NTCA National Apprenticeship Guidelines provide career road map in the tile trade

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.

NTCA staff and board outlining courses for the setter program.

(Clockwise from left) Dirk Sullivan, Hawthorne Tile; Woody Sanders, DW Sanders Tile & Stone Contracting, Inc.; and Dave Rogers and Dan Welch of Welch Tile and Marble outlining courses for the setter program. CTEF’s Scott
Carothers and early
on Gerald Sloan – when he was a trainer with NTCA – are also among those who helped develop the program. Not pictured: NTCA’s Becky Serbin.

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. 

Apprenticeship training with The Oregon-Columbia Tile Trades Training Trust.

Apprenticeship training with The Oregon-Columbia Tile Trades Training Trust.

Why it’s important

Welch apprentices doing hands-on training.

Welch apprentices doing hands-on training.

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.

Next steps

Welch apprentices taking a warehouse tour.

Welch apprentices taking a warehouse tour.

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.”

Community involvement pays off in ace new hire

C.C. Owen Tile Company works with area schools to promote the trade, and scores promising new talent


Rod Owen, C.C. Owen Tile Company

Rod Owen of C.C. Owen Tile Company in Jonesboro, Ga., is both a dedicated NTCA Five-Star Contractor and proactive tile trade spokesman, bringing the news of the benefits of a tile career to area teens. Involvement with local high schools and the annual Construction Education Foundation of Georgia (CEFGA) Career Expo and SkillsUSA competition means he’s got a lot to give to teens who are considering their career options. And it pays off for Owen too, in the form of prize new hires that build a strong work force and strengthen his company against turnover. 

Since 2008, Owen has been instrumental in getting tile installation included in the CEFGA Expo, held each spring. The CEFGA Expo is just one portion of the entire CEFGA Skills USA Event, which is an opportunity for trades to

Rod Owen’s tireless dedication resulted in tile being included not only in the CEFGA Expo portion of the event, but also in a SkillsUSA competition, starting in 2017.

engage with, and educate students in the state of Georgia about the opportunities within the trades. The Skills USA competition tests allows area students to compete in the trade of their choice. Up until a few years ago, tile wasn’t part of the curriculum, but Owen, working with the SkillsUSA state and national reps – and garnering industry support – finally got the green light to have a tile competition in the 2017 Georgia SkillsUSA event. Owen then reached out to fellow Georgia-based NTCA Five-Star contractor Woody Sanders of DW Sanders Tile & Stone Contracting, Inc., CTEF’s Scott Carothers, and NTCA’s Becky Serbin, knowing those individuals would be critical in bringing this goal to fruition. 

After initially competing in 2017, Martin Sanchez of Griffin High School went on to win the top tile prize in the 2018 SkillsUSA competition. And it turned out that he won something much more – a new job at C.C. Owen and an opportunity to participate in the company’s five-year apprenticeship program, which utilizes the NTCA University online curriculum, and is approved by the Georgia Department of Labor. Sanchez now has an opportunity to learn a trade – while he earns a living.

Martin Sanchez (l.) works on his module during the SkillsUSA competition with fellow students.

Owen’s company sponsors Griffin High School, providing tools and materials to give students the opportunity to do some hands-on tile work. Owen had his eye on Sanchez before he even graduated. That’s because he sits on the advisory boards of several area high schools and has developed relationships with construction teachers – relationships that help give him first dibs on promising grads. “We meet once a quarter to let teachers know new trends and what they need to be focusing on, and what do we see their graduating students lacking in,” Owen said. “They are now using an aptitude program that helps direct students to what they are good at and applicable fields and careers.”

Through Griffin’s construction teacher, Walter Preston, Owen met Sanchez when he was a junior. His conversations with Preston about Sanchez’s skills and aptitude – plus the dedication and focus Sanchez showed in his SkillsUSA competitions – convinced Owen he would be a viable new hire for his company. Preston also guided Owen to another Griffin graduate – Terry Collier – and both were hired at the same time, last June. 

Both Sanchez and Collier began their apprenticeships in January 2019. “To enroll in our apprenticeship program, one must be an employee for six months,” Owen said. “We don’t want to begin investing in them if they decide they don’t want to do this.”

2018 SkillsUSA competition winners (l. to r.): Nathaniel Selby, Shaw High School, 3rd place; Martin Sanchez, Griffin High School, 1st place; Christian Mendoza, Kennesaw Mountain High School, 2nd place. Sanchez is now in the apprenticeship program at C.C. Owen Tile Company.

