The Floor Covering Education Foundation (FCEF) website reads, “It’s time to step up.” This call to action encourages anyone anywhere to support the organization and its efforts to help remedy the installation shortage. However, over the course of the 10-week Basic Floor Covering Installation Program, taking place at Georgia Northwestern Technical College, the students were the ones who stepped up. 

Starting in January, I traveled to Dalton, Georgia to cover the classes. Each week I took photos and video footage of the students working with various materials and tools to catalogue the event. I’m not sure what I expected of the students, but I was surprised to learn that one student had attended hair dressing school and learned it was not for him. Another traveled all the way from Ohio to take the class. One had served his country and decided a career in flooring was for him. Regardless of their backgrounds or reasons for signing up, they were there, and they were committed. 

Week one began in the classroom learning the basics—how to measure a space and determine the amount of floor covering needed. Dave Garden, CFI master installer II and course instructor, tasked the students with measuring the classroom...filled with desks...and computers...and each other. The students nervously and awkwardly let go of the death grip they had on their desks and stepped in the space between the desks to attempt to measure. I am going to be completely honest. If my life depended on me accurately measuring a space, you can bet I am going to meet my maker. So, I felt their pain. 

As each week rolled by, the students grew more and more confident. Dave made a point to keep the camaraderie high and everyone on his toes. Each time someone messed something up, it was a teaching moment but also a time to laugh and not take yourself so seriously. Oh! And let me tell you about the derrieres! Who says plumbers are the only ones who have a monopoly on flashing unsuspecting home owners? All I can say is — welcome to flooring, guys. 

Joking the end of the program, I had spent enough time with each of them to know that they had overcome enormous obstacles to be there every week. Some struggled with transportation to and from the classroom. Others had to work, detracting from class time. But they showed up late and stayed late, determined to complete the day’s assignment. Dave showed them tremendous grace and made it clear he was there for them. All eight of them were awarded their certificates of completion at the end of week 10. 

Congratulations to Andrew Slaton, Benjamin Stephenson, Wesley Ruiz, John Knowles, Cesar Manzano, Logan Spake, William Rivera and Kendall Keitt. Thank you for letting me be a part of your journey. Each of you showed tremendous grit and determination that I hope you carry with you throughout your careers.