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#TransformTheTrade

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.”

Now when you see #transformthetrade starting to crop up on social media and industry communications, you’ll know what it all means. Check out the Facebook group to join in!

The Ceramic Tile Education Foundation (CTEF) welcomes new members to its Board of Directors

The Ceramic Tile Education Foundation (CTEF) welcomes new members to its Board of Directors

The Ceramic Tile Education Foundation is pleased to announce four new members to its Board of Directors last month, effective immediately:

  • Erin Albrecht, Principal at J&R Tile in San Antonio, Texas
  • Trask Bergerson, Acting Owner/Partner at Bergerson Tile & Stone, Astoria, Ore.
  • Joseph Mattice, Certified Tile Installer #1155 and Owner of On the Level LLC, Simpsonville, S.C.
  • Mark Shannon, Executive Vice President of Sales for Crossville, Inc. in Crossville, Tenn.
Erin Albrecht, J&R Tile, San Antonio
Trask Bergerson, Bergerson Tile & Stone,
Astoria, Ore.
Joseph Mattice, On the Level LLC, Simpsonville, S.C.
Mark Shannon, Crossville, Inc.

“As CTEF embarks on the next phase of growth with the Certified Tile Installer (CTI) and the Advanced Certifications for Installers (ACT) programs, it becomes even more important for the CTEF Board of Directors to include additional perspectives from the tile industry,” says Bart Bettiga, Executive Director of the National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA) and member of the CTEF Board of Directors. “These four additions bring valuable experience to the conversations, ranging from working with dealers and distributors, general contractors and specifiers, as well as the CTI program.”

In addition to welcoming new members, CTEF also announces that Mark Shannon has been appointed Chair of the CTEF Board, replacing Svend Hovmand who remains on the Board as Chair Emeritus.

“Please join me and CTEF in welcoming these new Board Members. They and our existing Board Members play a vital role,” added 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.”

Other board members and officers include:

  • Eric Astrachan, Secretary–Executive Director, Tile Council of North America, Anderson, S.C.
  • Bart Bettiga, Treasurer – Executive Director, National Tile Contractors Association, Jackson, Miss.
  • Andy Acker, Board Member – Schluter Systems Manager of Education
  • Donato Grosser, Board Member – President and Founder of D. Grosser and Associates, Ltd., New York, NY.
  • Mike Hawthorne, Board Member – Financial Secretary-Treasurer for Minnesota State Building and Construction Trades Council; member of OSHA Advisory Council for the State of Minnesota.
  • Brent Stoller, Board Member – Installation Specialist and Training Manager, Virginia Tile
  • Chris Walker, Board Member – President, National Tile Contractors Association; Vice President of David Allen Company
  • Harold Yarborough, Board Member – XXXX D&B Tile Distributors
  • Svend Hovmand, Chairman Emeritus – Chairman Emeritus of Crossville, Inc.

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.

Learn More About the CTEF Board of Directors by visiting https://www.ceramictilefoundation.org/ctef-board-members.

Evaluator boot camp focuses on making CTI exams more accessible

If you read our Training & Education feature by CTEF’s Scott Carothers on page 66 of our February issue, you learned about the efforts afoot by the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation (CTEF), supported by The National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA), to bring more Certified Tile Installer (CTI) exams to contractors across the country. 

Carothers explained the beginning of the program in 2008 has led to the current stable of 1,600 CTIs. CTEF has been churning out about 150 CTIs a year but there’s an outcry from the industry for more opportunities to be tested, and for more contractors to have the opportunity to become CTIs. 

In 2020, there’s a goal of reaching 2,000 CTIs by year’s end. Yet with the current number of evaluators at 11, that has been impossible. Until now.

Starting in the middle of 2019, the CTEF board approved an intense week-long training of evaluators – an Evaluator Training Boot Camp, of sorts. Four intense trainings have been held, each with 14 evaluators-in-training: a mixture of Contractor Evaluators (CEs) and evaluators who hail from manufacturer technical departments; most were once tile installers themselves (Industry Evaluators or IEs). The goal is to have 56 evaluators by spring 2020.

Existing CEs go through an update, to learn the new grading system. They had already taken the CTI exam themselves to become evaluators. But the new recruits go through a rigorous curriculum that includes taking the CTI test themselves. 

Many manufacturers are supporting this program. “CUSTOM decided to participate in this value-add program because it aligns with our commitment to industry support through quality installation by our industries,” said Will White, of Custom Building Products. David LaFleur of wedi, added, “I agreed to become an evaluator as I saw it as a great opportunity to promote qualified labor in the tile industry. I was honored when wedi chose me as their representative to this program. The trade is suffering as a whole right now due to the lack of qualified labor. The CTEF and NTCA are doing a great job at working to improve this situation, and I feel this is a great way for me to help.”

