Every business has been forced to make some tough choices over the last year and a half, whether it was in manpower, materials or equipment (or all of the above). Unfortunately, training often falls victim to budget cuts and while that may be an excellent short-term solution to fiscal woes, it can have long-term detrimental effects on one’s business.
“There are plenty of able-bodied men and women ready to go to work out there. However, if they’re untrained or poorly trained in their craft, they’re only going to hurt you on a job when a product isn’t applied or installed correctly,” says Stuart Binstock, CEO of the Finishing Contractors Association, an organization that represents contractors in the Finishing Trades in the United States and Canada. “There are just too many companies competing for the same work these days to let a job go wrong because the men and women you hire may not have the skills to apply the newest coatings and materials. The margin for error is razor thin if you want to remain competitive.”
Fortunately for many companies in the painting and wall covering crafts in construction, the Finishing Trades Institute of the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades has saved them from having to make a choice on whether or not to cut their training programs. In fact, in these down economic times, companies that are partners with the FTI have more programs and resources than ever before to choose from. How? The Finishing Trades Institute and its local apprenticeship programs operate on their own budgets that have grown and developed through labor/management investment over the years. As a result, even in a down economy for its industry partners, the training budget for those companies remains strong and in place.
According to Binstock, “The work of the FTI is what separates us from non-signatory contractors. FTI keeps our contractors’ employees up-to-date on the latest technology and changes in procedures due to regulatory modifications. For example, while non-union contractors are scrambling to meet the requirements of the EPA’s new regulation on lead renovation, repair and painting, a large number of our contractors’ employees have already been trained through FTI-once again giving our contractors’ a competitive edge.”
The FTI trains the trainers for more than 100 IUPAT programs throughout the United States and Canada. In addition to training and certifying IUPAT instructors, it also has an in-house staff for curriculum development allowing FTI programs to remain up-to-date on all the latest techniques and materials in our crafts. Moreover, its growing partnerships with manufacturers of tools and materials adds even more to the FTI training resources.
The IUPAT Finishing Trades Instituted distributed more than $1.8 million in grants to its local training programs to update equipment, materials, personnel and programs in 2009.
In addition to its training, the Finishing Trades Institute is also on the forefront of creating new business opportunities for its industry partners.
One such initiative announced in 2008 was a new program that uniquely combined the skills required for the craft of traditional painting with the innovative new techniques and materials in Decorative Finishing. Also known as Faux Finishing, Decorative Finishing is a more than $30 billion-a-year industry that has experienced a renaissance recently. New faux products are entering the market at a fast pace and there are plenty of opportunities for companies to enter the market. FTI is making certain a trained workforce stands ready to get the job done as well teaching its industry partners how to bid on the work.
“Decorative Finishing is the art of transforming a space from a single to a multi-dimensional space providing unparalleled depth and drama,” says Sheri Zeman, owner of Faux Design Studio in Addison, Ill. Zeman has been a part of training IUPAT crafts men and women in the Chicago area for over seven years now and is one of the primary industry partners with the IUPAT in growing the Decorative Finishing craft. “Innovations in the industry give the painter unlimited boundaries to produce effects not possible in the past.” Zeman says.
FTI offers two courses in Decorative Finishing and has so far trained more than 30 trainers at its International Training Center in Hanover, Md. The center in turn has trained instructors in its own paint programs locally. More classes are scheduled for 2010 and beyond as demand for this craft continues to grow.
“Through this training, we are breaking preconceived notions of Decorative Finishing and creating finishes that serve as stunning backdrops to luxurious furniture and décor,” says Zeman. “I know first-hand that the demand for Decorative Finishing remains high in the market and that one of the main things holding contractors back from doing more of it is a limited qualified workforce. Together, we’re changing that.”
TRAINING FOR A BETTER BOTTOM LINE
The advantages an FTI partnership offers companies in maintaining skills and safety training programs in a down economy is obvious. When the market takes a turn for the better and new projects appear on the horizon in greater numbers, those who are up-to-date in safety and product training will have a significant edge when bidding for the new work.
It’s a prime example of how investing in training programs while times are good can reap enormous benefits for a company riding out a down market. W&C