There is growing recognition that the floor covering industry is at a critical point. It’s true that we have fantastic potential, but there’s a problem. The problem is that we have a shortage of well-schooled people in every area — from retailing, distributing and manufacturing to contracting and installation. This shortage is occurring at a time characterized by a booming economy and a tight labor supply.

The people shortage lies in all areas: sales, marketing, installation, administrative, office — and the beat goes on. We cannot afford to permit this industry to fall short of its capabilities due to a lack of recruiting, training and certification/accreditation for entry-level personnel, industry veterans and everyone in between. We must aggressively address these challenges.

We have strong forces at work for us in the whole area of education, certification/accreditation and recruiting. Increasingly, these concerns are being moved from the back burner to the front burner. We must continue our efforts to educate retailers, contractors, manufacturers, distributors, installers, office personnel, and salespeople at all levels. When you consider the power, dedication and talent available from associations and companies, there is no excuse for second-rate people in the industry.

Equally challenging is our need to spread the word to the public about the huge number and variety of career opportunities offered by the floor covering industry. Frankly, we are not doing the job we can and should to attract new people.

Tom Chuck, manager of products for Installers Choice, dropped me a note that clearly focuses on recruiting. He points out that there is an untapped labor source that the industry should consider developing: talented, young people in high schools as well as community and four-year colleges.

“It is incumbent upon us to approach the vocational and academic guidance counselors and offer to speak at Career Day and other assemblies about the opportunities available in our industry,” Tom writes. “Floor covering associations should actively pursue this course of action.

“I first developed this concept to recruit installers but, after listening to you speak at the Southern California Floor Covering Association meeting, Howard, it became evident to me that this program can be expanded beyond installation.”

The education area is a growing trend. What it says is this: If you and your company want to capitalize on a growing industry, you better take advantage of getting the smarts. They are there — just waiting for you.