Even though many of the IEs are technical representatives, the Boot Camp was no walk in the park. Ed Cortopassi of MAPEI said he was surprised by the “intricate difficulty of the task” especially time management when taking the CTI exam. CUSTOM’s White added, “With over 240 cuts in the certification test, you better have a plan that factors in the time allotted to complete.” 

For LaFleur, “The toughest part of Boot Camp was actually taking the CTI test,” he said. “I grew a new-found respect for those who completed it and passed. It is easy to assume, given the small quantity of tile installed, that the test may not fully test someone’s abilities. I was hugely mistaken in this thought process. After being away from tile setting for about one year, it was not only difficult to finish, but certainly tested all my abilities fully. I am grateful that I was able to finish and receive a passing grade.”

LaFleur praised the enthusiasm and dedication shown by Mark Heinlein and Scott Carothers in designing and implementing the training, and for making sure IEs were well prepared to administer and evaluate the CTI exam. “I learned how important it was to be accurate and precise when evaluating a test, in order to keep the test fair to all participants,” he said. “This will keep the integrity of the test in place, helping to assure consumers can trust they are hiring someone with the skills required to complete their projects.” Similarly, Daniel Grant of Ardex Americas said he was “happy to learn that the scoring was very clear, and mostly not subjective to the evaluator’s opinion or viewpoint.”

One thing White discovered  during the training was that installation technique and ability are perishable assets. “I have not installed tile on a production scale for 20 years – this camp showed me how an everyday task is not like riding a bike – you must practice this often to remain relevant and capable,” he said.

Ardex’s Grant said that in addition to the extended days in a hot warehouse, one of the tough aspects of the test was “Having to intentionally install several aspects of the module incorrectly for the evaluators to try to catch.” 

After completing the Boot Camp and the CTI exam, IEs had some words of wisdom for those planning to take the CTI exam. 

“My piece of advice is simple,” wedi’s LaFleur said. “Do not get worked up on the task at hand. All the information you need to pass is given to you in the study material. Treat the test like any other day at work. Devise a plan as to how you will complete the test in the time given and then execute it. The world is not perfect, so do not get hung up on any one detail.”

MAPEI’s Cortopassi added, “Make sure to attend the orientation the night before and pay attention to the many little details.”

And CUSTOM’s White said, “This is a certification test for those who earn it – not a guarantee you will pass. Study, plan and learn. May the Tile Force be with you always!”

One of the highlights of the Boot Camp was the “camaraderie from some of the other attendees,” said Ardex’s Grant, an opinion echoed by White. “What a great experience to understand we are in this together and quality can be achieved,” he said.

CTEF Focuses on CTI Evaluator Training and Finished Tile Work Education Sessions During TISE 2020

Pendleton, SC – During the International Surfaces Event (TISE) 2020 in Las Vegas, NV, the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation (CTEF) which provides education and installer certification for professionals working in the ceramic tile and stone industry will focus on Finished Tile Work education sessions and Certified Tile Installer (CTI) Evaluator Training. CTEF will be sharing booth #4727 with the National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA).

On Wednesday, January 29, Scott Carothers, Director of Certification and Training at CTEF will conduct a seminar entitled “Finished Tile Work – Do It Wrong or Do It Right: Lippage, Grout Joints, and Patterns”.  That afternoon, he will have a hands-on demonstration on the show floor to reinforce the same topic.

In its booth space, CTEF will construct three Certified Tile Installer (CTI) hands-on testing modules in progressive stages of completion for display. The CTEF Certified Tile Installer (CTI) program is the only third-party assessment of installer skill and knowledge which is recognized by the tile industry.

More importantly, the organization will offer shadowing opportunities to new CTI Industry Evaluators in order to move them to the next level of expertise of test set-up, the evaluation process and scoring. Industry Evaluators offer CTEF the means to expand the CTI program to more locations around the country in response to more tile installation contractors wanting to become CTIs.

The CTI designation identifies the professional installer who has reached a level of proficiency to independently and consistently produce a sound tile installation that displays good workmanship. Certification is the validation of the skills and knowledge of the men and women who presently are installing tile successfully in the United States. It offers property owners, both residential and commercial, peace-of-mind that their tile installer has the right skills and knowledge to complete a successful tile installation.

The CTI program includes two separate tests.

  • An online open-book exam taken at home or the office as the installer’s schedule allows.
  • A hands-on evaluation conducted at regional locations across the United States.

To qualify for the CTI Program, installers must have at least two years of experience as the lead installer setting ceramic tile on a full-time basis. This means having full responsibility for substrate prep, layout, coordinating with other trades along with properly installing underlayment, tile, grout and sealant materials.

