NTCA to sponsor DOL-approved Apprenticeship Programs

Wow, I can’t believe that Total Solutions Plus was October and we will soon be into the holidays! In case you weren’t able to make it to our Training and Education Committee or Board meetings, I wanted to update you on some things that I have been working on.

As you have been reading in these articles, the online Tile Finisher courses are complete, and I am still developing the Tile Setter courses. Over the summer, NTCA staff met with the Department of Labor to discuss apprenticeship programs. Based on this discussion, we have decided to pursue Tile Finisher and Tile Setter Apprenticeship Programs where we will be the sponsor. This means that our members can be under the NTCA umbrella and use our Apprenticeship Program. It is a long process to get everything submitted and approved. As we get further along in the process, I will continue to update members. And as we get closer to approval, I will be able to provide more details about how members can use our program and what they would be responsible to document.

While we get the apprenticeship programs set up, we also need to take a look at ways to recruit people into the industry. This could include going to high schools, career fairs, or even promoting the industry online. Many members have started reaching out to their local high schools and offering to teach some basics on tile installations to high school students so that they understand there are career opportunities in our industry and that this art can’t be taught in a couple of hours. Based on outreach efforts of our members, we are working on a curriculum that could be used to teach a four-week or one-semester course. Once we have finalized the curriculum, we will be making an announcement to our members. 

Earlier this year we introduced a new recruitment video (See it at https://bit.ly/2xpx9wE) that can be used by members or posted to member sites to promote careers in the tile industry. We will be following this up with additional recruitment material including literature that members can use when they are in front of potential candidates, as well as a recruitment video dedicated to women that set tile.

As you have read, there is a lot going on. And most of my work cannot be done without the help of our great members. So, if you are able to assist with writing scripts for online courses, providing videos for online courses, or know of female tile setters, please email [email protected] or call me at 770-366-2566. 

Utilizing tile industry standards

There have been a few recent online discussions about the need to educate tile setters on industry standards, and in some cases, educate those who know about the standards but don’t know how to use them. In every training session, NTCA spends time talking about and referencing ANSI standards and the TCNA Handbook, so it would only make sense that we also have courses in NTCA University on these subjects too. While most of the courses touch on this information, we have five courses devoted to our industry standards. Here they are:

Introduction to Tile Industry Standards

NTCA trainers Mark Heinlein and Robb Roderick presented an Introduction to Tile Standards at Coverings17. It was an in-depth look at all of the ANSI standards associated with the tile industry. They also discussed TCNA, including the handbook, NTCA, including the NTCA Reference Manual, and they reviewed other standards and building codes that affect a tile installation.

ANSI Standards courses

There are currently two courses covering the ANSI book: Introduction to ANSI A108.01 and Introduction to ANSI A108.02. Neither course reviews word for word all of the information found in each standard, but both courses highlight the type of information that can be found there. The idea is that these courses will get learners to open the ANSI book to understand the type of information that these standards contain and to comprehend the basic requirements for tile installations.

TCNA Handbook courses

There are also two courses available on the TCNA Handbook. The first course is TCNA Handbook Specifications Section. This course focuses on the information found in the section titled Using the TCNA Handbook for Specification Writing. This course uses actual methods in the Handbook to show where tile setters can find and use information from components of an installation method. While the course is mainly focused on this area, it does review all items found in this section of the actual book. 

The second course is How to Find/Use TCNA Handbook Methods. Many Handbook users state that it is difficult to find the method they want to use. This course reviews information available in a method number, why methods don’t always appear numerically, and different ways that you can search for methods within the Handbook.

Even though all of these courses are recommended for the start of a tile setter’s career, anyone that has been in the industry will benefit from taking these courses, especially if they feel intimidated by the books and never open them. Also, these courses could be taken by someone who is planning to take the Certified Tile Installer (CTI) test. These courses are a good way to get someone to open each publication and explore the type of information that is available.

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 offer, please give me a call at 770-366-2566 or send an email to [email protected].

W2 or 1099 worker classification: which will you choose and why?

W2 form

NTCA University helps employees determine the differences of each worker classification

Based on conversations that I am having with members, it sounds like everyone is really busy. This often means that you are competing with other tile contractors to keep your employees. In fact, one of the biggest issues in our industry today is business owners who employ W2 workers competing to keep them, compared with those who employ 1099 workers. To that end, NTCA University developed a course to educate the employee on the differences of being a W2 or 1099 worker. 

