualified installers
It’s no news that gauged porcelain tile is going gangbusters in the tile industry. This incredibly versatile product can be used for not only walls and floors, but sinks, countertops, or any kind of cladding you can imagine.
In 2013, around the time the term “gauged porcelain” was being coined, the manufacturer of Silestone quartz surfacing launched ultra-compact surface Dekton® by Cosentino, an extremely large-format, extremely and consistently flat material that combines raw materials in a high-heat, high-compaction sintering process that makes it super strong, resistant to staining, scratching, abrasion, high heat/fire resistant, freezing and UV rays. It also is GREENGUARD certified low in chemical emissions, to benefit the environment.
This highly-technical product originally was the purview of fabricators. But with the introduction of thinner panels – 4mm and 8 mm – Consentino is partnering with qualified labor to equip installers with the knowledge and experience to install these products with confidence and success.
Tomas Echeverria, Technical Coordinator for Cosentino, said the company is willing to invest to train installers to properly work with and install this unique product. “The company has invested a lot in manufacturing and R&D. It wouldn’t mean anything if it’s not installed properly to perform as it should,” he said.
The benefit of this partnership was revealed at Cosentino’s national sales summit in early February in Houston. Presenters from NTCA Five-Star Contractors J&R Tile in San Antonio, Texas, and Casavant Tile in Saugerties, N.Y., provided the closing two-hour session to explain the opportunities for Cosentino to partner with qualified tile installers to expand the market for Dekton product – specifically 8mm and 4mm panels.
Cosentino has partnered with NTCA Five-Star Contractors for about five years, offering preferred pricing for these top-tier installers. But the sales summit presentation pointed out the benefits of working with a much larger universe of 1,600 Certified Tile Installers (CTIs) who are dedicated to not only upholding standards in their work, but seeking the training and experience that’s needed to work bring a highly technical product like Dekton into their repertoire.
J&R Tile’s Erin Albrecht walked the attendees through the program, while J& R Tile’s Triniti Vigil and Casavant Tile’s Eric Treteault demonstrated the ease of crafting sinks and countertops with Dekton and hand tools. The speed and quick turnaround of completing Dekton projects by tile installers using hand tools like grinders was eye-opening for the sales force.
Introducing Dekton University
The presentation introduced a brand new concept to the sales team: the development of Dekton University. Cosentino has committed to partnering with and supporting qualified labor locally to develop a network of highly-trained installers to install Dekton panels. Trained CTIs – many who are NTCA members – will be regional trainers in locations where Cosentino has facilities.
Dekton University is scheduled to kick off this spring, with dates for the year in development at this writing. The plan is for each trainer, who will be funded by Cosentino, to hold two trainings regionally a month, explained Tetrault. In addition LATICRETE and Bostik have signed on to provide complete antimicrobial systems of grouts, mortars and setting materials, punching up the pro-environment qualities Dekton offers.
Training is an intense two-day, hands-on program, with resources like TCNA Handbooks, tools, equipment and resources supplied by Cosentino. Three attendees at each training will win a complete set of tools specially designed to work with Dekton, valued at between $8,000-$15,000. In addition, contractors who complete the program will have access to this tool set for 12 months on a break-even basis – if a designated amount of Dekton is sold, the contractor can keep the set for free, Tetrault explained. Equipment includes a table, cutter, and cart. They will also each take home two modules created during the trainings for marketing purposes.
That’s not all. As mentioned, NTCA Five-Star Contractors have had preferential pricing from Cosentino and will continue to do so. But pricing advantages will be tiered for CTIs, ACT-credentialed contractors and those who take the training. There will be tangible rewards, benefits and advantages for those contractors who invest in training, education and excellence.
“Qualified labor and trade associations are at the forefront of everything: the center of the whole program,” Tetrault said “Everything revolves around that. The entire program is geared to open up a new market for Dekton, and provide unprecedented support to the installers and contractors who make the commitment to be educated and trained.”
Dekton University will employ a team of knowledgeable trainers to administer the program at Dekton facilities. Jamen and Chanel Carizzosa, of Icon Tile, a husband-wife installation team out of Washington, are jazzed about this program. “When Erin and Eric approached and told us about this program, we were really excited,” Jamen said. “In our area, most guys are not doing the large panels. If they get a job they try to talk the designer out of it. They are scared to touch it. Chanel and myself have wanted to push ourselves forward in getting to be better with these products.”
Zack Bonfilio, owner of San Antonio’s American Tile & Remodeling, said, “possibilities are endless” using Dekton. He said he created an integrated sink with linear drain on a foam base – including miters and cuts – in just four hours using Dekton and his grinder. There was no need for costly, time-consuming waterjet work.
Carl “The Flash” Leonard, CTI #1393, from New Jersey asked, “Why would you trust your install to anyone who isn’t certified? Certification is key to our industry – keeping standards high.”
These passionate and dedicated tile professionals are among those who will run the Dekton University intensives. CTIs will have first dibs on a slot in the classes, and then other promising installers will be contacted about taking the trainings.
“The big message is you don’t need a fabricator,” Albrecht said. “If you partner with skilled labor, you aren’t waiting weeks. As the song goes, ‘Anything you can do – I can do better.’ With trained tile installers, you have a one-stop shop. You can have six or less employees working with thin material, and with the right tools, set up and system, you can do a lot of square footage.”
As much as a learning curve as it is for installers, it’s also a learning curve for Cosentino, who is open to learn what this new-to-them labor force needs to succeed, and provide strong support.
“It took a group of tile contractors to sit down and say ‘Let’s do something about this,‘” Albrecht said. “And it took a large tile company to invest. Cosentino is a family-owned business. They care about the installers but have humility to know they are not installation experts. With Dekton University, they are looking to connect with tile contractors.