The Ceramic Tile Education Foundation (CTEF) which sponsors the CTI program is supported by all segments of the ceramic tile industry. CTEF is headquartered in Pendleton, South Carolina, near Clemson University and the offices of the Tile Council of North America (TCNA).

To learn more, visit CTEF at Booth #4727 during TISE 2020 or visit https://www.intlsurfaceevent.com/en/home.html.

Let’s do this! #BecomeaCTI

There has been a lot of buzz lately surrounding the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation’s (CTEF) Certified Tile Installer (CTI) testing program. As a newcomer into the organization, I see room for the program to grow, and its potential to change the industry. 

The foundation of the program has been established: the CTEF developed a test that incorporates industry standards and challenges. It stretches the common beliefs of an installer, and requires a great deal of time management. Those who are passionate, yearn for education, and like a good challenge are showing interest, and are registering to become a Certified Tile Installer. 

Those who have taken the test know its demands and challenges. What becoming a CTI does is show the consumer/customer you follow industry standards, take pride in staying educated, and strive to do things correctly. Whether you are residential or commercial, becoming a CTI can make a huge difference in the fight for qualified labor. 

It is time for the trade to change the consumer mindset on labor. Budgets on projects should include allowances for quality installation, and not be about the lowest bid. Becoming a CTI increases the leverage needed to engage change. With that leverage, we will be able to build upon the progress that the NTCA Five-Star Contractor program has accomplished in getting qualified labor specified. Getting the architectural, design, builder, and retail community to specify and require CTIs creates a channel for the installer to make the compensation that is deserved.

Joining NTCA is a conduit to becoming a CTI. The CTEF and NTCA are working closely together to educate the industry on tile industry standards, methods, and best practices found in ANSI A108/A118, the TCNA Handbook for Ceramic, Glass and Stone Tile Installation, and manufacturer instructions, giving them the tools needed to become a certified installer. We are in the process of increasing CTI testing opportunities across the country, paying attention to the demographic areas where qualified labor is lacking. In 2020 we will be increasing efforts to secure sites for CTI testing and NTCA Workshops with our industry partners. 

Social media has played a huge role in CTEF’s recruitment of future CTIs, mainly from current CTIs mentoring, encouraging, and sponsoring future CTIs. This outpouring of support is how change gets initiated. The CTEF is grateful for our CTI graduates, and their participation in making the program a success. We are dedicated in 2020 to secure regional locations to expand the Advanced Certification (ACT) program, and have regular
scheduled opportunities available as well. 

I am excited to see what the future brings. 2020 will be a busy year. The opportunity to make a difference is at the industry’s fingertips. The CTEF and NTCA are dedicated to assuring qualified labor is required on jobsites. Become a CTI today. Please visit www.ceramictileeducationfoundation.org for more information. 

CTI testing stretches the common beliefs of an installer, and requires a great deal of time management. It shows your clients that you follow industry standards, take pride in staying educated, and strive to do things correctly.

Coverings Contributions to CTEF Top $1.5 Million | CTEF News

The Ceramic Tile Education Foundation (CTEF) which provides education and installer certification for professionals working in the ceramic tile and stone industry gratefully accepts $150,000 from Coverings at the 2019 Coverings show in Orlando, Florida at the Orange County Convention Center. This increases the contributions from Coverings to over $1.5 million.

Coverings has been a strong supporter of CTEF’s tile education and installation certification programs in two major ways: through generous funding and as a launch site for CTI and ACT hands-on certification testing.

Coverings, a strong CTEF supporter since 2008

More specifically,

  • Since 2008, Coverings has provided over $1.5 million in support to CTEF for certification and education.
  • In 2008, Coverings hosted the inaugural Certified Tile Installer (CTI) test.
  • From 2008 to 2017, Coverings served as an annual testing location for the CTI program.
  • Since 2010, Coverings has hosted the Installation Design Showcase, where the most talented and competent tile installers, including numerous CTI and ACT certified professionals, display their skills during the show, implementing cutting edge architecture and design concepts in tile.  In 2019, this has become the Installation & Design Experience.
  • In 2013, Coverings hosted the inaugural Advanced Certifications for Tile Installers (ACT) hands-on test.
  • From 2013 to 2017, Coverings served as an annual testing location for the ACT program.
  • Since 2018, Coverings has become the preeminent venue for showcasing the features and benefits of the Certified Tile Installer program, and tile installation training classes.

Because of Coverings’ generous and steadfast support, it is the sole CTEF Elite Sponsor.

Perspective on Coverings

Coverings is the largest tile and stone show in North America with 9 miles of the latest trends and exhibitors from over 40 countries and attracting over 26,000 attendees. For thirty years, Coverings has been the most prominent event for the ceramic tile and natural stone industry in North America.