I don’t know of a single employee who would quickly say no to a job offer elsewhere for more money and equal work without at least taking time to consider the offer. Unfortunately, in the construction industry, higher pay does not always mean that all things are equal. Hopefully, you have employees that value your opinion and would let you have the opportunity to explain or make a counter offer instead of just sending a text or calling to say “I quit.” Before it gets to this point, you should have your employees take the NTCA University course to learn the differences between W2 and 1099 workers and the benefits and advantages offered by each situation. 

For those who employ W2 workers, I recommend sitting down with them before an offer is made and educating them on these differences. Use NTCA University to reinforce the information that you are explaining. This allows your employee to make educated decisions when more pay is dangled in front of them. This isn’t to say that they won’t decide to leave but if they do they will at least understand how their responsibilities will change.

The course goes through differences of each employment situation. It details the W2 worker benefits and taxes paid by the employer versus the 1099 worker’s responsibility for taxes, insurance, carrying workers compensation and vehicle to get to job sites, etc. 

The course also talks about how your work is structured as a W2 or a 1099 worker. There are those who prefer to have paid vacation time and a steady paycheck versus those who want to pick and choose when they work.

W2 and 1099 workers are apples and oranges – they aren’t comparable or equal. One needs to look at the whole package offered by each company to decide what is best for them in the long run.

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

Estimating courses are in development

As I have stated in previous articles, we have a lot of new members and they are looking for help with their businesses. If you take a look at our membership, most of our contractor members employ up to five people including themselves. I’m also assuming that most of these owners are tile contractors first and business owners second so the fact that they need help running their businesses should not come as a surprise to anyone.

That being said, one of the Training and Education subcommittees, led by Dirk Sullivan with Hawthorne Tile, has started developing estimating courses. The team realized that there are several different types of estimating needs based on the customer and size of the project, so they started with a course on estimating small residential projects in which you would be working in a home where a homeowner could be present.

The course starts with explaining what you should do during your initial visit including how to make a good impression and the type of information that you should gather while you are at the potential job site. Here is a tip: never give a price to a potential customer off the top of your head! Always take the information from the job such as substrate prep needs, size of project, potential material needs, and any important details with you, then take the time to write up a formal estimate in your office.

The course then progresses into everything that you should include in your estimate. Many contractors forget about overhead or what to do if the homeowner is adamant about buying the tile themselves. Will it meet ANSI A137.1? Will you be required to do extra work because of this tile? The course gets into these concerns and others. It also identifies what you should do to protect yourself.

Remember, you are a business owner and you must protect your business and be profitable. You are no longer only a tile setter. Do you only have a handshake agreement? Or do you detail deposits and payment schedules with a signed contract? Finally, the course reviews contracts and terms. It also discusses liens and the proper way to notify the homeowner in writing of your process to recoup any unpaid contractual services.

As I stated, this is the first in a series of estimating courses. As they become available I will be updating everyone in TileLetter since these courses are in such high demand.

To purchase your subscription, you can visit the NTCA store. Go to www.tile-assn.com and hover over Education & Certification on the home page, then click NTCA University. Or point your browser to http://bit.ly/2taYmOO to make your purchase. 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 me an email at [email protected].

Tailoring apprenticeship programs to suit your company

If you attended Coverings this year, you may have noticed a common theme was the desire/need for education. So it should come as no surprise that I get a chance to talk with a lot of new members about education and training opportunities available through NTCA.

Obviously, my first discussion item is NTCA University. The follow up question I often get is: “How can I use it in my company?” So, I wanted to take some time to review what other members are already doing so that you can use this information to help develop a program that is best for your company.


DOL-approved programs

The first thing that most contractors need to decide is if they want a Department of Labor (DOL) approved apprenticeship program. Even though NTCA University can be used as related content for an apprenticeship program, currently, the NTCA is not an actual DOL program provider. This means that if your company benefits from an approved apprenticeship program such as prevailing-wage projects, utilizing your state’s workforce commission to assist in finding workers or potentially utilizing a pre-apprenticeship program, or applying for and utilizing grant money to offset training costs, then you will need to work with your state DOL to apply for and register your training program.

Pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeship programs

Currently, we have members who are utilizing pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeship programs. Members who have a pre-apprenticeship program work with local technical schools or workforce commissions to educate potential new hires. At the end of the program, contractor members offer apprenticeship programs within their companies to students they want to hire. Other members hire new employees directly into their apprenticeship program. We even have members in one region coming together to build a regional apprenticeship program and sharing the cost and training of the apprentices (See this month’s Training & Education story for details).

