INSTALL, the International Standards and Training Alliance, showcased certified installers in action at the Materials Pavilion during North America's largest commercial interiors show, NeoCon 2018. The group used Roppe products to showcase flooring excellence from product through installation. We caught up with John McGrath, INSTALL executive director, to learn about the group’s latest initiatives.

FT: Why does INSTALL invest time and energy into NeoCon?

McGrath: This is such an important audience, and we're trying to raise awareness of the awareness about INSTALL. We are trying to demonstrate that we are the safe haven for the floor covering industry. We are able to provide trained professional that can get the job done right per their specifications. A lot of our partners are at NeoCon, and I walk the floor in support of them. Next year, we'd like to expand our demonstrations to a number of our partners so that when people see floor covering being installed correctly they know it's being installed by INSTALL.

FT: What are your goals for the year?

McGrath: INSTALL needs to answer the call. Our goal for last year was to spread across the country. We were almost successful; we didn't make it with the Pacific Northwest, and we are still working on that. But we have the Northeast, the Southeast, Midwest and the Southwest. We rely on collaboration. We have installers and training centers, but if you don't have the management and manufacturer connections you can't get through the tracks. In the Northwest we are working on finding a partner in contract, so that's where we are. We need to get somebody that wants to set roots down and we can build this whole program. That was the only holdup in 2018. The next step is to connect the dots: we have the five corners and then you start filling in the dots, Georgia, Louisiana, New Mexico, etcetera.

FT: What are the industry challenges you are tackling?

McGrath: If you can think of any of the problems in the industry we are able to provide answers. We are losing trained installers, but between our recruitment and our retention we are always bringing people in. We have people waiting online to get into the INSTALL program between our outreach to Helmets to Hardhats, Sisters in the Brotherhood and minority outreach. We have 200 training centers across the United States and Canada. We have a curriculum and we have career-long training. I always say I don't know the answers, but I know someone who knows the answers. You can get to the answers through teamwork.

It's a challenge, but we have always been in succession planning. Starting in the 1950, every hour worked there were dollars that go into training. Now, we've had to put it on steroids in the last few years. We have Career Connections where we meet with the high schoolers from the sophomore year, junior year and senior year and introduced them to the trades. It's not the way it was when I was growing up: you naturally went into the trades. Now, the trades are an exception, but the trades offers them something that is comparable to a college degree with no college debt. We pay you while you're going to school. Career Connections have worked well for us. We have created some co-op programs so during the summer season they can work the floor covering trades and have credit when they graduate and go into an apprenticeship.

For more information, visit