News & Press: President's Letter

March 2019 President's Letter

Tuesday, September 17, 2019  
Posted by: Trish Moss
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The craft is back - or on its way...
Recently, while waiting to be loaded at our local Daltile, I was speaking to a gentleman who had been in the tile industry for almost 40 years. I asked him what the most significant change he’s seen in the tile world was. His response surprised me. “The mixing drill.” What? I wondered, the mixing drill?

His response prompted me to reach out to Robert Roberson, who has been at the helm of the David Allen Company for 60 years. He mused that electricity on job sites was basically for lights only. He pointed out that the tile professional was equipped with a mortar board, stand, a hawk, a trowel, straight edges and a level. Everything was cut with a tile board and nippers. Period.

Incredibly intricate stone and tile work has been around for millennia. Marble and mosaics craft persons have long been highly respected artisans of the construction trade. Not long ago, craftspeople would trade their suit jackets and ties for white overalls after arriving at the project. That was the uniform, the mark of the tradesmen.

Of course, I am speaking of times long past. What is the point, you may wonder? The respect of the tradesperson got lost somewhere at the later part of last century. DIY, faster, cheaper with questionable practices and materials began to dilute the craft, along with the general perception of the value of craftspeople and the work they do. The noble artisan was devoured by the cheapest price, delivered in the fastest possible way.

The light at the end of the tunnel is that the complexity of many tile and stone installations is increasing again due to the efforts of manufacturers, distributors and specifiers. This helps to turn back the clock to the need for highly qualified installation professionals: QUALIFIED LABOR. Qualified labor, properly trained, who have the opportunity to be rewarded with a living wage and reward for work well done by tradespeople who care.

The recurring theme is a positive. It is the message that we are the professional descendants of a craft: a trade for artisans respected by their peers and the industry as a whole. Consider yourselves part of the craft in whatever capacity you contribute to the completion of the project. You are a trade professional, if you choose to participate at that level. It’s really about how you look at it. Is it a means to an end, or do you feel that it is your opportunity to advance toward a higher level of professionalism regardless of where you fit in the chain? You don’t need to be the person on your knees installing material. Your contribution may be to support a high-quality result somewhere in the chain, from manufacturing the tile or mortar to being the person capable of completing a highly complex tile or stone installation. We have a lot of awards around the office. They were all earned by teams of people delivering a high-quality result.

The effort to educate and recruit at many levels is at full speed. NTCA University, recruiting at work fairs, high schools, trade schools etc. is where we are looking. I believe that the “alternate” career path of the construction or craft trades is due for a resurgence in popularity among those who see “alternative as opportunity.” Pride is a choice. Be proud to be a part of a close-knit community of people who care about your success and want to help you succeed as a trade professional. The sole purpose of the NTCA is to support you in that endeavor.

Chris Walker
NTCA President
Vice President, David Allen Company
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