Sanchez and Collier – as well as new hire Oscar Macias, a recent graduate from another area high school – are ambassadors of a sort, going to high school Discovery Days to share their experiences in the tile trade with peers. And Sanchez was on-hand this year at SkillsUSA, sharing his knowledge and experiences with those who are just starting to consider tile as a career. He explained proper tile-setting techniques and discussed what happens day-to-day on the job. “He got to talk to some of the kids – and knew some of them who came out from his high school,” Owen said. 

C.C. Owen strictly does commercial work, and employs 30 field personnel. Owens is always on the lookout for high-quality hires, to counter turnover that seems endemic to the trade, and grow his company from within. In addition to good pay and a comprehensive package of benefits, Owen has instituted twice-yearly company outings to foster camaraderie among employees and families. His volunteerism at the high schools and for CEFGA means he keeps giving back to the community, even as the community fuels his crew with fresh new talent. 

Regional training events – one of NTCA’s best member benefits

Often tile contractors ask me about training opportunities. I tell them about NTCA University, webinars, workshops, and regional events. While all of our educational opportunities are great, many are geared to a specific learner. For example, NTCA University has apprenticeship courses, and the workshops have a lot of overview information good for foremen. 

But in my opinion, one of the best training opportunities available from NTCA is the day-long regional training events because they are designed for the tile setter. It doesn’t matter if you have been on the job for a one year or 15 years. In 2019, we are conducting 20 regional training events, focusing on either gauged porcelain tile or substrate prep and large-format tile. What makes these training events so different is that the attendees start the day in a classroom, but after 90 minutes they move to the work area to actually use the proper techniques that were taught in the classroom.

What fascinates me the most is the amount of set-up that is needed for each of the trainings. Typically two days prior to the event, NTCA trainers and manufacturer reps descend on to the location to start constructing modules, getting materials ready for training day, and doing a run-through so everyone is on the same page when all of the attendees arrive. And all of this work is done for 20 attendees! The reason that there’s a cap to the number of participants is because the trainers spend a lot of one-on-one time with each of the attendees to ensure that proper standards and installation methods are used.

The substrate prep and large-format tile courses are open to NTCA members only. The gauged porcelain tile courses are open to anyone. Since both have a limited number of attendees, we require a $50 registration fee for each class. However, you get this fee refunded to your credit card once you show up to the event. This is to ensure that if someone can’t make it, they cancel and allow someone else to attend instead of having a bunch of no-shows.

I have had several company owners register some of their setters and later cancel, stating that they are too busy with work to attend. I get it – work pays the bills – but as an owner you also have to take a look at the benefits your employees gain by attending one of these training events. 

Take it from past NTCA president and NTCA Technical Committee Chairman James Woelfel, of NTCA Five-Star Contractor Artcraft Granite, Marble, and Tile Co., of Mesa, Ariz. Woelfel attended the Tempe, Ariz., substrate prep course and had this to say: “The hands-on regional training is hands down the best member benefit the NTCA offers. At no charge, 10 of my people were educated on substrate prep, both hands-on and using TCNA and ANSI standards. Every one of my employees was excited by the learning opportunity and surprised by the amount of information that was reviewed. All of these employees are CTEF or ACT certified.” 

“As Chairman of the NTCA Technical Committee, I always considered the NTCA Reference Manual was the NTCA’s best member benefit,” he added. “My mind has been changed. As an NTCA member, if you do not take advantage of this educational opportunity, you are wasting your membership and you are costing your own company profit opportunity.”

For more information on the regional training program including dates and locations,
visit the NTCA website.

Heidi Cronin Hired as CTEF Industry Liaison and Promotions Director

The Ceramic Tile Education Foundation (CTEF) is pleased to announce that Heidi Cronin, previously President of The Cronin Company, has joined CTEF as the Industry Liaison and Promotions Director, a newly created role to support the next stage of evolution for the organization.

 

Heidi Cronin Hired as CTEF Industry Liaison and Promotions Director

Heidi Cronin

 

“We are pleased to welcome Heidi to CTEF in this newly created position”, says Bart Bettiga Executive Director of the National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA) and member of the CTEF Board of Directors. “Given her professional experience and passion for Qualified Labor, we are confident that she will be instrumental in supporting the growth of the Certified Tile Installer (CTI) program alongside Scott Carothers, Director of Certification and Training for CTEF, and shaping the tile and stone industry in the United States.”