“They are listening and they care,” Albrecht added. ”They are willing to learn and become leaders – only partner with the best, on high-end installations and protect their brand. Their intentions are for everyone to support each other. They don’t want to sell to everybody. They are trying to do it right.”
Interested in Dekton University? Contact Tomas Echeverria at (786) 527-1501 or email [email protected].
Oberlin, OH, April 28, 2020— The Natural Stone Institute is proud to announce the debut of a new safety resource for stone fabricators and distributors. The Silica & Slab Safety Certificate is an 8-hour online certificate that provides training material for silicosis prevention, slab handing, and creating a safety program.
This program, comprised of 20 courses, is a combination of webinars, course readings, and related videos and documents. The program must be completed by one designed safety manager. After earning the certificate, the safety manager can then administer courses to employees. Participants are encouraged to share this program with their insurance carriers to discuss potential discounts on premiums.
Natural Stone Institute Accreditation & Technical Manager Mark Meriaux commented: “Earning the Silica & Slab Safety Certificate is a way to show customers and vendors that you take safety education seriously. It shows that you value safety both within your company and to all that you have contact with outside your organization.”
The Silica & Slab Safety Certificate is free to current Natural Stone Institute members. There will be a $599 administrative fee for non-member participants.
Aliquippa, PA, April 28, 2020 – ARDEX Americas extended its successful AIA/CEU webinar series through May and June, inviting you to stay connected and continue your education. This free webinar series, though designed for architects, are also available to the general public.
Topics covered include stone veneer, adhesive systems and polished concrete. Each webinar, led by an instructor with decades of industry knowledge and expertise, is designed to offer a comprehensive overview of the chosen topic.
Miami, FL – April 2020 – Tile of Spain, the
international brand representing over 120 ceramic tile manufacturers belonging
to the Spanish Ceramic Tile Manufacturers’ Association (ASCER), announces a
number of upcoming digital opportunities showcasing the trends and innovations
from Spanish ceramic manufacturers.
Connected: Global Tile Trends 2020
Beginning April 20th, attendees to
Coverings Connected: A Digital Experience, will have the opportunity to download “Global Tile
Trends” on demand. This highly sought after session includes Ceramic Tile Specialist and Tile of Spain
Consultant, Ryan Fasan along with a stellar lineup of
industry leaders discussing innovative designs, techniques and materials. To
download the session, visit the On Demand tab
under Learning Opportunities on Coverings.com starting on April 20th.
Additionally, attendees to the digital
experience are invited to learn about some of the most advanced ceramic tile
technology and breathtaking design choices the world has to offer from 80
Spanish ceramic and stone manufacturers by visiting the online Exhibitor
List and the interactive Floor
Ceramic Trends 2020 Facebook Watch Party: Tuesday, May 5th at 1:00pm
Join Ryan Fasan for his
notable Trend Talk taking a deep dive into the latest ceramic design trends of
2020. This is one of Fasan’s most anticipated presentations of the year
as he delves into the inner makings, artistic design and advanced technologies
behind the world most notable Spanish ceramic manufacturers on display. To
join in, visit: @tileofspainusa
Contractors Special Facebook Watch Party: Tuesday, May 12th at 1:00pm
Join Tile of Spain for a special session developed with
Contractors and Installers in mind. Focus will be on the strengths and
weaknesses of emerging categories like slim-format wall tile, gauged porcelain
panels and 2cm pavers as they relate to the installation professional’s bids
and installation processes. We will review the benefits of project timing and
optimal execution of prep-work and best-practices for installation of these
modern formats to ensure that early adoption can be leveraged to optimize your
business and ensure the greatest chances for success. To join in, visit: @tileofspainusa
A & D Special Facebook Watch Party: Tuesday, May 19th at 1:00pm
Calling all architects and designers! Join Tile of Spain as we explore current trends in specifications and emerging formats, product categories and performance characteristics. Develop a fool-proof checklist of best-practices to employ the full gambit of modern innovations in your projects while optimizing budgets and leaving little chance of value-engineering to spoil your design goals. As we explore these categories of product, we will highlight installation guidelines and master specification tools to add into your project specs to ensure that even the most cutting edge material is possible on your projects, on budget and installed as expected. To join in, visit: @tileofspainusa
Tile of Spain on Facebook and Instagram at TileofSpainUSA; and on Twitter and
Pinterest at TileofSpain.
Schönox is offering two fully accredited CEU presentations. Both are registered with AIA/CES, IDCEC, and USGBC. Scheduling is flexible – we are setting up online CEU webinars every day and look forward to meeting you. More about the two presentations below.
The Evolution of Self-Leveling Technology: Self-leveling technology is evolving, and demand for it is growing steadily as specifiers and contractors experience its substantial benefits. Self-leveling compounds successfully address the most challenging subfloor issues while delivering the highest quality results. Understanding the best practices and capabilities of self-leveling technology will help every architect and designer harness the strength of this process in their new and renovation flooring projects. Offered: April 16 & April 30 @ 11:00AM CST – Register Now
Moisture Mitigation: Planning for Success –Moisture in concrete slabs and substrates is a widespread and common problem with negative flooring consequences, if not addressed. Successful moisture mitigation solutions exist so long as the issues are identified and paired with the right processes and products. Together, we’ll walk through moisture testing and the best practices in moisture mitigation, leading to successful, sustainable flooring installations. Offered: April 23 @ 10:00AM CST – Register Now
Schönox thought about which CEU presentations would make the most significant difference in your work with flooring projects and focused on these two. Participation in these presentations will expand your knowledge on these vital topics while equipping you to employ best practices in addressing subfloor challenges with success. If you would like to set up a private CEU for your team or a private online training specific to Schönox products, please contact your local sales representative or me and we will be happy schedule a convenient time that works for you.