In addition to considering Tile Apprenticeships and Vocational Schools, have you thought about using your expertise and local knowledge to help get tile setting included in the SkillsUSA competitions?
If you're looking to help the tile industry and inspire the next generation of tile installers, here's an equally important goal.
What is SkillsUSA?
If you aren't familiar with SkillsUSA, it's a partnership of students, teachers and people involved in industry working together to ensure America has a skilled workforce. SkillsUSA is student focused because students are the future. Its mission is as follows:
"SkillsUSA empowers its members to become world-class workers, leaders and responsible American citizens. SkillsUSA improves the quality of our nation’s future skilled workforce through the development of Framework skills that include personal, workplace and technical skills grounded in academics."
To put into perspective the scope of the organization and how many individuals it has touched since 1965, realize that it:
- Serves more than 335,000 students and instructors annually.
- Includes 20,926 instructors who have joined as professional members.
- Has over 395,000 members including alumni.
- Cumulatively, has served more than 12.5 million annual members.
How does the SkillsUSA Championship Work?
The SkillsUSA Championship program begins locally and progresses through the state and national levels. These competitive events showcase the best career and technical education students in the nation. Contests begin locally and continue through the state and national levels.
The final event is massive!
- It occupies a space equivalent to 20 football fields.
- More than 6,500 contestants in 103 separate events participated in 2018.
- It requires nearly 2,000 judges and contest organizers from labor and management.
At the heart of the Championships' philosophy is a desire "to reward students for excellence, to involve industry in directly evaluating student performance and to keep training relevant to employers’ needs."
Where does Tile Setting Fit into the SkillsUSA Championship?
That's the tough one! Right now, it doesn't.
Unless you get involved in your state's SkillsUSA program and support, encourage, and relentlessly make the case for tile, it won't become part of the national SkillsUSA Championship. Don't you agree that that needs to change?
In fact, for tile to be added to the national competition, 10 states need to facilitate the tile setter competition. And then, that skill - tile setting - gets put on probation for two years to ensure that the competition is able to bring in competitors from these different states.
While working to get tile setting recognized by other states to get to national recognition, that's when it's possible for the industry to petition to have a technology demonstration at a national competition to showcase the test and potentially get other states interested in offering the new competition.
So far, there's one state. Please consider getting involved to increase that number to at least 10.
A SkillsUSA Tile Setting Success Story
Luckily, there's a success story in Georgia to inspire you with.
Becky Serbin, Training & Education Coordinator for NTCA, documented it in TileLetter in a 2018 article titled SkillsUSA competitions for tile setting: coming to a state near you soon?
The Construction Education Foundation of Georgia (CEFGA) conducts activities to promote careers in construction and quality construction training. It partners with the Technical College System of Georgia and the Georgia Department of Education to ensure that an industry-developed construction curriculum and standards are implemented in high school and vocational construction-related programs.
After approximately three years of pushing and conversing with Scott Shelar, CEO of CEFGA and Ashley Brown, Georgia SkillsUSA for an opportunity to hold a tile competition in Georgia, Rod's wish came true in November 2016 for the 2017 SkillsUSA event.
Woody Sanders from DW Sanders has also gotten involved.
What's Needed for a Tile Setting Competition?
You'll need a few resources. Luckily, you won't be starting from scratch. CTEF has played a part in developing some of these materials.
Here's the journey Rod took.
Prior to the first competition, he worked with a team of local manufacturers and contractors to put together a study guide, exam questions, and test module. He then forwarded information to high school construction programs that participate in SkillsUSA.
Five competitors took part the first year of the competition. None of these students had extensive knowledge of setting tile – some of them had been setting tile for two weeks, while others started at the beginning of the semester. None had ever set tile on an actual job.
While all of the tile patterns didn’t exactly match the layout the students had been given, all of them finished quickly.
For the next year's competition, Rod and the team developed a larger and tougher hands-on test.
Twelve students registered although only 10 competed. These students ranged in knowledge from newbies who had never set tile to “veterans” who had competed last year and honed their education for a year.
An Added Benefit to the CEFGA - SkillsUSA Program
This may be the case in your state, too.
In Georgia, during the testing programs, several thousand students along with their instructors have hands-on opportunities in many trades. Imagine having the chance to set tile on a park bench, possibly for the first time.
The key here is to stimulate interest in tile installation among the young people who briefly take time to experience the tiling process.
SkillsUSA Benefits the Entire Tile Industry
If you're involved in the tile industry, you know how critically important tile setting is. You're intimately aware how valuable Qualified Labor is and why tile installation best practices, methods and standards are.
So why are trades such as masonry, plumbing, carpentry, welding and others included in the SkillsUSA championships and not tile setting?
As Rod Owen states in the article,
“We owe it to these industry professionals – including ourselves – to market our industry in the same manner that other reputable trades do; to not have a national tile competition is a discredit to us all. If we expect others to take an interest and have passion for our industry we must first show and exemplify that passion ourselves."
Ready to Get Involved with SkillsUSA and Tile Setting? Here are Resources.
Do you feel inspired? Are you ready to work with the tile industry in your market to start your own SkillsUSA tile setting competition?
As you read above, you don't have to start from scratch. If you'd like to, you have existing test material developed to use in your state.
As Becky recommends in the article,
- Work with a team of tile industry professionals to supply judges and the hands-on test supplies such as tile, setting material, etc.
- Once approved, your state SkillsUSA organization will work with you to send information to prospective competitors and provide the space for the tile setting competition at a sanctioned competition site.
- Reach out to your state SkillsUSA director.
- Contact Becky at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more about what is being done at the state level in Georgia. Perhaps that can be replicated in your state.
Thank you for reading and participating so passionately in the tile industry.