As CTEF Industry Liaison and Promotions Director, Ms. Cronin will be responsible for speaking on a national level to promote CTEF certification and training programs.  Key segment groups include independent distributors, tile and allied product manufacturers, designers, architects, specifiers, remodelers, builders and general contractors. She will work closely with the National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA) and Tile Council of North America (TCNA), including promoting NTCA qualified labor efforts and the TCNA Why Tile campaign.

A native of Portland, Oregon, Ms. Cronin grew up in the floor covering distributor industry. She graduated from Southern Oregon State College with a Bachelor of Science degree in Criminology. She began her career at The Cronin Company as a branch manager. From there, she spent time in purchasing, becoming Vice President of Operations and then President.

“My ultimate goal as CTEF Industry Liaison and Promotions Director is to encourage all tile installers to become Certified Tile Installers and then to further challenge themselves with Advanced Certifications for Tile Installers (ACT),” says Ms. Cronin. “That starts with engaging manufacturers, distributors, and suppliers to host, support and promote more hands-on testing events, filling those events with installers and then convincing architects and designers to specify CTIs into their projects.”

“Please join me and CTEF in welcoming Heidi Cronin to her new role,” adds Bettiga. “The need for Qualified Labor in the tile industry is real and the value for all involved, including consumer and commercial end users, is significant. Heidi’s enthusiasm and expertise are critical to successfully evolving CTEF’s mission.”

Founded in 1996, the CTEF organization focuses solely on tile installation training and education along with promoting quality tile installation in the American marketplace. In 2008, CTEF launched the Certified Tile Installer (CTI) program. The CTI program is the only third-party assessment of installer skill and knowledge which is recognized by the tile industry. It offers owners, whether residential or commercial, peace-of-mind that their tile installer has the right skills to complete a successful tile installation.

# # #

For more information, visit https://www.ceramictilefoundation.org.

Follow CTEF on Twitter: https://twitter.com/ctilef, and Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CeramicTileEducationFoundation/

Oregon installer fine-tunes his skills with certification

 

Brian Stephens, owner of Brian Stephens Tile, Inc.

Brian Stephens, owner of Brian Stephens Tile, Inc., in Bend, Ore., has been in the trade since 1993. Ten years after starting his own business in 2008, he decided to up his game by testing his skills with the Certified Tile Installer (CTI) exam. 

Stephens was intrigued by the exam after seeing so many mentions of it on social media groups, and by personal endorsements by existing CTIs. “When I met Jason McDaniel at the Wounded Warrior build, he personally talked to me about it and he continued to remind me about it!” Stephens said. “I convinced myself then that I should go for it. I wanted to prove to myself I still had what it takes to pass. I have already started talking to my employee about it and when he is ready he will take it.”

Stackstone fireplace

Stephens took the exam at the ARDEX facility in Stockton, Calif., on July 27, 2018. It was offered after a tile class Stephens had signed up to attend. “I loaded my tools including my old trusty Target saw (good luck charm) and drove eight hours south,” he said. 

Stephens didn’t leave his results to chance – he prepared well for it by reading the manual over and over and watching Ceramic Tile Education Foundation (CTEF) Training Director Scott Carothers’ video. “That video was very informative for me,” he said. “It reassured me that I had the right game plan going into the test. Everyone should watch that video.”

Stephens felt the exam was very fair. “The book part and online test went pretty smoothly; a lot was common sense to me,” he said. The hands-on part was more challenging. “It looks easy, but the pressure can get to you before and during the test. I care so much about what I do that I worried about time, making mistakes and about the overall quality of my install. I had adrenaline and anxiety all at once and in the end, it made me mentally and physically exhausted.” 

European wet room with classic black and white mosaics

All the effort was worth it. He passed, as CTI #1486, and “hopes it will separate my company even more from some of the other tile contractors in my area,” he said. “It will show my dedication and continued passion for the trade.”

Stephens also learned that he still has the passion and the skills to be a competent installer.

“I learned that I’m now part of a bigger picture in this industry,” he added. “It makes you realize that no matter how good you are or where you are in your career, continuing education is important and necessary to stay on top of your game.”

In fact, he is convinced that certification is important for our industry. “Most installers I know have been taught mostly proper ways, but also included are some not so proper methods and installation techniques,” he said. “Certification is a way to fine tune your skills. continuing education in general helps with the constant changes in our industry. Tile work is more specific than it’s ever been, with so many different new tiles and setting materials.”

Wood-look porcelain and pebble scribe create a stunning shower

Stephens would be interested in the Advanced Certification for Tile Installer (ACT) exams as well when they are offered locally to his area. He encourages others to go for certification. 

“Whether you think it can help you in business or not, do it for yourself,” he said. “Do it for your own confidence. There are no negatives to taking the test; we push ourselves physically and mentally all the time, and this test is no different.”

Individually hand-made fish scale tiles

Craftsman lives his passion by training youth

Jonathan Burton got his start in the trowel trades the way many did in the 1970s. Unlike most of his 13 siblings, and despite pressure from parents, he wasn’t interested in college. “I did my 12, I’m done,” he said. “I’m just going to go to work and raise a family” was his plan. But his dad made it clear that getting any old job wasn’t an option. If not going to college, his dad demanded he learn a trade.

Johnathon Burton started down the road to the tile trades at the urging of his father.

So Burton joined a friend who was going into carpentry on a tour of the nearby trade school. Intimidated by the math skills required for carpentry, Burton gravitated to the masonry program. “Little did I know masonry has just as much,” he chuckled. And thus, a future journeyman tile setter and tile contractor started down a career path born out of some magic combination of misperception, lack of direction, and parental interjection.

Fast forward 30 years and Burton can name dozens of people working in the tile trade in southern California whose careers probably would have been something else had their paths not crossed with his. Some probably wouldn’t have a career or even a job at all, he said. Recognizing so much of his younger self in the many young people he’s encountered in decades of church involvement, Burton takes every opportunity to suggest to young men and women a career in tile or masonry. 

“For some reason everywhere I go I end up talking about the trade,” said Burton. But it isn’t just talk. He exposes young people to the trowel trades any way he can. He created and ran a trowel trades workshop at one church he attended, and he has trained through his own company, Exclusive Tile Concepts, for years. Sometimes they’re interested on their own and sometimes they get a push from their parents, says Burton, who knows that feeling well. 

Recently, Burton held a four-hour informational event at his shop, a mix of general information about the trade and hands-on stations for demonstrations and participation.

Recently, Burton held a four-hour informational event at his shop, a mix of general information about the trade and hands-on stations for demonstrations and participation.

Sharing your passion with potential tradespeople

Borrowing from his approach, others can look for similar ways to connect the dots. Burton gets immense fulfillment when he can transfer some of his passion for trowel trades to a young person who hasn’t yet figured out their path, particularly in connection with his youth ministry work.

Jonathan Burton (left) of Exclusive Tile Concepts in Riverside, Calif., exposes young people to the trowel trades any way he can.

Jonathan Burton (left) of Exclusive Tile Concepts in Riverside, Calif., exposes young people to the trowel trades any way he can.

But there are young people everywhere looking for their thing, and not-so-young people looking for their new thing. To connect the dots in your area, step back and look for opportunities to do so. Are there career fairs at your local schools or exhibit halls? Can you develop an age-appropriate activity or presentation for your kids’ social or school groups? Can you post something on social media, welcoming interested people (and their kids) to contact you to talk or even visit some jobsites with you? 

Burton created and ran a trowel trades workshop at one church he attended and he has trained through his own company, Exclusive Tile Concepts, for years.

Burton created and ran a trowel trades workshop at one church he attended and he has trained through his own company, Exclusive Tile Concepts, for years.

Recently, Burton held a four-hour informational event at his shop, a mix of general information about the trade and hands-on stations for demonstrations and participation. He promoted the event with a postcard-sized flyer at high schools and churches. Can you do something like this at your shop?

Next, take inventory of what you love about the trade, the most fulfilling aspects for you, and develop that into talking points. Burton promotes the active aspect of the job, and the reward and fulfillment of seeing the finished work. Even over the phone, his optimism and energy are infectious. He’ll talk to you about tile as long as you want.

And consider this: If someone asked you right now why they should consider going into the tile trade, what would you say, and how would you say it? In other words, what’s your pitch? Please share it with us at [email protected], and it may form the basis for a future Training & Education article in TileLetter! 

NTCA Training Experience 2019: a new approach to educate, train and inform

In 2018, our training department, led by NTCA Training Director Mark Heinlein and supported by NTCA Technical Trainers Robb Roderick, Scott Carothers and Luis Bautista, presented more than 20 NTCA Regional Training programs. These events were day-long training sessions, offered to NTCA members and their employees, as a response to years of requests for this type of educational content. As the year progressed, our program improved, so much so that at the end of 2018, our members were not only singing the praises of the content of the education, they were calling for more. More programs, more opportunity to network and share ideas and techniques together, more hands-on experience, etc. 

