The Institute for American Craftsmanship (IAC) offered its first class in decorative concrete last month at its facility adjacent to Professional Trade Publications in Eugene, Oregon.
The three-day workshop, taught by Wes Vollmer of San Antonio-based Alternative Finishes, offered hands-on training in preparing an existing slab, applying a cementitious overlay, saw-cutting, acid staining, stenciling and sealing.
The training school, started by Concrete Decor publisher Bent Mikkelsen, currently offers training in decorative concrete and decorative painting. “My ambition and my heart are in education,” Mikkelsen says. “That’s what led me to start Concrete Decor and PaintPRO in the first place.”
Classes at the IAC are designed to help create standards for excellence in the trades, he says, with a goal of working with various trade associations to establish educational standards and eventually, accreditation for contractors. “To keep this segment of the industry powerful, innovative and well-educated, we need organizations like the IAC,” Mikkelsen says.
The Institute, a nonprofit educational institution, intends to work in partnership with training institutes in other areas of the country and will provide support not just to contractors, but to manufacturers and distributors around the nation.
While some classes will be taught by independent professionals who are experts in their trades, others will feature manufacturer’s reps who will train contractors in the use of their products.
“The IAC is designed to attract the very best talents in the industry,” Mikkelsen says. “It is a place where model training classes can be developed. Although the facility gives companies the ability to be recognized for their support, our objective is not to promote a single product or company but rather, the methods for educating contractors on the use of products.”
A number of companies have stepped to up offer their support to the new school. The Miracote division of Crossfield Products laid the ground floor — both figuratively and literally, by donating resurfacing products that included both textured overlay and microtopping materials. “These products have helped pave the way for this exciting industry resource,” Mikkelsen says. “Quality products, coupled with quality training, are essential components in the educational process.”
Tools and products donated by such companies as HoverTrowel, Midwest Rake and Decorative Concrete Systems also give contractors the tools they need to “work smarter,” Mikkelsen says. “Utilizing these types of tools and materials helps contractors work more efficiently with better results.”
Innovative products like those donated by Metal Expressions, a company that manufactures a coating process that creates a true metal finish, give contractors a fascinating look at ways to make their work stand out from the crowd.
The IAC is lining up a full series of workshops for 2004. Alternative Finishes intends to hold classes at the school on a regular basis, and several other companies and manufacturers — including Miracote and Colormaker Floors — have already signed up to hold training seminars at the 3,500-square-foot indoor facility.
“While the exact future of this new organization remains to be seen, it promises to be a vital tool for maintaining high standards in the rapidly growing decorative concrete industry,” Mikkelsen says. “We are excited to join with the industry in elevating the awareness and importance of education and we look forward to working with other schools and organizations around the country to develop standards for accreditation in training programs.”