If you don’t think your company would benefit from a DOL-approved program, then you can always use NTCA University to supplement on-the-job learning. Let’s face it, once you are on the job for awhile, it’s easy to develop bad habits that shouldn’t be passed on to a new hire. These courses were developed referencing industry standards and best practices and may be taken by individual employees during or outside of the work day. This means that you can view courses in a group setting and discuss what was learned, or you can allow the individual to take courses and then follow up later to discuss what was learned.

Remember there isn’t just one way to train your staff or one program to employ. NTCA University was designed so that you can create a program that best fits your company’s needs.

Do you already have a training program in place? Please email me at [email protected] or call me at 770-366-2566 and let me know what you are doing. Members are always looking for new and/or different ideas they may be able to incorporate into their company. Remember this is an association for the contractor, and developing the next generation of tile setters is important to all of us.

NTCAU – Regional Training Event mid-year wrap up

Members are always asking me about training opportunities. Well, this month I wanted to promote regional training. 

At the start of the year, NTCA announced that it would offer regional day-long events in each of its 12 regions throughout 2018. As we close in on the midway point of the year, NTCA Training Director Mark Heinlein has been traveling the country training NTCA members on one of two topics. Depending on location, he could be leading a day-long training in Industry Standards/Substrate Prep/Large-Format Tile or Gauged Porcelain Tile/Panels. 

Industry Standards/Surface Prep Large-Format Tile

The Industry Standards/Surface Prep/Large-Format Tile session starts with classroom lessons on tile industry methods and standards using ANSI resources. From there, class members learn how to use and navigate the TCNA Handbook. The attendees spend the rest of the day in a physical, hands-on working setting. Heinlein works with the class to check substrate flatness on floors and walls, general examination of framing systems, and proper installation of cementitious backer units. He then reviews various surface prep methods before releasing the attendees to work with the prep materials. 

Attendees are teamed into small groups to explore proper materials and tools for patching and rendering a vertical substrate to meet industry tolerance for large-format tile. The small groups then experiment with and pour self-leveling underlayment (SLU). 

When all substrates have been properly prepared and flattened, the class advances to proper mortar selection, mixing, trowel selection, mortar coverage, and installation techniques for large-format tile. When this event was held in Portland, Ore., Dirk Sullivan, owner of Hawthorne Tile, sent 10 installers with various levels of knowledge. Sullivan stated, “Training and education are key to the success of my company, and more importantly, the industry as a whole. The regional training event that was held here in Portland this past March was a fantastic opportunity for our installers as well as community here in Portland to see firsthand the hands-on [demonstrations], standards, techniques and materials used for successful, by-the-book installations. More please!” 

Gauged Porcelain Tile Panels

The Gauged Porcelain Tile/Panels (GPTP) course begins with streamlined overview of industry standards, then delves into ANSI A137.3 and ANSI A108.19, which have recently been approved and are specific to this new product.

After the classroom work, attendees relocate to the work area to learn about the tools that they will use during the day. Every attendee will join a small team to set a full-sized panel on either on a floor or wall substrate. As the teams work through the process, Heinlein offers tips and tricks to lead to a successful installation.

Visalia Ceramic Tile, Inc., was one of the first locations to hold the GPTP course. Sam Bruce, president, stated, “As a company, a handful of our crews have installed GPTP, but this training gave us the opportunity to have every tile setter get a high level of education and instruction of what GPTP is and how different the installation can be. The training put Visalia Ceramic Tile in a position to confidently send any tile setter to a project where GPTPs would be installed.”

Testimonials

Still not convinced that you should consider attending or sending your team? Well, here is some feedback from others who have attended:

Woody Sanders, Owner, D.W. Sanders Tile & Stone Contracting: “The regional event was a tremendous opportunity that we took full advantage of. The efforts and preparation of the NTCA, along with the workshop sponsors could not go without being noticed and applauded. With the popularity of GPTP growing and the recent completed standards being published, this training focused on GPTP from start to finish. Furthermore, the event focused on proper techniques with hands-on training. This is why a few of my apprentice setters and I attended. Looking back, I should have brought my entire staff, but coming out of Coverings’ Tiny House [Installation Design Showcase] last week, we needed to get back to work.”

Rod Owen, Owner, C.C. Owen Tile, stated: “We had the opportunity to send a diverse group of our men for the Gauged Porcelain Tile Panels training. They ranged from master journeymen to first-year students in our Apprentice Training Program here at C.C. Owen Tile Co.

“The training gave the opportunity to discover new, exciting materials and methods of installation while emphasizing the absolute necessity for a strong core foundation of time proven methods,” Owen continued. “While our veterans were realizing the importance of staying in the know of their ever-changing industry, the apprentices were digesting the many aspects of an industry they have just begun a career in. 

“It’s great to see these guys the several days after the training session because there is a synergy that comes from these sessions: the guys learning something new, and the guys realizing the company cares about their professional growth and development as well,” Owen said. “It’s also intriguing when we tell the general contractor we are pulling guys off their jobsite for the day. As a specialty contractor, logic would tell you that the GC will have a fit but to our disbelief most are in support when you tell them it’s a training session.

“More importantly, the NTCA regional event was an opportunity for our tile setters to experience the tile industry in a different way than they are used to,” Owen concluded. “Meeting Mark, Robb and David Gillespie of Crossville and other superstars in the industry who have a passion for tile was a little astonishing. Receiving the high level of training and event type atmosphere was in a way a version of Total Solutions Plus or Coverings. Our tile setters left this event motivated, refreshed and eager to enhance their skills in the trade, the same way that the national events do for me.”

Due to the magnitude of hands-on work and training by Heinlein, class sizes are limited to the first 20 registrants. In many cases, we are also unable to accept attendees without a registration and don’t have room in the training area to allow people to just stay and watch. If you decide to register, no matter which training event you attend, you are going to learn something even if you think you are an expert already. The next regional training event is in Elk Grove, Ill., on July 13th. To learn more about regional events available in your area, visit  https://bit.ly/2Lccbq6.

Learning to use industry publications: ANSI manual and TCNA Handbook

When we first started to develop NTCA University, I reached out to several contractors for feedback on courses that their company needed. Several contractors asked for courses on how to use the ANSI standards and TCNA Handbook. As we started to develop courses for new tile setters, these were near the top of the list as required courses. Courses on both topics were recently added to NTCA University.

Two ANSI standards courses

There are currently two courses covering the ANSI book: Introduction to ANSI A108.01 and Introduction to ANSI A108.02. Neither course reviews word for word all of the information found in each standard, but both courses highlight the type of information that can be found there. We are hoping that these courses will get learners to understand the type of information that these standards contain and get them to open the ANSI book to see all of the information that is useful to every tile installation.

Two TCNA Handbook courses

There are also two courses available on the TCNA Handbook. The first course is TCNA
Handbook
Specifications Section. This course focuses on the information found in the section titled Using
the TCNA Handbook for Specification Writing
, pages 48 – 50 of the 2017 edition. This course uses actual methods in the Handbook to show where the information from components of an installation method can be found and used by the tile setter. While the course is mainly focused on this area, it does review all items found in this section of the actual book. 

The second course is How to Find/Use TCNA Handbook Methods. Many people have told me that it is difficult to find the method they want to use. In this course, we review what information is available in a method number, why methods don’t always appear numerically, and different ways that you can search for methods within the Handbook.

Even though all of these courses are recommended for the start of a tile setter’s career, anyone that has been in the industry will benefit from taking these courses, especially if they feel intimidated by the books and never open them. Also, these courses could be taken by someone who is planning to take the Certified Tile Installer (CTI) test. These courses are a good way to get someone to open each publication and explore the type of information that is available.

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].

Installation companies applaud benefits of NTCA University online courses

I am always asked how people are using the online NTCA University courses, how they like the courses, what type of feedback I am hearing, etc. So this month I reached out to 10 companies for feedback. With everyone’s busy schedules, I didn’t hear back from everyone but here is the feedback that I did receive.


“We are excited that the finisher courses on NTCA University are 100% complete. We have made the training a part of our orientation process as well as making it available to our existing employees. It is a great tool to introduce new hires to the trade, as well as a great supplement to the hands-on training existing employees are already receiving. We have also assigned some of the training to our showroom sales team to increase their knowledge of product and processes that are used in the field. We believe that continuing education is what sets us apart. The feedback from the team has been very positive.”

Sally Perez,
Human Resource Director,
Visalia Ceramic Tile, Inc.


“At Hawthorne Tile we’ve been really excited about the NTCA University. We feel that education is the most valuable asset we can pass on to our employees. I’m in charge of the education of our apprentices, and being able to customize the courses we have them take based on both skill set and the projects that they’ll be working on has been really helpful. I’ve been going through taking courses myself and have been very impressed with the thoroughness of each course. There is valuable information on there for everyone, from the day-one apprentice to management. This is something our trade has been lacking and I’m excited to see it come to fruition.”

