Hello Workshopers and welcome to the episode 2 of The Workshop! Tools down, grab some smoko, sit on the Eskis and bring them a little bit closer. We have a cracking episode for you today!
Known as Senior Smooth in Everthought, and that’s just about floor tiles. We’ve got a wonderful guest and that is Sandro, Wall and Floor Tiling trainer all the way in Brisbane.
Sandro, how are you?
Good. Thanks, James. Thanks for that wonderful introduction.
I don’t think anyone’s justice than that.
Yes. No, probably not…
Sandro, want to step straight into it- how did you get into wall and floor tiling?
Well, interesting enough, when I first started, when I left home, or should I left school, I went straight into hospitality first, as I was working in a bar, restaurant, cafes, those sorts of things. And then certain events. And then my dad said that I should probably go down the track of being a tradesman. For some reason he thought that would be the best thing. So we had a family friend that was a tiler and I had so much respect for him and, and I think that’s what kind of guided me towards being a Tiler.
And I think also because I’m quite creative, and I think that gave me the opportunity to be creative.
Awesome, why floor tiling in particular? I mean, obviously you got a wealth of trades out there. Why, what made floor tiling sing to you?
I think a combination of, I didn’t like heights, so the thought of being on a trade like painting kind of put me off. I didn’t wanna be a concreter cause the thought of working at side. Carpentry was kind of gonna be my second, third choice. But I think tiling cause, I don’t know, I felt like you are actually kind of creating something, you’re creating a pattern, you’re actually creating it, and it’s a finished product. And like I said, I think the OCD in me, you know, being very precise and very accurate, really appealed to me. That’s, that’s what tiling is all about, being creative and, and problem solving and seeing the finished product.
So walk me through your career a bit. How did you end up at Everthought?
Well, I had my business, I had my title contracting business. I was working at a job at Petri Terrace, and I had two staff. I had a gentleman by the name of Matthew. And I had another guy with me working with me, which for the life of me I can’t remember his name right this moment. He was working for me and he’d been tiling for about four years, but didn’t have his qualification. And he was looking to get his qualifications.
So he went down the road, he contacted Everthought to get his qualification. And then the trainer assessor contacted me, and was asking me about this student, my offsider who was looking for qualification. And during that conversation he asked me if I had ever considered being a trainer, you know, would I be interested?
And I said, well, strange enough, you know, I’ve done my cert III in training and assessment and yes, that was my thought. And that’s how it kind of all started. A few days of conversations and then long behold, I started working for Everthought.
That’s a very interesting routine actually. I didn’t know that.
What are some things that you see from good students, that is, I guess, a common trait for a Wall and Floor Tiler, that they can really kick on and do well?
I think, from what I can see over the years, what makes a great Tiler is somebody that really has an attention to detail, has a really great eye, has that ability to really… want to create something, and that’s creative or just understand about straight lines. So I don’t know if there’s a trait, I do kinda jokingly think to myself, oh yeah, to be a great, you need to be OCD or you need to be really pedantic about finishes and things like that.
But in terms of the personal mate, the personalities range. I mean, I know I’ve got guys that are really great. I’ve got mates that are great tiler that are kickboxing champions and things like that, you know, where they’re just like big bulking guys with tattoos and yet they’re fantastic Tilers. So I think there’s a creativity in them and there’s an expression, they are expressing their ability to create something beautiful.
I think that seems to be potentially a commonality between them all is that they have this willingness to really try and create something beautiful.
Okay. And what, I guess from when you see students first start, what are some, I guess some, things where you’ve seen, like differentiates I guess your top 5% of students from anybody else in that classroom?
I think the first thing is, the ones that have a willingness to learn, demonstrate to me that potentially they will go into great things, but it’s always hard to tell from the first couple of weeks or first couple of months who’s gonna continue on to be a Tiler because I feel like when they start off, they’re still, these students are still, they’re trying to find themselves and so therefore it’s like this, this internal battle of “is tiling for me, is tiling not for me?, Am I gonna be a great tiler, I’m unsure, I’m unsure.” But there certainly be, seems to be a period of time when they first start, there’s that lot of that soul searching, or is this the right choice?
