Flooring program bridges skills gap, meets industry demand

By Payton Potter

A new program at Chattanooga State Community College is helping students from as far away as Atlanta and Knoxville prepare for the next chapter of their lives in the flooring installation community. The first program of its kind in Tennessee, the four-part flooring installation course aims to create skilled installers in the flooring industry while providing students with a pathway to lucrative careers.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the floor covering industry experiences some 9,800 openings each year, many created by employees who transfer industries or retire.

In 2022, the bureau found that the median annual wage for a flooring installer is over $47,000 a year. ChattState flooring installation instructor Scott Faulknor, however, said that figure barely scratches the surface.

“There’s enough work out there that they can take this and own their own business within a year or two with continued training and education,” Faulknor said. “They can set their own dream path and their own goals.”

Faulknor knows the industry’s opportunities better than most. A second-generation flooring installer, the instructor was inspired to join the industry by his father, who had nearly 50 years of experience upon his retirement.

“I was very fortunate. I learned at a young age,” he said. “When I was 16 years old, during the summer, I would run my own crews and install floor covering in apartments.”

Prior to becoming a ChattState instructor, Faulknor worked for the City of Dalton, Georgia, and obtained a Master Installer certification. He then worked as a military flooring installation contractor, installing flooring in the U.S., Greenland, Canada, Lagos, Nigeria, and Mexico.

Megan Faulknor, education project manager for the Floor Covering Education Foundation (FCEF) and daughter of Scott Faulknor, said experienced flooring installers can look forward to lucrative careers in sales, manufacturing, business ownership, home design, tool sales, carpet cleaning, and more.

The best part? Students enrolled in ChattState’s current cohort are attending cost-free.

A joint effort between the FCEF and other partners — including ChattState, K.A. Solutions, and the office of Chattanooga Mayor Tim Kelly — has afforded 10 students the opportunity to complete 300 contact hours of training and complete the program with the skills to install carpet, tile, resilient flooring, and hardwood without incurring any educational costs.

While the FCEF does not guarantee job placement, Megan Falknour said the foundation has industrywide connections that it uses to connect students to retailers.

Sarah Joy York travels each day from Knoxville just to attend these classes, despite already working in the construction industry.

“It is worth it,” she said. “There are some things I wasn’t as familiar with, like certain terminology. I’m learning new things, but I’m also refreshing some things I already knew.”

Meanwhile, student Selena Jacobs said she is enrolled in the course in hopes of reconnecting with her passion: “I want to create a suitable living space for other people—something I can say I’m proud of.”

Although Jacobs works in healthcare today, her experience lies in rehabilitating homes. She has worked previously in the electrical, plumbing, painting, and drywall industries.

An additional four students travel weekly from Atlanta to Chattanooga to study floor covering installation.

K.A. Solutions provided funding to secure an AirBNB accommodation for visiting students, and the Mayor of Chattanooga’s office funded transportation between the cities. FCEF provided an additional $750 per class, per student, which will total $6,000 if each student completes all four installation courses.

Upon completion, students will have three industry-recognized credentials in resilient flooring, hardwood, and carpet.

ChattState President Rebecca Ashford said the flooring installation program embodies what the college does best: preparing students for their futures, no matter what path they choose.

“We’re proud to offer this pioneering program, aligning education with the growing demand for skilled professionals in the flooring industry,” Ashford said. “This program represents a collaborative effort to address workforce needs while equipping students with valuable, industry-recognized certifications that will enable them to excel in the flooring installation field.”

This article originally appeared here.

Payton Potter

is the coordinator of marketing content at Chattanooga State Community College in Tennessee.