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Tiler training: How to unlock your true potential

When it comes to seeking advice on training, the internet can be both your best friend and your greatest enemy, as tile afficionado Joe Simpson explains.

Search for a simple phrase like Ceramic Tiling Courses, and you will get over 15 million results. These will include commercial training colleges touting for business, government sites promoting accredited qualifications, links to specialist trade associations or in-house sessions run by adhesive and tool brands, and invitations to sign up to online forums.

You might think that changing your search to something more specific would help to narrow down your choices, but Large Format Porcelain Tile Installation Training gives you 7.7 million results. Take out the word Installation and you’re up to 22 million. Make it Large Format Porcelain Tile Courses and you get 64 million results – opening up enough rabbit holes to keep you busy forever.

Even if you find a formula to refine your search based on location, course dates, and value of the qualification, how do you assess quality? On the Government’s own National Careers Service portal, there are over 1,000 tiling courses listed, ranging in price from £0 to north of £2,500. How can you pre-judge potential value for money? How do you know if the training will be accurate or reflect current Building Regulations? Will the course really cover the latest installation techniques, materials, and tools?

Of course, established training providers will claim to offer state-of-the-art tutorage – but this is a very fast moving sector. 10 years ago, 600 by 600mm was considered a large tile. Today 1,000 by 3,000mm monsters are commonplace. The implications for safe materials storage and handling are vast, even before you look at substrate prep, adhesive coverage, solid bedding, lippage, etc. Factor in the new generation of book-matched design options, and installation becomes even more of a minefield.One port of call is a reputable trade association. The Tile Association, The Contract Flooring Association, and others are a useful first step. They work with reputable training providers to promote sector-specific training, and even run their own courses. But these are restricted in numbers, geographically specific, and may not cover the training topic you seek.

There are also online courses, and for many tilers these are excellent. However, most trades find hands-on training far more beneficial. Being able to witness and then copy a live demonstration is intuitive and helpful. That said, the best of the UK’s many internet-based construction vloggers do a fantastic job. You need to be aware of potential commercial tie-ins though, particularly when it comes to tool or chemical recommendations. The best presenters are up-front about their sponsors: others less so.

I am a personal fan of sessions run by adhesive, grout and tool manufacturers. Here the commercial angles are obvious from the get-go, but how many tilers in the UK have more combined tiling experience that BAL and Rubi, Map and Brevetti Montolit, Kerakoll and Tomecanic. And while you can be 100% sure you are going to see all the latest gadgets and hottest installations techniques from those companies, your choice will still be limited.

Is there a viable alternative? Well, you could travel to Bologna to the vast Cersaie tile show in late September and seek out the Tiling Town installation. Here you will see highly skilled members of Assoposa – the Italian tilers trade association – show off the latest lifting, setting, and finishing kit in a set of demo booths. But the tilers will be Italian, there won’t be anyone to translate, and there’ll be little in the way of English documentation.

Language, on the whole, is not a problem at Coverings, the USA tiling show, but you will have to get a return flight to Atlanta, pay for a hotel room, and navigate your way through a very detailed programme of daily presentations. You will certainly learn some great skills from highly qualified instructors, but these will all be to ANSI (American National Standards Institute) specifications. Even the terminology may confuse – you say thinset, I say adhesive.

Some will seek an answer from online forums. These can certainly be a wonderful resource, and there is much comfort to be found in a problem shared. But some of the advice, quite frankly, is wrong and even dangerous. There is no way to vet the credentials of each post’s author, and many are clearly misinformed, biased against specific technologies or suppliers, or involved in long-running disputes with other contributors.

If you need reliable technical advice of the kind that would stand up in court, I would be very wary of sourcing it on an internet forum, even before considering undeclared commercial interests, and the frequency of erroneous quotations. Another option is technical articles in B2B magazines, but these do not add up to a comprehensive course.

So what’s the answer? Well, providing a one-stop-shop for practical demonstrations, up-to-date installation advice, sector-leading masterclasses, curated product presentations, and round table discussions on all things tiling is at the very core of the InstallerSHOW’s ethos. We intend to make this event a great meeting place where tilers can get together with fellow installation professionals to learn about the very latest product and procedures; discuss technical issues in an informal, yet informed, setting; watch the latest tiling robots go through their paces; learn the science behind worktop cutting sequences; understand the different capabilities and limitations of CNC routers and water jet cutters; and much more.

The tiling feature at InstallerSHOW is different. It has been created around the needs of both individual tile fixers and large tiling contractors. It places the emphasis on practical demonstration and personal contact, and aims to be fun, informative, interactive, and educational. We’re planning the event to be the start of a journey, not a destination. Above all, we want everyone who comes along to leave the NEC with at least one idea that will improve their business in the following year, and help generate better, more sustainable profits.

Ceramic tiling is a fast-paced sector. Product development – be that in large format tiles, porcelain panels, ventilated façades, raised access floors, levelling systems, 3mm thick Laminam sheets, continuous-pressed porcelain worktops, under-tile heating, balcony systems, or porous pavements – has far outstripped installer training in the past two decades.

Only a few contractors have been able to keep up with these market developments, but they are the ones benefitting from the surface revolution that is taking place. In housing, hotels, offices, shops, transport terminals, patios and pavements, tiles are finding new applications. InstallerSHOW aims to equip visitors to make the best of the incredible opportunities that are out there.

Joe Simpson is a renowned tile expert whose writing is featured in publications around the world. His website, Diary of a Tile Addict, offers valuable insight into all things tile-related.

Installer Kitchens & Bathrooms is set to debut at InstallerSHOW 2024, offering a blend of technology, tools, innovation, and inspiration for attendees. This new addition will provide a packed content programme across two theatres, aimed at bringing the industry closer through education, knowledge sharing, and networking opportunities. It is backed by a number of organisations including the BMA, BiKBBI, NKBA, AMDEA UK and the Unified Water Label, as well as a host of leading manufacturers.
Register for your free ticket to InstallerSHOW 2024 here.

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