Well, that’s an interesting, I just wanna explore that a little bit further. What are some things then, I guess you as a floor tiling instructor or teacher, what, how do you ease them through that process?
I ease them through that process, because what I say to them is that you’ll get it sooner or later you’ll get it. And so certain things come really easy for other people and other things come hard for others, and for me, it’s about them not being too hard on themselves about whether they’re failing, because we all fail at things and eventually we succeed.
So for me, it’s the process of getting them to understand, that it’s 1% better every day. I just need them to get 1% better every day. Not 5%, not 10%. I just want them to do a little bit better, 1% every day, or try 1% more, or communicate 1% better every day. So it’s always about the 1%, because we know that lots of 1% make a hundred percent, and so it’s all the small, it’s the gradual small steps moving forward.
And is that because obviously you get to work with them over a greater period of time over the two year period for an international student or a three year domestic apprenticeship, and you’ve got the time to really sort of mentor those students?
Yes, most definitely. I get to, I get to build relationships with them that I can find out what actually makes them tick a little bit, and why they’re doing it and what’s their background because they’ve all come from different cultures and different background.
And not everybody comes into my classroom and says, you know, if, cause if I ask them the question, why do you wanna be a Tiler? Probably a lot of them just don’t yet. Cause they haven’t tried it. So they’re not quite sure. But I can see the twinkle in their eyes when things start to fall into place.
Or if they’re studying and they do find a job, as a tiling assistant, then I can see the excitement in them. I can see them excelling. I can see the enthusiasm builds up because it’s like a big puzzle that’s all starting to fit. And so it’s a timing thing, you know? It’s like the, the more time I spend with them, the mentoring, the conversations,, you know, encouraging them to get better, you know, when they’ve done something wrong, it’s like, okay, so is there another way we could have done that? What do you think you did right? What do you did wrong? So I’m always trying to get them to also do that self-evaluation of their performance. Not too critical, but it’s kinda like, okay, you tiled that wall, what do you think you did good? I think I did my joints really well. Right. What do you think you did bad? I didn’t pull all the crosses out properly. Okay. Great. What do you think, you know, what have you learned from this, from this experience? This, this, this, and this… So not just me always giving them feedback, but what do you think it is. Here’s my feedback. What do you think you did? So they’re also reviewing what they’re doing as well.
So you’re not just teaching wall and floor tiling then, you’re also teaching real life world skills that are applicable in a job space, like accepting feedback in either positive manner or a constructive manner.
All the time. All the time. I mean, we, 80% of the time we’re talking about tiling. 20% of the time we’re talking about lots of life stuff. Because a lot of these students are coming from you know, another country. They don’t have family here. You know, some of them will open up to me and tell me their backgrounds, and some of them won’t. Some of them I only find out on the last day that they’ve had a girlfriend, a long distance relationship, and they’re having a, a long distance relationship with a partner who’s in Canada.
That’s awesome. You know, so it, it’s, you, you’re always finding something about them every single day, and it’s just getting them to feel comfortable in this environment. I make it quite clear from, I make it clear to them from the start that, you know, I’m their trainer and my goal is to train ’em to be the best tiler that they possibly can.
We’re gonna have good days, we’re gonna have bad days. We’re gonna be days where potentially we’re cross at each other, we’re cranky at each other. But I have a job to do. My job is to try and get them trained and if we can have a really good relationship along the way where it’s a lot of mutual respect and just lots of banter and chatting, great.
If we don’t, then it is what it is. But you know, I do get a lot of them, even after they’ve finished, still keep in contact with me. You know, I’ve had a couple of the students move down to Melbourne, you know, they’re now still tiling, and so that’s the other thing too. Everything I do is to make sure that they can be the best they can whether it’s tiling, but also just in, in just general life stuff. You know, I have very, conversations broad, lots of broad conversations – marriage, relationships, dating, everything. I don’t always bring it up. They tend to bring it up and I jump on the bandwagon and have a bit of a banter and a bit of a chat with them.
I kind of see you, Sandro, it’s almost like a gatekeeper to the wall and floor tiling industry. What are some things that you do to make them world-ready?
