On June 12, 2023, DeGraaf Interiors kicked off the first retailer-led, five-week International Certified Flooring Installers (CFI) training in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Five students received scholarships through the Floor Covering Education Foundation (FCEF) with the other half of the tuition covered by DeGraaf and another area retailer. 

Deb DeGraaf, president and owner, DeGraaf Interiors, and chair, FCEF, announced the partnership with FCEF in February, during The International Surface Event (TISE). The five-week course is being taught by Alania Lagatore, assistant manager, Lagatore’s Carpet Inc. and CFI #15417. 

DeGraaf_Students Taking Quizzes.jpgThe students are required to complete quizzes throughout the course in addition to the hands-on training. Photo: FCI. 

According to Lagatore, the students will learn everything from subfloor prep to seaming techniques to selecting the right materials. The course is structured so that upon completion the students will be able to install carpet in an average three-bedroom home. 

The goal of retailer-backed training, according to DeGraaf, is to bring the training local while working to remedy an industry-wide issue.  

"The FCEF has worked hand in hand with DeGraaf Interiors and CFI to make this local training possible," said Jim Aaron, executive director, FCEF. "Deb and her team used many of our marketing components to advertise and promote this class, including our flooryourfuture.com website, direct mail pieces and our job fair kits. We also worked with Deb’s team to strategize their recruitment efforts. Over the last two years, we’ve developed a list of best practices for recruiting at the local level and many of those were employed in filling this class."

In addition to recruiting at local high schools and via social media, DeGraaf said, "We reached out to other local stores because it’s not fixing the problem in our own silo. It’s about embracing the industry and the realization that we need young, new talent joining this industry.”

Each of the five students in the course will go straight to work following the completion of the training. Three of the students do not have a crew or store with which to work. They will be placed with subcontractor crews that regularly work for DeGraaf Interiors. According to DeGraaf, they will be installing primarily carpet but may include some hard surface. "They will be employees of DeGraaf Interiors, so they will be eligible for benefits, vacation and other things that being an employee offers," she said.

Rain Daniels is a Grand Rapids resident and comes from a trade family. According to Daniels, he sees flooring installation as a career that will give him financial security. 

DeGraaf_Rain Daniels.jpgRain Daniels. Photo: Alania Lagatore. 

Carlos Gomez is originally from California but moved to the Grand Rapids area with his family. Once Gomez completes the training, he will be working alongside his stepfather who is a subcontractor for DeGraaf Interiors. “[Carlos’ stepfather] handles quite a bit of volume, and Carlos will be a great addition to his team, allowing him to work more efficiently and install more,” said DeGraaf.

DeGraaf_Carlos Gomez.jpgCarlos Gomez. Photo: Alania Lagatore.  

Jonathan Howe’s wife currently works for DeGraaf Interiors. He admits that he has worked several unfulfilling jobs in the past and was looking for something more stable. “I’ve enjoyed it so far, and I’m looking forward to see where it takes me,” he said. 

DeGraaf_Jonathan Howe.jpgJonathan Howe. Photo: Alania Lagatore.


Kyle Jonker, a Grand Rapids area resident, was looking at a career in the trades when he learned about the course through someone in the flooring industry. 

DeGraaf_Kyle Jonker.jpgKyle Jonker. Photo: Alania Lagatore.


Collin Campbell, from Kalamazoo, Michigan, currently works in Migala Carpet One’s warehouse but wanted to be a trained installer, “I got into this because of the training. What they teach you here takes a long time to learn. You can do it all in five weeks.” Migala Carpet One covered the other half of Campbell's tuition, making it possible for him to advance in his flooring career. 

DeGraaf_Collin Campbell.jpgCollin Campbell. Photo: Alania Lagatore.


Dave Garden, executive director of education, CFI, was onsite to meet with the students and assist in the training. Garden points to DeGraaf and Lagatore, “CFI can’t accomplish any of this without people.” 

Carpet, Cushions and Supplies (CCS) donated the space for the class. Roberts Consolidated/QEP and Traxx supplied the tools and equipment needed for the course. Mohawk, Shaw, Engineered Floors, Herregan and Florstar also donated products for the students to work with for the entirety of the class.   

"The key to solving the installation labor crisis lies at the local level," said Aaron. "Awareness, recruiting and training must all take place right there in the communities where retailers operate. However, many retailers don’t know how to take the next step to make that happen. We work with retailers willing to do the work to show them a path forward. The future belongs to retailers who are addressing this issue head-on today."

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