News & Press: President's Letter

September 2019 President's Letter

Tuesday, September 17, 2019  
Posted by: Trish Moss
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Apprentice training: how could that be a bad thing?
The U.S. Department of Labor recently approved the NTCA’s National Guidelines for Apprenticeship Standards. This is the result of years of work by people passionate about training and development for anyone interested in the art of professionally installing beautiful products.

For years, NTCA has had a three-year federally recognized apprentice program for tile setters. What is new is that NTCA has expanded the program and received formal acceptance into the National Apprenticeship System. Our updated courses with new material incorporate an online training element that is transformative in its application and ease of use. The program’s online training modules supplement required classroom training. The program does not require separate training facilities. It’s intended to be mixed with on-site training, in-the-field application, mandatory classroom review and apprentices completing the online modules on their own.

NTCA volunteers and staff have been creating, writing and producing the instructional/educational videos related to tile and work safety.

In addition to installation proficiencies, the program extensively covers general construction practices you will need to know in order to properly perform our craft. The NTCA Apprentice Guidelines Program is a rigorous five-year program modeled after traditional programs, but adds multiple performance and competency tests over the life of the program. These test for industry knowledge and installation skills, which could provide the opportunity to move through the program quicker based on proficiency. At completion or before, a candidate will have completed the requirements for OSHA 10- and 30-hour training and will have to complete the Certified Tile Installer (CTI) exam. They also have an option to take Advanced Certification for Tile (ACT) if they wish.

I remember coming to the industry as a part-time laborer almost 35 years ago when I returned to school. I wish I had known of similar opportunities when I was starting out. The shortage of qualified labor continues to be one the most pressing issues facing the construction trades – maybe THE most pressing issue. This is not only true for tile, but all trades in general. I am confident that this program – properly executed – will be a terrific benefit for the industry.

As a member of NTCA, you have virtually free access if you choose it. For a person joining the industry, this could provide many opportunities within the installation and allied products community, not solely skills and craft training. 

Any opportunity to support, train, and uplift the craftsperson in the pursuit of bettering themselves, their skills, their knowledge, and their understanding of the trade, can only be viewed as a win-win. The effort, the focus and the passion many people gave to produce this program have always been about providing greater opportunity to the craftworker and those interested in making our art their livelihood. All apprentice programs require a long-term commitment to be successful. Both the apprentice and sponsor must pay close attention to DOL requirements.

It is perplexing that anyone would not welcome a program that is designed to draw new people into the construction industry by providing an opportunity to participate in a skilled trade for a lifetime. There are claims that apprenticeship programs like this or others not administered by traditional labor organizations threaten those established training programs. Most of those programs do an excellent job at providing information both in the classroom and training with hands-on skills development. However those programs have limited geographic availability and specifically restrict as much as 90% of the workforce from participating (by some estimations). Why restrict who can and cannot participate?

The National Tile Contractors Association, true to its name, is proud to represent tile contractors, allied products and tile manufacturers. Its intent is to provide service and member benefits for the advancement of the industry and anyone who is interested in high-quality training and participation in the industry regardless of affiliation. It is not about an organization, entity or political organization interested in sustaining an agenda, philosophy or point of view. The NTCA Apprentice program should produce a solid professional craftsperson who will have access to employment, quality compensation and multiple opportunities in any market. How could that be a bad thing?

Chris Walker
NTCA President

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