Concrete Decor Survey Notes Best-liked Training Programs

Jeff Girard leads a workshop, Create a Firepit Using GFRC, at the 2014 Concrete Decor Show in Fort Worth, Texas.
Jeff Girard leads a workshop, “Create a Firepit Using GFRC,” at the 2014 Concrete Decor Show in Fort Worth, Texas.

A total of 47 survey respondents shared their opinions on decorative concrete training programs in an informal survey conducted by Concrete Decor magazine. The survey was sent to current and past magazine subscribers as well as Concrete Decor Show attendees.

Asked to list the decorative concrete classes they judge the best, respondents cited The Concrete Countertop Institute, based in Raleigh, North Carolina, and operated by Jeff Girard and Lane Mangum, 34 times. Girard and Mangum have contributed articles to Concrete Decor and presented programs at the Concrete Decor Show in the past.

Runner-up was the Concrete Design School in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, with programs presented by Brandon Gore and Dusty Baker. They received 21 mentions. Both men’s work has been featured in the pages of Concrete Decor.

Other training programs were listed on a small number of survey replies — Cody Carpenter’s Plan B and Nathan Giffin’s Vertical Artisans (four times); World of Concrete, Buddy Rhodes and EliteCrete (three mentions); and training offered by Bob Harris (two times).

“Very informative and hands-on,” one survey respondent said of the “Ultimate Class” offered by CCI. “Gave the why, not just the how-to.”

“Jeff and Lane do an incredible job setting you up to win with concrete,” wrote another about CCI classes. “The fundamentals are explained in great detail and the ongoing support is worth its weight in gold.”

“Loved the courses,” was a comment about the training staged by Concrete Design School. “So much material, such high-quality craftsmanship.”

Seminars at World of Concrete, one survey participant wrote, offers value for “beginners” and introduces “new things” for advanced professionals. This survey respondent also credited the show for offering solid seminars on sealers and fundamentals of placing and finishing concrete.

Still another lauded the efforts of Concrete Decor and its “commitment to advancing the knowledge base of decorative concrete” at its biennial trade show. A special tip of the hat, he added, goes to his “homey,” Troy Lemon, which he learned more from “than just about anybody!

Some highlights

  • Survey results suggest that contractors generally prefer education/training programs offered by independent organizations, with no endorsement or connection to a company or supplier, with 33 replies indicating this preference. That was followed by programs offered by manufacturers/distributors (18 cited this preference) and industry associations (7). Training programs offered by unions were not mentioned in the preferences.
  • Not surprisingly, “technical skills” were listed as the “biggest takeaway” from training programs in most survey replies (30), followed by “product knowledge” (7) and “new friendships/contacts” (5).
  • The overwhelming majority of respondents (41 to be precise) said they spend at least $500 on a training event, on average.

Online programs:

No match for the real deal
Seeking to gauge industry opinion on the value of online training vehicles such as YouTube videos or other programs that can be viewed on demand for a fee, the survey asked about such offerings. Judging from the opinions voiced, there’s no substitute for the real deal — in-person training programs offered by knowledgeable industry experts.

“Useful but not deep enough,” one reply stated about online videos. Another said some YouTube videos are “mildly helpful.”

One survey participant said the videos are of use “to remind or refresh what was said at a class.”

But most comments were dismissive of these online videos. “Not recommended,” one reply stated flatly.

Another was similarly frank: “YouTube training is usually terrible and full of mistakes that pros don’t make.”

Perhaps the best summation of the issue were comments like these:

“Tutorials are good. But nothing is better than learning from doing and being able to ask any question to the masters working their craft.”

“You can’t learn what I do from an online video. You need proper teachers and training to put out quality work.”

Still another survey participant made the useful observation that as an alumnus of The Concrete Countertop Institute programs, “We have access to their paid online training videos, which I highly recommend after attending an in-person course.”

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