The owners of Coverings include:

  • Ceramic Tile Distributors Association (CTDA)
  • Ceramics of Italy
  • National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA)
  • Tile Council of North America (TCNA)
  • Tile of Spain
How CTEF supports the tile industry

CTEF was founded in 1996 to address the absence of an organization focused solely on tile installation training and education along with promoting quality tile installation in the American marketplace. The attrition of the current tile industry workforce, at the rate of several thousand per year, compounded the problem.

The CTI program

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.

The CTI designation identifies the professional installer who has reached a level of proficiency to independently and consistently produce a sound tile installation that displays good workmanship. Certification is the validation of the skills and knowledge of the men and women who presently are installing tile successfully in the United States.

The ACT program

In 2012, six leading tile industry organizations came together to create the Advanced Certifications for Tile Installers (ACT) testing program that offers consumers increased confidence that their tile installers know and follow tile installation procedures that exceed ANSI standards and TCNA Handbook guidelines for floor and wall.

Tile training courses

CTEF conducts tile training courses and CTI hands-on testing in its 9,000 sq. ft. facility in Pendleton, S.C., which has been designed to meet the growing demand for ceramic tile-related installation courses. Each work area contains a tub and shower that are used as a practice area for tile setting, waterproofing, and shower pan programs.

Training and certification also take place in locations around the United States thanks to the passionate and committed CTEF Regional Evaluators and the numerous dedicated hosts who offer their facilities for hands-on testing.

Supporting the tile industry

Without the generous support of Coverings and other corporate sponsors, CTEF could not accomplish of the goals it has to this date, or to help equip tile installers for the future.

To support the tile industry as Coverings does, learn more about becoming a CTEF Sponsor by clicking on https://www.ceramictilefoundation.org/become-a-ctef-corporate-sponsor-benefits.

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About the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation

The Ceramic Tile Education Foundation (CTEF) provides education and installer certification for professionals working in the ceramic tile and stone industry. Certification programs include the CTEF Certified Tile Installer (CTI) program which is the only third-party assessment of installer skill and knowledge to be recognized by the tile industry, and the Advanced Certifications for Tile Installers (ACT).

CTEF is headquartered in Pendleton, South Carolina, near Clemson University and near the offices of the Tile Council of North America (TCNA).

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

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

NTCA recognizes Superior Tile & Stone as Five Star Contractor

National Tile Contractors Association has awarded the prestigious Five Star Contractor designation to member company Superior Tile & Stone, Oakland, CA.   NTCA now recognizes a total of 35 Five Star Contractors.

Five Star Contractors are required to complete a rigorous peer-approval process, demonstrating their commitment to training, service, quality, safety, fiscal responsibility and superior job performance.  More strict qualifications for applicants in 2012 include certifying a minimum of 10% of installers through the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation (CTEF) Certified Tile Installer program.

Both NTCA Five Star Contractors and CTEF Certified Installers are listed in recently approved TCNA Handbook for Ceramic, Glass and Stone Tile Installation language recommending the inclusion of installer and contractor specifications.  The revised Handbook stresses, “Matching installer ability to the project at hand requires close evaluation of their experience, training, state licensing…and certification/credentials.”  Tile Contractors Association of America (TCAA) Trowel of Excellence certified installers are also listed in TCNA Handbook recommendations for contractors who have demonstrated a record of successful installations; Superior Tile & Stone additionally holds membership in TCAA.

Tommy Conner, president of Superior Tile & Stone, Inc., said, “NTCA’s Five Star Certification and TCAA’s Trowel of Excellence demonstrate to the world of general contractors, developers and designers that Superior Tile & Stone is qualified to perform complex tile and stone installations, and may be relied upon to provide the highest level of professional service.  Superior is proud to hold both certifications, and to work in concert with NTCA’s other Five Star Certified tile and stone contractors to improve our industry.”  Superior is currently scheduling testing and certification of its field crews by CTEF.

Superior Tile & Stone, founded in 1929 and headquartered in Oakland, CA, provides installation, fabrication and preconstruction services for ceramic tile, natural stone and terrazzo for commercial services throughout California, Nevada and the Pacific Northwest.  Superior recently completed Smith Center for the Performing Arts in Las Vegas, NV and is in progress on the Alta Bates Summit Medical Center, Oakland, CA.

Five Star Contractors may display the “Five Star” logo on all marketing materials.  In addition, each company is prominently displayed in a special section on the NTCA website, with a direct link established from this website to each firm.  Product rebates and insurance discounts are available, and AIA-accredited PowerPoint programs give Five Star Contractors the opportunity to be THE tile and stone source for their local architects and designers.

For more information on the NTCA Five Star Program, visit www.tile-assn.com and click the Five Star link on the scroll bar, or contact Jim Olson, assistant executive director, at 601-939-2071.

To contact Superior Tile & Stone, visit the website at www.superiortilestone.com or call 510-351-1700.