Ryan Willoughby,
Project Foreman,
Hawthorne Tile


“I subscribe to NTCA University because we started this business just over a year ago and, well, – let’s face it – we had A LOT to learn. We joined the NTCA, as I am a big believer in following procedures and standards and want to leave my customers with the peace of my mind that I do indeed know what I’m doing and deserve to get the prices I quote.

“I’m currently taking Tile Standards, Just in Time and Cleaning Agents and Maintenance. I love the courses! Educational, cost effective, and convenient. Just one of the benefits this offers tile installers: an opportunity to actually learn how to do things the ‘right way.’ This only makes you better at your job.”

Tracey Guile,
Flawless Floorz


Since Flawless Floorz is new to NTCA, I reached out further to ask what types of courses she may need. And Tracey’s response was, “I have not looked through the course list in detail but one of the biggest problems I have is estimating, so I’d like a guideline to follow from measurement to preparing the estimate. Also, how to deal with all the online ‘find a (fill in the blank)’ services they have everywhere.” This is the type of feedback that I need from all members. In fact, the Training and Education Committee is working on courses for estimating that will be published soon.

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

Learn more about NTCA University

Visit Becky Serbin at booth #8209 at Coverings

Spring is in the air so that can only mean one thing…it’s time for Coverings. For those of you attending the show, why do you attend? What are you planning to take away from the show? If you are like several people that I have talked with, you are attending to network, learn about new products, and attend several of the educational events to help your business grow. So obviously it is important to you to keep up with current trends and education opportunities. 

Do you also have your employees with you or are they all at home working? Unless you are local to Atlanta, I’m guessing that all of your employees are at home because of the travel expenses to attend. When you go home, what do you do with everything that you learned at Coverings? Do you discuss what you learned with your employees or do you just go on with business as usual? 

Even if you don’t discuss what you learned at Coverings, have you thought about purchasing access to NTCA University to offer training to your employees? Several people have mentioned they just don’t know if it’s worth it to them to offer training to their employees. If you have taken the time to seek out additional training for yourself, you owe it to your employees to enrich their learning too. 

Maybe you’re unsure if what we offer on NTCA University is right for your company. Given that so many of our members have questions about courses offered and how to use the site, I will be available at scheduled times at the NTCA booth #8209 at Coverings. Check the booth daily for times when I will be there to discuss anything associated with NTCA University. 

If you have an opportunity to spend time in the Installation Experience, you will be able to see varying skill levels of installers that you are competing with today. Would you rather be the installer of a really bad installation with lots of call backs or would you rather be an installer like the qualified labor installation? All of the NTCA University courses are based on industry standards and help you grow your knowledge.

If you are unable to attend Coverings but you want additional information on NTCA University, please give me a call or send me an email. I would be happy to discuss the training opportunities available with you. Reach me at 770-366-2566 or [email protected] To purchase your subscription, you can visit the NTCA store at https://tile-assn.site-ym.com/store/ListProducts.aspx?catid=490398 or http://bit.ly/2taYmOO to make your purchase. 

Primer: format change at NTCA University

Three ways to find the courses you want

I was going to dedicate this month to providing feedback from users but I have had so many questions with the format change that I thought I would address those first.

As you may remember, courses were broken out into six-month segments for new hires, but I received so much feedback of “I can’t find the course I want” or “We only do residential” or “We just want our employees to take a few courses in each segment,” that I listened. As a result, we no longer have the six-month segments listed. Instead, every course is listed individually. Even though courses are listed individually, that doesn’t mean that we aren’t offering you some direction on which courses to take or tell your employees to take.

There are actually three ways to find courses. Let’s assume that you are a tile installer with a new hire; you can click on the introductory courses on the home-page of NTCA University. This opens into an Excel spreadsheet and lists all of the courses in six-month segments. You can then tell your new hire to follow the courses as listed or move courses around or delete courses that may not pertain to your company. And as new introductory tile setter courses are added, they will be added to this spreadsheet.

Keyword search

The other two ways to find courses can be found on the subscription tab. The first is a keyword search. So if a word is in the title of the courses, description, or keywords then it will appear. All courses have keywords associated with them that you can do a search on to see what is available. For example, if you search for grout, you will find several different grout courses, then you can scroll through and find the type of grout you wanted to learn about.

Category search

The third way to find courses is by clicking on a category. For example, if you are a beginner tile installer, you can click on “beginner” and all courses that have been tagged will be listed. Then you can decide what you would like to take. Or if there is a management course that you would like to take, click on the type of course and if one is available it will be listed.

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

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