I hope this missive reaches you before the Concrete Decor Show Nov. 6-9 as I believe our industry has reached a pivotal point in its development.
As a technical trade, which is how I perceive decorative concrete, training is critical to your success and to the industry maintaining its competitive advantage. Your knowledge and ability to apply products professionally are what distinguishes you from other trades and your competition. The concrete industry’s effort to control outcome on a wide array of applications is partly why you need to know your business from the ground below the slab to the surface itself.
Our industry has been good at providing technical training but most of it focuses on a product category or a product someone is selling. It works well and so the industry continues to influence and educate audiences in this manner. But we need to acknowledge this information for what it is — product education. It’s important to make this distinction. While knowledgeable people are behind this product education, the need for skills development is blurred.
Many businesses have programs that train employees in best practices and procedures that closely tie to on-the-job training. What many businesses lack, however, are the tools to move people through fundamental skills development before they’re allowed to attempt more complex tasks. Unions have been successful in fulfilling this need in a wide range of vocational trades. Apprenticeship training often requires up to four years of learning a craft before the individual can earn the journeyman title.
The relative newness of the decorative concrete trade, along with widespread consumer interest, has created a need that all too often is addressed with enough training to land a job. The foundational skills are overlooked in haste to get work. These academics are in place for those who want to place and finish concrete but not for those who want to learn the trade. This must change as it’s one of the reasons why industry veterans are asking where all the good installers have gone and who will fill the shoes of industry leaders tomorrow.
This discussion is getting mixed responses. Whereas many don’t believe something this big could ever get off the ground, I believe it can if this industry believes in and supports this endeavor. It should start small and it must start now. As training expert Bob Harris will agree, we’ll never teach anyone a trade in two or three days. Likewise, people can’t learn a trade from the couch watching webinars or YouTube. They must learn by doing.
I look forward to seeing you in Florida where we’ll dive deeper into the labor challenges facing our businesses.