Who Needs Training and Why?
July 1st, 2011

Industry Education Gives Your Company a Competitive Advantage

Continuing education to keep up-to-date with the way things are, rather than the way things were, is a fact of modern life. This could not be truer in today’s tile and stone industry. Everyone who wants to stay ahead of the competition and take advantage of new marketplace opportunities needs to leverage the latest industry information, a.k.a., industry education. The tile and stone industry has a number of excellent education and training resources. Because some of the biggest challenges are fitting training into our budgets and schedules, there are a number of cost-and time-effective training options available.

Instructor led or traditional classroom training is most familiar. It allows interaction between teacher and student, as well as discussion among students. This is also the most effective way to deliver hands-on training, where the student is required to complete tasks in simulated real world environments. It’s also a costly delivery method due to travel and lodging expenses in combination with the loss of productivity due to time away from work. (According to Bersin & Associations, in 2009 as much as 40 cents of every dollar spent on training was spent on travel and lodging.) That’s why many professionals leverage classroom offerings that are part of a larger industry event, like Coverings or Total Solutions Plus.

E-learning uses web-based programs on the Internet. Online training can be either synchronous, where the learners and instructor meet at the same time in a virtual setting, or asynchronous, at one’s own pace. Synchronous training is typically done through webinars, which allow for live two-way communication between instructor and student. It is also used as web conferencing, where teacher and students can meet, or student groups can collaborate. CTDA maximizes this format in monthly webinars that allow companies to sign up as many individuals as they would like from one location making it even more cost effi cient.

Asynchronous training allows the student to login 24/7 to take a course at their own pace. In addition to cost benefi ts, online training respects today’s busy work schedules, as it can often be completed at any time or place (with exception to synchronous webinar training) as long as there is a computer with an internet connection. Online training also means employees don’t miss work or any opportunities to sell their products. According to ASTD, in 2009, 36.5% of learning was technology based.

Mobile learning (mLearning) that takes place through a device such as a phone or iPad is increasingly common although many of us are not even aware that we are doing it. Every time we Google from a phone, text 411 to get a phone number, text someone a question, or use a social media platform from our phone, we are taking part in the mobile learning phenomenon. The fact that much online training can also be completed on a mobile device makes it the most convenient way for people to learn on the go. Currently, technology is trying to “catch up” so that the traditional eLearning courses are accessible on all mobile device platforms, but for now there are still some limitations.

All of these training mediums have their benefi ts and drawbacks, which is why a blended learning approach is considered to be the most effective way for someone to learn. Blended learning is a combination of online and instructor-led training, which harnesses the benefits of both types of training in order to maximize knowledge transfer to the student.

Options in the tile industry
The University of Ceramic Tile and Stone (UofCTS) has been providing industry training since 2002, with flagship courses on ceramic tile and stone training, as well as an upcoming course for tile installers on thin-set application. Tile and stone courses are designed to teach sales reps, installers, designers, and architects all of the many facets of tile and stone. With an emphasis in consultative sales techniques, these courses are popular among distributors and dealers who not only utilize them to train their sales organizations how to maximize every sales opportunity, but to train their customers so they can sell more of their products.

The upcoming thin-set installation course will teach industry standards and proper techniques for thin-set applications for all types of tiles. This course is for all industry installers whose goal is to limit liability and reduce the likelihood of failures.

The UofCTS also develops private labeled eLearning content for companies who need training on specific products. UofCTS offers a fully functional LMS online campus for providing self-paced or live courses. The Ceramic Tile Distributors Association (CTDA) offers UofCTS online training courses to their members at a significant discount through their CTDA Online Education program.

These courses help CTDA members to increase revenue by making their employees more effective at their jobs, and at a reduced price, further increasing the benefit to CTDA members. CTDA members can log onto the CTDA website for more information and to purchase these courses. CTDA also offers the Certified Ceramic Tile Salesperson (CCTS) program, the only certification designed specifically for salespeople.

CTDA’s monthly webinar series features industry experts who present information on various industry specific topics as well as general subjects such as economics, business, and how to increase sales. Webinars are archived so CTDA members can watch them at their convenience at a reduced price. NTCA offers hands-on symposiums, training seminars, customized training programs, and a library of training manuals, books and videos. The symposiums are fast-paced technical presentations hosted by NTCA’s director of training and education as well as by industry experts. The training manuals, books, and videos cover a wide variety of construction and installation topics and are available for purchase on the NTCA website.

In addition, NTCA plans to provide their members with privately branded UofCTS training courses. The Ceramic Tile Education Foundation (CTEF) specializes in standards-based installation training and certification that covers installation techniques and best practices. They provide hands-on and lecture-based training to many industry segments with an overall goal of raising the quality of ceramic tile installation.

MIA offers a blend of educational offerings, from instructor-led to online webinars. MIA, in conjunction with Stone World Magazine, offers stone industry education events on topics from fabrication to installation and marketing. They also offer free webinars to MIA members on topics such as website optimization, employment practice liability, and making money in a tough economy. MIA also offers a wide variety of DVD training available in their online store.

International Industry E-Learning Academy (IIEA), sponsored by Italian Association for Machines for Ceramic Tile (ACIMAC), is an Italian company that develops and sells technical and business e-learning courses on an LMS platform for the global industry. UofCTS is representing IIEA in North America and will soon be offering online training for ceramic tile manufacturers and others within the industry.

There are other options for training and education in our industry such as Fred Jackson with Estudio Group, who provides instructor-led training on various subjects such as ceramic tile and stone basics, care and maintenance, and green issues. In addition, there are other online and instructor-led training providers in our industry as well as a plethora of “how to” videos on YouTube and even forums like John Bridge’s Ceramic Tile Advice Forum, where you can post questions and give advice to others.

Education should be proactive, not reactive. With the current state of the economy and no significant shortterm improvement in sight, it is up to us to improve ourselves and give our businesses a competitive advantage to increase our opportunities and our income. We are fortunate to have so many training options that are tailored to what we do, designed by people who are in this industry and who are passionate about training in order to better our industry. Those who take advantage of these resources are the ones who will truly thrive.

JOSEPH L. RUSS is Director of E-Learning and Training Director for the UofCTS, responsible for new course development and the creation of customized courses. Russ is chief administrator of the Learning Management System (LMS), the educational technology behind the University, and manages business development and client relations.


Learning opportunities at Total Solutions Plus
When Total Solutions Plus convenes late this fall, attendees will have a wide selection of seminars and presentations to help keep them “in the know” about the latest tile and business trends. Here’s just a sampling of what to expect:

  •  Robin Grove: Challenges Dealing with Customs on Import Issues
  •  Bill Griese: Understanding Tile’s Role in Green Building
  •  NTCA: Glass Tile Installations and Demonstrations
  •  NTCA Training Director Gerald Sloan, along with highly acclaimed glass tile installation experts Greg Andrews and David Palmer.
  •  Josh Levinson and Greg Mowat: Exploring The Science of Natural Stone Tile Installations
  •  Shauna Causey: Designing a Website That Will Market Your Business and Increase Sales
  •  Josh Levinson, Nyle Wadford and James Woelfel: Using Installation Standards in Sales and Installation of Ceramic Tile and Natural Stone

For details, please follow the link at www.ctdahome.org

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