By Paul Pleshek
Every day, we read stories about how low unemployment and labor shortages are affecting virtually every industry. In many ways, labor is a commodity, and like the availability of oil or crops, it impacts the cost and challenge of acquisition. An abundant labor pool generally means the economy is slow, unemployment is high, and people are just happy to have a job. Today, however, the labor market is tight: The demand for workers is high and applicants are looking for jobs with the best fit. This environment challenges businesses to convince prospective employees that their job openings offer a fulfilling experience as well as opportunity for advancement. Job seekers want options that will lead them down a satisfying and thriving career path.
Organizations should offer steppingstones that allow individuals to improve themselves and expand their careers. With this in mind, the IICRC offers education programs for every stage of career. People entering the job market for the first time and entrepreneurs alike can use IICRC education to develop their careers, whether they’re beginning as an entry-level technician or supervisor, starting a new business as a certified firm owner who offers multiple services, or becoming an approved instructor whose passion for the industry can inspire a new generation.
The IICRC has impacted my entire career path. I started looking for a career in my teens. My parents owned a building-services company, but I did not see this field as an appealing option. I eventually accepted a position at a small appliance sales and repair company. I worked there for four years until I injured my shoulder while taking a box off a refrigerator. Initially I was told recovery would take four to six weeks, but after surgery revealed more damage than expected, the doctor extended my recovery to more than four months. As most of us know, a small business cannot wait months for a team member to return to work, so I became unemployed. I took my bad shoulder and started helping in the family business.
Although I still was not enthusiastic about working in building services, I was interested in carpet cleaning. I started a carpet cleaning division within the family company, and thanks to my father’s appreciation for continuing education, I attended an IICRC carpet cleaning certification course. The knowledge I gained from that course influenced every aspect of my career moving forward; it made me aware that this and all fields have a technical aspect. Almost overnight, I felt as though I was not a carpet cleaner but a technician. This new identity propelled me to build a business that competed on expertise rather than on price.
Exploring an IICRC career path
Over the years, I was able to explore many of the career paths available through IICRC education. The success of the carpet cleaning division inspired me to look into other facets of the industry. In fact, our family business also did upholstery cleaning, color repair, carpet repair and reinstallation, and large- and small-loss restoration. In time, I gained enough exposure to these fields to know that, though interesting, they were not for me.
About 25 years ago, I became an IICRC-certified senior carpet inspector. That certification made me a dramatically better carpet cleaner: It improved my ability to answer customer questions, help my flooring retailers solve their problems, and talk to customers and peers with the authority that comes with knowledge.
The problem-solving aspect of inspection attracted my attention, and this formed the pathway to my next career. I was young and eager to enter this side of the industry. Many professionals become inspectors later in their careers, exiting the labor-intensive side of the industry and increasing their income heading into retirement. I became proficient and experienced at a much younger age than my peers, which led to my committee involvement. I became vice president (and later president) of the National Institute of Certified Floorcoverings Inspectors, an IICRC-approved instructor, standard consensus body chair of an ANSI standard, and a director on the IICRC Board of Directors.
Mapping out a career path is all about finding what is right for you; where you start is not necessarily where you will remain. The IICRC has career platforms to satisfy technical, consumer-focused, and instructor-led interests where you can grow, learn, and earn.
The way an industry embraces technology has a great impact on its appeal. As Alicia Hill at fundera.com writes, “The millennial generation is comprised of tech-savvy individuals who are looking for a flexible work environment where they can thrive and grow. They are seeking employers that are able to embrace technological trends.” Hill outlines that “the one thing that really sets this generation [millennials] apart from others is how much they love technology. They’re the first to try new apps, programs, and hardware. Older generations had to adapt to new technology, but millennials have grown up using smartphones, other mobile devices, and all the technology that comes with it. If you want to attract this talented generation, offer them opportunities to experience all that technology has to give.”
While I don’t fall into the millennial generation, I embrace technology. Older generations accept technology; younger generations expect it. From apps to online training, technology defines an industry and affects its image and attractiveness as a career option. This is one area the IICRC is working diligently to address. In the meantime, businesses have the responsibility to adopt and implement technology in every aspect of a job.
Technology has also become a large part of my career path. As a business owner, I build my own websites, manage my social media, and create forms and documents for the industry. Most recently, I started a podcast and will soon be offering online training for certifications.
Technology should impact every aspect of your job because, again, it is expected—not just accepted.
The IICRC offers a place to start and a place to evolve and grow personally and professionally. Not only does it encompass a variety of fields, but these fields also are intertwined, giving you the ability to explore different options within each category and find what is right for you. Through my career, I didn’t just research building services, carpet cleaning, restoration, color repair, carpet repair, and inspections; I experienced each one of them and really understood what I enjoyed.
Having an IICRC education gives you options. Whether you are an employee or entrepreneur, beginning with an IICRC education can lead to many career paths—all you must do is discover which one is best for you.
The new year brings the chance to begin fresh and to realign. The IICRC offers educational opportunities (available at iicrc.org) for where you are now in your career path and where you desire to be in the future.
Paul Pleshek is president of Floor Claim Solutions Inc. and the National Academy of Floor Covering Training. He has spent 25 years in the inspection industry and currently serves as an IICRC director, inspection division chair, and WLFI TAC chair.