It wasn't that long ago that it was difficult to find training help in the concrete industry.
That's certainly not the case today, with dozens of companies, associations and organizations lining up to offer information on techniques, business management, marketing and more.
Going through training can make life a little easier, as you can learn from the mistakes others have made.
"It's good to get all the right information," says Buddy Rhodes, who teaches classes on concrete countertops. "It can be frustrating to have to learn it all on your own."
In the case of something like decorative concrete, even experienced contractors can benefit because of the different skills required.
"Good training leads to good quality work," says Raymond Bennett, who runs the training program for Yoder & Sons' Flex-C-Ment.
That sentiment is echoed by Lee Thornton, owner of Grey Matter Design Works, a Greensboro, Ga.-based decorative concrete company.
"I wanted to turn out a good product the first time, and one that I could trust," says Thornton, who has had training from the Concrete Countertop Institute, the Decorative Concrete Institute and Engrave-A-Crete.
"It eliminates a lot of the research into things like mix design, because they've already done it," he says. "What that does is it allows you to have confidence in the work, and share that information with the homeowner and instill confidence in them as well."
Thornton says he sees a lot of people get into decorative concrete because it has great potential, but then fail because they don't have the proper training.
"They think they can do it themselves, then they mess a couple of jobs up, get frustrated and get out," he says. "We see a lot of people that come and go."
Inferior work can reflect badly on the entire industry, which is why Jeff Girard and Lane Mangum founded the Concrete Countertop Institute.
"We wanted to raise the standards for concrete countertops — to make sure they remain a popular and viable option for the long term," Mangum says. "Having concrete skills doesn't necessarily prepare someone to be successful at countertops."
Besides improving technical skills, being trained can also offer an edge in landing business, Bennett says.
"If you can show a homeowner you're certified, it builds a relationship with the client," he says. "You've got not only the skills, but also the backing of the people who certified you."
And there's more to training than just applications. Many companies are now covering marketing as an important part of their training programs.
"We show them how to go out and bid, and how to present to the home-owner," Bennett says.
The Concrete Countertop Institute offers a class that focuses solely on sales and marketing.
"The key to success in the concrete countertop market is really relationship marketing," Mangum says. "It's part of the kitchen and bath market, and there are a lot of specific ways to work with people in that industry."
The schedule below lists many of the companies and associations that offer classes. Many classes fill up early, so be sure to check on availability as soon as you know you want to attend.
Classes in Shakopee, Minn.
Class on multiple decorative applications
Jan. 11-13, Feb. 15-17, March 15-17,
Feb. 3 Business, marketing and sales
March 29-30 Advanced Techniques
Buddy Rhodes Concrete Mix
Classes in San Francisco
Feb. 10-11, March 10-11, April 7-8
Cheng Concrete Exchange
Classes in Berkeley, Calif.
Concrete Essentials Workshop
Jan. 6, Feb. 3, Feb. 17, March 3, March 17
Feb. 6-10, March 6-10
Concrete Countertop Institute
Classes in Raleigh, N.C.
Cast in Place Concrete Countertops
Jan. 5-7, Feb. 16-18
Precast Concrete Countertops
Jan. 9-12, Feb. 20-23
Advanced Precast Sinks and Techniques
Jan. 13-14, Feb. 24-25
Concrete Sawing & Drilling Association
Classes in St. Petersburg, Fla.
Feb. 16-17 Cutting Edge introductory concrete cutting training
Feb. 18 OSHA Construction Safety
Feb. 20-21 Estimating
Feb. 20-25 Operator Certification
Decorative Concrete Institute
Feb. 9-10 Chemical Staining & Specialty Techniques, Douglasville, Ga.
Feb. 22-24 Skim Coats-Stains-Dyes, Douglasville, Ga.
March 2-3 Advanced Coatings Workshop, Oklahoma City
March 13-15 Illusional Concrete Art, Douglasville, Ga.
Classes in Bradenton, Fla.
Jan. 4-6, Feb. 8-10, March 1-3, March 29-31
Feb. 8-10 Throop, Pa.
Feb. 22-24, April 26-28 Oklahoma Cit
Classes in Knoxville, Tenn.
Courses on polished concrete and surface prep offered the third Friday of every month.
Classes in Orlando, Fla.
Basic Applicator Training meets the first Friday of every month
Jan. 5 Introduction to Decorative Concrete Applications
March 23-24 Advanced Overlay Class
Jan. 31-Feb. 1 Exteriors Class, Reynoldsburg, Ohio
Feb. 7-9 Interiors Class, Douglasville, Ga.
Feb. 14-15 Advanced Exteriors Class, Reynoldsburg, Ohio
Specialty Concrete Products
Classes in West Columbia, S.C.
Jan. 31-Feb. 3, Feb. 21-24, March 21-24
Classes in Seffner, Fla.
Three-day courses on preparation, applications and marketing offered every week.
Yoder & Sons
Greer, S.C.: Feb. 8-10, Feb. 22-24, March 8-10, April 5-7, April 19-21
Greeley, Colo.: Jan. 7-8, Feb. 4-5, March 11-12
Southern California: Jan. 14-15, Feb. 11-12, March 18-19
Classes are also offered in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and Canada.