Job prospects are no small consideration when young people are deciding what to study. Recent research suggests that skilled trade workers are in high demand — in 2019, six of the top 10 fastest-growing U.S. industries were in construction, which relies heavily on skilled trade workers, according to an analysis by Abrigo.
Erin Albrecht and Christine Kotara have built a successful team for J&R Tile in San Antonio, Texas, by making sure their business is the best it can be. They are committed to continuing education for their employees, as well as helping the design and architect community understand the value of skilled labor.
“I’m a second-generation tile installer. My father started Corona Marble and Tile,” explains Mike Corona. “The reason I got into the trade was that I saw an opportunity that there was a need for skilled labor. So, what I found as a business owner and tile installer for 15-18 years, is that the need for qualified labor is as important as it has ever been.”
Become a Qualified Tile Installer
Many supporting organizations and programs are available to help people train to learn the craft of tile installation, achieve qualification as a tile installer, and learn further installation skills:
Certified Tile Installer (CTI) Program: The CTI program involves a comprehensive test of tile installers’ skills and knowledge, including both a hands-on test and a multiple-choice exam based on current industry best practices and standards. The test is a means for tile installers to verify and promote their expertise.
Tile Contractors Association of America (TCAA) Trowel of Excellence Certification: The Trowel of Excellence Certification verifies that tile/stone installers consistently perform high-quality installations, are committed to bettering the ceramic tile industry, and demonstrate superior business practices and integrity. Requirements for certification include educational programming, project documentation, and letters of reference.
Masonry Institute of America (MIA): The MIA presents seminars and publishes educational resources related to masonry design, construction, and inspection to enhance the use of masonry.
As head of certification and training for the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation (CTEF), Scott Carothers stresses the importance of sharing information on industry standards and methods with tile craftsmen: “We have to get that information to them so that they can utilize that knowledge and equate that to the end of their hands and provide a quality installation that’s going to stand the test of time.”
Build a Career in the Tile Industry
Trade School vs. College
According to Forbes, the cost of a university education has increased almost eight times faster than wages over the last few decades, causing a situation in which one in every five graduates with debt are behind on their monthly student loan payments.
Additionally, a comparison of top-paying college majors from Glassdoor and top-paying trades jobs from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that trade careers often come out on top, earning more during the first five years of employment.
The rising cost of college paired with the higher wages of trade careers creates what Scott Carothers calls a “win/win” situation for those entering the tile trade:
“We’ve done studies where we have seen a five-year comparison where a student coming out of high school can enter the tile trade as an apprentice and in five years, be making over those five years, about $255,000. A student that does a five-year program in a college-level institution comes out of the school with probably in the neighborhood of $150,000 to $175,000 in debt, and no job. And many times, we’re finding that people can’t find a job in their industry, so they are challenged to even stay in the industry where they’re trained. Conversely, the ceramic tile installer going through that apprenticeship program has a job, and has had a job the entire five years, and continues to work. So, it’s really a win/win situation.”
The following data poster from HousecallPro.com shows a complete picture of the pros and cons of college and trade school career paths, from cost of education and training to potential retirement savings.
Financial benefits aside, the tile industry presents a meaningful career path for young people who enjoy working with their hands and want to be challenged. When accepting the National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA) 2019 Ring of Honor, James Woelfel addressed how much he valued his choice of a career in the tile industry:
“And I would encourage the younger people of today — if you want to be in a profession that requires thinking, math skills, communication skills, English skills, problem-solving skills, and no college debt, you need to get into the tile contracting or installation business. It is a noble profession and done correctly, you will leave a legacy on this Earth well past when your time is done.”
For more information on careers in the tile industry, tile installation, and training, visit these resources: