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Developing skills through training

by Darren
Polyflor FITA Training and Skills Jnl 2 16

Skills development & training via an official organisation such as FITA will ensure the fitters of tomorrow.

One of the most profound effects facing the South African flooring industry today, is the number of experienced installers who are nearing retirement and the lack of new, young, accredited and trained floor fitters who will be able to take their place.

“Although many of the manufacturers offer training of their products, there is currently no official, recognised training course being offered for vinyl floor fitters,” says Tandy Coleman-Spolander, Marketing Director of Polyflor SA.

Tandy explains that vinyl floor fitting is more complex than products such as carpet, wood laminates or ceramic tiles as it requires a fitter who understands the intricacies involved in vinyl floor fittings and who have mastered particular skills to achieve a good quality installation.

“Many of the skills and techniques needed to achieve an outstanding installation are handed down from generation to generation and should therefore be demonstrated and taught by someone who has good knowledge and practical experience of the skill required,” says Tandy. “Polyflor SA is privileged to have access to a wealth of knowledge and skill in Polyflor SA Chairman Denver Coleman and Technical Manager Charles Davids – both of whom are considered to be stalwarts in the vinyl flooring industry and are making a concerted effort to ensure that they pass down their knowledge to future generations,” Tandy says.

To this end, Polyflor SA is represented on the FITA (Flooring Industry Training Association) Board of Directors, and is in the process of developing a course specifically aimed at vinyl fitting, with the input and assistance of Denver and Charles.

“FITA is an industry body that allows all players in the flooring industry to come together to improve and formalise training for floor fitters,” explains the Association’s Patty Vermaak. “We are the official training facilitator for training programs, flooring industry register, and represent all stakeholders in the industry and offer a fully comprehensive training programme which deals with all aspects of a flooring project,” she says.

FITA has recently made significant inroads towards creating formalised training in the industry. “We have received funding from CETA to recognise the prior learning (RPL) of 150 floor fitters and sub-contractors who currently have no official accreditation”, Patty says.

FITA conducts RPL assessments and/or training on site, with the only requirement being that a minimum of 8 trainees attend the training. Competency assessments are also done through a combination of assessment methods, such as assignments, tests, observation, demonstration etc. following completion of practical installations on site.

“We record evidence of practical experience in a site log book issued to each trainee,” Patty says, adding that FITA encourages contractors and store owners to contact them for assistance with RPL accreditation.

Polyflor SA will be assisting FITA by ensuring that the following key aspects are covered when training future flooring fitters:  

Understanding the correct tools required
“It is vitally important for fitters to know which tool to use during the installation process, as many of them make do with old fashioned or incorrect tools,” Tandy explains. “This will lead to a poor fitting.” She continues that the development of tools in the industry has come a long way and that a good tool kit is an absolutely worthwhile investment for fitters if they want to be successful in the industry.

Learning how to conduct proper site preparation
Vinyl flooring fitters must learn how to do a proper site inspection prior to the installation.  “One of the most important things they need to learn, is how to assess the site for correct moisture levels,” Tandy says.

Knowing how to conduct a moisture test, as well as understanding and recording the results, are key to a successful installation. Fitters must also know how to assess the surface to see if it is sufficiently level to give a good vinyl installation. “To this end, we highlight the importance of training fitters on the correct way to apply a self-levelling screed, as few screeds these days are sufficiently level and usually require the application of a levelling compound,” she adds.

Understanding how to measure and plan the layout of the installation
Checking the stock, correctly allocating material to various areas and ensuring correct quantities are used are important skills for future fitters to learn prior to the installation of a floor. “LVT’s require proper planning, especially if pattern work is required,” Tandy says. “Site conditions are also important and fitters must be taught how to check the lighting, ventilation and heat on a site.”

Welding techniques
Achieving a good weld is probably one of the most important factors in fitting vinyl flooring. The correct method requires using the overlap, scribe, butt join, then groove and weld method. “Over the years, we have come across many cases where fitters have tried to devise short cuts by leaving a gap between sheets or welding into the gap,” Tandy says. “However, using the wrong technique leads to many problems and a whole lot of installations with weak joins. Fitters must be taught the correct welding method as this will stand them in good stead for many years to come and ensure they don’t have problem installations”.

Depending on the product being installed, and the type of project, there are many factors that need to be explained so that fitters have a full and proper understanding of what is required.  “Knowing which adhesives should be used with which products and why, for example, helps a fitter to make the correct choices and avoid costly mistakes,” Tandy states.

“Given the decline in skills as well as the ageing of the skilled fitter population, I see it as an absolute necessity for the flooring industry to support and assist FITA as they strive to uphold the standards in our industry,” she concludes. “I encourage all flooring contractors and manufacturers to support FITA and get involved wherever they can. The long term benefits will be well worth it.”

For more information on FITA, please contact Patty Vermaak via email on patty@fitasa.co.za or telephonically on (079) 339-3711 or (011) 794-9295.

For more information about Polyfor SA visit www.polyflor.co.za.

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