How do you train an apprentice?

Discussion in 'Industry News, Training & Organizations' started by Jgitco, Feb 6, 2019.

  1. Jgitco

    Jgitco Pro Member

    Hello from Illinois. I am a 30 year veteran in the flooring world and I would like to know how you train a carpet installation apprentice? I am looking for the steps that you think a new guy should go through over years, how long before they move to the next step and such.

    1 trim and stuff
    2 seaming
    3 stretching

    Maybe a little more detail
    1 show up on time
    2 pick up scraps
    3 gofer
    4 trim and stuff
    5 watch what the heck I’m doing and learn
    6 cut and seam some scraps
    7 seam up a closet
    8 stretch in closet
    9 make some more seams
    10 stretch in a bedroom
    11 and so on and so forth.

    My question basically centers around what do you start teaching ? Trimming and stuffing?
    What do you teach last or is the hardest? Stretching? Seaming?

    Obviously they are being taught demo and prep, tackstrip and padding. Just curious about others views on training new guys.
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  2. kwfloors

    kwfloors Fuzz on the brain Charter Member Senior Member

    Depends on the helper a lot. I recently had a guy help for a day, I just put him in a room that needed pad and showed him how to do it. Took him 2 hours to pad a 15x13 room but I didn't care how long it took him, he was gone after that. Start with the basics, cleaning and tackstriping first and then pad. Help pack the truck and unload.
  3. kylenelson

    kylenelson You'll find me on the floor I Support TFP Senior Member

    I do not have the answer, but you are on the right track asking the question. Do yourself a huge favor and by a book called The E-Myth, it is enlightening for any small business owner.
  4. Jgitco

    Jgitco Pro Member

    Thanks for the replies. I am really looking for your opinions on the INSTALLATION of carpet. I have a fellow installer that starts guys off on the stretcher and I can not understand why. He says it’s harder to have them learn cutting anything and the stretching keeps them busy and makes them feel useful. As far as I’m concerned the Complexity of stretching is something reserved for a lot further down the apprentice timeline. Is there anyone else out there that starts a 2 week old helper on a stretcher?
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  5. Daris Mulkin

    Daris Mulkin The One and Only Charter Member I Support TFP Senior Member

    The tools and names first so when I ask for a tool he can get it. Tackstrip and pad second. Then I teach stretching before any of the other. That way I could put him/her, yes I had women, in a drop room and do layout , seaming and etc because he won't be fast. Taught seaming on closet pieces where it wouldn't show. All in all I had one heck of a helper in about 6 months. Some it was faster or slower than that. I never did go by what others said about keep them stupid and pay them less. Pay them a little more than everyone else and they will stay with you longer. I also did withholding and paid into unemployment so when times were tough I laid them off and they always had money coming in which was a plus.


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  6. Jgitco

    Jgitco Pro Member

    Daris, thanks for the reply that is very helpful. We are in the opposite of trying to keep them stupid and pay them less, we are trying to accelerate the learning process so that we can have in house trained installers. It has been hard for us to find quality craftsmen or women in the carpet end of things, and the rest of the trade as well. I think I saw somewhere in here that you have 50 years in, wow. I have always been of the mind that I’m not too old to learn, learned something new yesterday. I would be very interested in whatever you had to say in the lines of training. We are having workshops with the trainees every few months on a Saturday to give them the ability to try new things and screw it up without any worries. Seems to be a good thing so far. We have an outline of what needs to be learned before they move up to the next pay level. I’d share that with you (Daris) to get feedback.

    Any knowledge that I can gain in helping learn or teach or accelerate the learning process ,without making ones head too big, would be greatly appreciated.

    I would also like to find a stretch gauge that attaches to a stretcher. I saw one years ago. Anyone have one?
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  7. Daris Mulkin

    Daris Mulkin The One and Only Charter Member I Support TFP Senior Member

    You say you have training sessions on Saturdays once in awhile. In those traing sessions do you have mock ups of stairs and rooms? Actually quite simple to build. Have installers actually install carpet on the mockups. A company I was the install manager for actually had installers do these before hiring them. If they could do a beautiful step and show how they could handle a pole stretcher, we figured we were good to go. We also had them seam up a piece of carpet and show seam sealing what have you. I was a CFI trainer and we used their certification format.
    54 years and loving it yet. If you are in my area I'd love to set in on your training sessions.


    • Informative Informative x 1
  8. Mike Sliwinski

    Mike Sliwinski The Doctor Is In I Support TFP Senior Member

    YES !.... not 2 weeks, but after two hours ! for the exact reason your friend does it..............No helpers lately :( just Me, Myself and I and I'm having trouble getting Myself out of bed :p

    I disliked the apprentice years, felt held back. Apprentice's need grooming
    to feel and look good for themselves and the customer. (win-win) Sounds like you're already on the right track.

    I would expose them to mechanic skills as soon as possible, but with the understanding they leave ' Customer Service ' to the Mechanic, or Installation Manager. Only advancement with title and pay would give them more responsibility.

    #1 > job-site + tool safety, especially the knife.....keep all body parts
    away while keeping the knife under control. Never
    cut with reckless abandonment...... No day dreaming,
    stay focused and work slow and steady until each skill is mastered.

    Maybe I'll post more later, time to feed the dog and his owner :)

    Welcome to the Forum Jgitco and The Best of Skill to You !