NTCA Assistant Executive Director Jim Olson is responsible for the scheduling and overall management of the process related to workshops, and regional training. Workshops – as a reminder – are what the NTCA became known for the past 40 or so years. These were evening educational events offered as an overview of installation best practices, product standards awareness, and introduction of new technology to the trade. Last year, NTCA trainers offered both the traditional workshop sessions, and we also introduced the NTCA Regional Training program. In 2019, although we will continue down this path (in fact there will still be more than 100 traditional NTCA Workshops offered in 2019), we will expand and combine these two programs into a one-week long experience in many cities across the nation. 

Titled the “NTCA Training Xperience,” our trainers will work with a local regional host to offer a threefold week-long program. This will include a traditional Workshop that will be open and free to all interested industry professionals. This will be followed by a free regional training event available to NTCA members and their employees, and will close with a free open round table discussion for NTCA members to allow sharing of ideas, challenges, business tips, problem solving tips and more. Did I mention all these offerings are free? (NTCA Regional Training programs require a nominal fee to hold the space, which is refunded upon attendance). Offering education without charge is one more way NTCA is making training and professional excellence available to the industry at large, and to its members. 

Here is a little more information on the content you can expect from The NTCA Training Experience in 2019.  

Regional Training

GPTP Training programs will be based on ANSI A108.19. Programs will be held at Crossville and Daltile locations and will focus on all aspects of standards-based installation and best practices for installing gauged porcelain tile panels (GPTP) on floors and walls in interior applications. These programs will be supported by material and system experts from the GPTP, setting material and specialty tool manufacturers. The training day begins promptly at 8 am with a 90-minute classroom session followed by six hours of hands on training. This training meets the requirements of ANSI A108.19. Participating attendees will receive a certificate of course completion.

Substrate Prep/Large-Format Tile programs are based on installation standards, methods and best practices from ANSI A108, TCNA Handbook and the NTCA Reference Manual. Proper substrate installation, analysis and preparation is absolutely critical to every tile installation. This program focuses on a variety of substrate preparation techniques for floors and walls to meet the industry standard requirements for large-format tiles (LFT). After substrates have been properly prepared, attendees will focus on proper selection and mixing of mortar for LFT and correct trowel selection and usage to achieve industry-required rates of coverage to support tile installations on floors and walls in dry and wet areas. 

These may sound like common day-to-day tasks for any tile setter, and they are. This course is recommended for anyone involved in the tile industry. Seasoned experts may learn new techniques while those new to the trade will receive a solid grounding in best practices to achieve industry standards and long-lasting, beautiful installations. These programs are a benefit to NTCA Members.

NTCA Workshops

In 2019, NTCA Trainers are returning to the highways and byways and heading to the heartland and all corners of the United States. This year, we have broadened the programming in our free workshops to include:

  • Backerboard for Tile Installations
  • Shower Environment/Water Management
  • Membranes
  • Movement Joints
  • We will also be bringing our classic programs “Tile Matters – Best Practices for Pros” and “Failures – Could It Be Me?” to select locations that may not yet be familiar with these exceptional hands-on based presentations.

Many of our programs in 2019 are AIA and IDCEC accredited. Professionals from all walks of the tile industry are welcome and encouraged to attend. Our attendees always have a good time. Many tell us they learn something new every time they attend. It is also a great place to make new professional acquaintances, be exposed to new products from manufacturers, learn how NTCA membership can contribute to one’s professional growth – and maybe even take a door prize home at the end of the evening.

NTCA Round Tables

At select locations, NTCA members are invited to join a round table discussion hosted by their regional director and ambassadors and facilitated by NTCA staff. Topics will vary by location and may include: taking advantage of member benefits; networking with other members and peers; current issues affecting methods, standards, best practices, safety, training, finding and retaining employees; discussion of local and regional issues of concern. Dates and locations for NTCA roundtables will be announced soon.

We are very excited about the NTCA Training Xperience. We feel that there is no replacement to the benefits offered by presenting physical skills training in as many areas of the country as possible. It is our hope that the synergy created in these events will result in a trickle-down positive effect: installers who are present at the training will share this knowledge with their peers who were not able to be there, resulting in improved installation performance and reduction of installation error.  

For a complete schedule for 2019, visit the NTCA website. If you would like even more information about the NTCA Training Xperience, contact Jim Olson or Mark Heinlein. 

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.

Estimating Small Residential Projects: available online at NTCA University

New residential and light commercial estimating course on the horizon for 2019

As we are getting closer to the holidays and people are taking time off from work to spend time with family and friends, there seems to be a common theme among all tile contractors that I have been talking to: everyone is busy and being asked to bid more work. With so many people asking you to complete work before the holidays, are you putting together a bid that will protect you and make sure you get paid for your hard work?

This year we added a new NTCA University course on estimating called “Estimating Small Residential Projects.” While this course is geared toward someone bidding a remodel project, the basics apply to any type of project that you’re bidding. 

For example, are you with the customer when they select their tile or did they purchase it and expect you to install it? Either way, have you accounted for the possibility of additional work based on the tile chosen? Have you taken into consideration the time needed to complete the project versus other work that you have going on? Do you have enough manpower to complete the work? 

These are just some questions that should be addressed when putting together your bid. After all, would you rather be a little higher in your bid and make money, or be the low bid and not make any money on a project?

Next year we will introduce a new estimating course that will look at bigger projects, including new residential and light commercial. This course will go through the entire process to properly prepare a bid, and it will look at several obstacles to consider when putting your bid together. Since this new course discusses using plans to create your bid, there will also be a new course on using plans for estimating. Both courses are designed to teach the contractor how to create a bid that encompasses all costs, including added time spent estimating complicated projects to ensure contractors aren’t left with debt after the project is complete. 

To purchase your subscription to NTCA University, visit the NTCA store at https://tile-assn.site-ym.com/store/ListProducts.aspx?catid=490398 or http://bit.ly/2taYmOO to make your selection.  If you have any questions or ideas for courses that we should have available, please give me a call at 770-366-2566 or send an email to [email protected].

Visalia Ceramic Tile honored for apprenticeship training

In October, NTCA Five-Star Contractor Visalia Ceramic Tile (VCT) was awarded the UpSkill Tulare County Award from the Tulare County Workforce Investment Board on behalf of the City of Visalia. In his congratulations letter to VCT, Vice Mayor Bob Link praised VCT for “being a quality employer in our
community.”

VCT was exemplary in implementing an apprenticeship program for its company and sharing its process with Thad Russell, Academic Dean, Technical Education and Workforce Development at the junior college, College of the Sequoias. 

The list of UpSkill Honorees

The list of UpSkill Honorees.

Debbi Barton, Marketing Director and Payroll Manager for Visalia Ceramic Tile, said Russell had been concerned about the lack of apprenticeship programs in construction. VCT’s Sam Bruce shared with Russell the tile finisher program VCT would be implementing – the online program from NTCA University. Once implemented, Russell was struck by how VCT was enriching the skilled and trained workforce in the community. He explored with Bruce VCT’s experience of getting an apprenticeship program approved. 

This effort is even more critical since the passage of California AB566 – a new California law that requires 30% of labor on certain projects to have graduated from an apprenticeship program. This prompted many California construction trades to reach out to different organizations and schools to implement apprenticeship programs, Barton said. In fact, it spurred Russell to explore VCT’s program, with guidance from Sam Bruce, who met with other contractors and college personnel to share VCT’s process. As a result, Russell nominated VCT for the UpSkill Tulare Country Award, which was presented in recognition of the essential effort and information shared by VCT. The award is given by the Tulare County Workforce Investment Board (TCWIB). TCWIB’s goal is to grow skills and talent for the workforce of Tulare County.

The UpSkill Tulare County Award presented to VCT

The UpSkill Tulare County Award was presented to (L to R) John Martinho, Debbi Barton and Sam Bruce of Visalia Ceramic Tile to recognize the company for being a quality employer in the community.

Vice Mayor Link wrote in his letter, “Forming a registered apprenticeship program through the U.S. Department of Labor that connects instruction with relevant, hands-on experience for your employees is demonstrating a clear commitment to investing in your workforce and growing the skills and knowledge base of our citizens, and the community and economy is better for it. The City appreciates your efforts in growing a skilled workforce and formal recognition from College of the Sequoias and the Workforce Investment Board is well deserved.” 

Debbi Barton explained that “Currently we have graduated four tile finishers in the apprenticeship program and have started our next group of four trainees.” Leading this program is Ryan Barton, Training and Development Coordinator/Quality Control.

“Although all eight employees have been with VCT as tile finishers for two years or more, the knowledge they gained/are gaining from the program has been recognized by their foremen and coworkers,” she added. “Between bookwork, online training, hands-on training and field training, our tile finishers are skilled and trained with the knowledge and success of moving up in their career. We are proud of our employees and their drive to want to learn more! Thank you NTCA for your guidance and help setting up the program. We look forward to the Tile Setter program.”

VCT training program

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