    Mike Sli.
  9. Difficult to answer, based on person somewhat. Stretching properly is a skill that takes time to learn. I agree that’s not till down the line. I learned the stretcher at a school. Got into some crazy jambs with angles and distances. Did a geodesic home on one of my last stretches. A teacher that built their own home. The ceiling was geodesic in hardwood. They lived on whatever those homes with a hanger and runway in the back yard. Lady was nice as could be like a grandma you wanted to hug.
  10. Jgitco

    Jgitco Pro Member

    Thank you guys for the responses. I really appreciate it. It seems that half or so start with stretching which will make me reevaluate my thoughts on the matter.

    Daris we do have some mock rooms and steps built for our workshops. They are 4x8 sheets of plywood with doorways at various points with different surfaces to meet up with. Hardwood flush with the floor, hardwood 3/4” off the floor that we use cedar under course shingles from menards to shim up to, some area with shoe molding . The steps are 3 steps up and a landing on top of that. All with a nose and spindles on one side.

    Keep the replies coming Im interested to hear what others have to say.
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  11. kylenelson

    kylenelson You'll find me on the floor I Support TFP Senior Member

    I was thrown into the fire, generally did better with trimming so I took that side of things. I’d teach the basics of stretching and then help along side for a room or two to see if they’re getting it or not. A good helper wants to learn but also knows they’re going to be doing alot of the grunt work. Seaming is something I’d save for last to teach
  12. Are these candidates going to be doing strictly carpet?

    The trouble I have with training an apprentice is the variety of work I do. One day its carpet next is lvp or tile etc. I find its extremely difficult to train people when I'm all over the place. It usually takes a good year just to get someone familiar with everything I do & get them in the groove of the different tools/supplies we will need for each job.

    If just carpet I think 1st would definitely be reliably & trustworthy. 2) supplies, tackless, seam tape, pad staples, everything we need for the job, pick up scraps, fetch tools, vacuum. 3) R&D, tack & pad, prep, checking subfloor, SWEEPING. 4) lay out, rough cutting in, set walls, trim & tuck, maybe stretch in small square rooms. 5) row cutting, sealing, seaming, pattern alignment, stairs. 6) should have a good grip on how things go at this time but should still be working with a mechanic should an issue arise. 7) your going to this job & I'm going to that job. If you need anything call me.

    I cant see that process going any faster than 2 1/2- 3 years+. Some people can pick it up quicker but I think it's very important for apprentices to see repetition. The same practices every day. Someone that trains for just a year will make up their own way if they get in a jam & let's face it, they'll probably get away with it & that will be their new norm.

    I cant see letting someone go on their own with any less than 3 years training. Theres exceptions of course for certain people, small one drop rooms etc.

    Theres just so many variables that go in that question. And once you have an understanding of how one material works theres always a new one rolling out the next day. I think this is the one trade you can never master.
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    • Agree Agree x 1
  13. Daris Mulkin

    Daris Mulkin The One and Only Charter Member I Support TFP Senior Member

    When I started about a year into it I was sent out on relays because when we replaced the LR and DR it got relayed into the BR's. My journeyman said if you can make old look good you can make the new look even better. Incidently at that time all seams were handsewn or wet seamed with pin tape. Iron cam out in my second year or should say we got one. Tape wasn't any good and the iron got threw back in the closet for a couple more years.


  14. Jim McClain

    Jim McClain TFP Owner/Founder Administrator

    When I was a kid in high school, my dream was to become an interior decorator (that was the term back in the 1960s, but now it's interior designer). But I grew up in a small lumber town and there was a stigma and stereotype for guys who did that kind of work, so I kept it to myself

    After I got out of the US Army, I entered college and looked for part-time work to supplement my GI Bill. It was sheer chance that a job at a local business called McNutt Home Interiors came available and that part-time job turned full-time and that dream came as true as it was gonna get.

    According to my boss, I asked too many questions. He told me many years later that it wasn't that I asked too many, it was I asked questions he didn't know how to answer. I don't know when it started, but he sent me to one school or training seminar after another. The Armstrong Installation School was probably the most involved and the most influential. Woody, the instructor, was a gruff old guy who smoked cigars and loved this trade and wanted to teach it right.

    When my time to train helpers and apprentices came, I knew I had to do it right. But I also knew this business evolves and, like my former boss, I didn't have all the answers. I sent - and went with - my employees to seminars and other training whenever I could. The reward and sometimes the challenge to my own financial security was that some of those employees continued in the trade and not always with me. I was satisfied though that I gave them their start and did the best that I could.

    A new video from This Old House dropped today and has a segment or 2 that are very appropriate to this discussion. It starts at the point I think is relevant to this topic, but you can watch the whole thing from the beginning too.

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  15. Pioneer Carpets

    Pioneer Carpets Pro Member

    It's relatively easy to turn a low skill kid off the street into a productive helper that does not need full time supervision. It takes about 6 months to a year. It's much harder and takes more time to progress from a helper to an indipendent journeyman installer that can complete jobs without any supervision. It sounds like that is what you're after and you're in the same boat as many. You can't put out an ad and get a choice of skilled labor options anymore. More and more shops grow their work force by moving apprentices to journeyman positions and then start them training the next batch of apprentices. If you are only doing basic apartment installs you might be able to do a 2 year cycle. Retail residential and commercial work would take longer to create a journeyman.

    The problem is managing that kind of system. You have to be careful what kind of jobs you give those new journeyman. And the veterans will not like that the reward for them putting in so much time is that they never get an easy job anymore.

    But to answer your question. I always taught seaming last. Journeyman cuts up carpet and seams. Helper pads, stretches and trims. When journeyman is done with the last seam he helps finish the stretching and trimming as a team. Laziest one stops early and starts vacuuming the finished areas. This always worked best for me for production. But it may not be the ideal formula for training a helper as quick as possible. Helpers tend to get real comfortable in this role and may take a while to progress.
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