Good question. I dunno if I call myself the gatekeeper, I feel like I’m like the strong foundation for them to actually build up their skills and their knowledge and their confidence. So for me it’s obviously trying to prepare them for it. It’s also trying to build up a little bit of self-confidence in them. It’s also giving them the tools and ammunition to go, listen “Nothing’s gained by not communicating”. You know? So if you’re not communicating with your boss, like you, you are telling me, you know, sometimes I’ll get a student go “Sandro, I wanna get paid more money”. Why do you wanna get paid more money? Oh, because I believe I should get paid more money. Well, then you need to go and have this conversation with your boss. Hey boss, I feel like I need to get paid more money, and you need to explain to him the reasons why, but you also need to give him the opportunity to respond to that and see how you can come to a common ground. So I try and give them the tools about how communication is very important, whether it’s in life, whether it’s in work, and that you know, effective communication can benefit, you know, to them in, in multiples of ways. So, yeah, so I do try and give them, as much as I can.
What do you do to, you know, got some students that you see struggling what, and, you know, one way, shape, or form? What are some ways that you try and pull them back on track?
I guess what I try and do is when I’ve got them in the right state of mind, so like, cause they’re in the middle of a project and they’re just plotting along, I’ll just be like “Hey, how’s it going?” I’ll try to engage with them and I’ll just, as we’re talking, “Hey, how’s life, how’s things”, you know, and just try and find out what’s happening in their life and then bring it back to a “Hey, I noticed recently, you know, you haven’t been yourself”. I’ve noticed your performance levels has, has dropped. I noticed your attendance has dropped. Is there something going on? Is there something I need to know? Is there something that I may be able to help? So I try and ask questions. I try and look for the signals. Body language is a big giveaway and obviously attendance and progression. There are the three things that I find are the big giveaways. But I just try and give them… I communicate with them in a way that just let them know that I’m here for them if they need to. And then also on top of that offer that if they don’t wanna talk to me, then maybe there could be someone in the office they may wanna talk to.
So yeah, it’s just trying to get engaged with them and give them the opportunity. Come and talk to me if they wish to do.
That’s amazing, Sando. So you’re providing a real structure there in the classroom, not just in it by the sounds of things, but also out of it. In regards to, I guess the product and the material that you’re using with the students – how would you say that differs in terms of, what you are using in the industry?
Well, all the products I’m using at the moment are all industry currency. So I’m using real adhesives. I buy them from a company called Base. They offer lots of support, I’ll trial different materials, just to see how they go from a training perspective. But everything we use is current. It’s what tilers would use on a day-to-day basis. And I’ll mix it up from time to time so the students get to trial the different materials and we’ll talk about the different processes, you know, just the same with cutting, how we cut differently. So, it’s really important for me and for them to understand it, cause not every employer is gonna use the same product. So the more that they can work with, the better they’ll be.
So you try and use a wide variety of products in that the industry currently uses in the classroom, so that they are industry ready by the time they’ve finished with you?
Yes, most definitely. Most definitely. Like, you know, I work with basic materials. I work with Marty. Sometimes dunlops, sometimes daco, you know, and then I’m talking to the tile shops as well to find out what’s happening in the industry. You know, whether it’s stone and marble. And then sometimes it’s the new processes, the pedestal systems and or the tile leveling clips.
So I try and make sure that we’re keeping up with currency. Cause there’s no point in me, you know, talking about something. You know, I can talk about something I did five years ago, but I’ll relate it. And if I’m talking about it, I’ll go, by the way, we still use, do the same thing what we did five years ago “In this situation, I would still do the same”.
But the other way I get to bring other value adds to my students is going into Instagram and looking at Facebook and on social media, and I’m showing them what other titles are currently doing, what’s the trend at the moment. So we’ll have conversations about that. And then we’ll discuss, this is potentially how they’re installing it. This is what they’re probably doing here and so forth. I’ll also go to trade events and trade day, and workshops just to make sure I keep up with currency so that way I can pass it on to my students.
That’s actually really interesting. So I mean, social media has changed so much in the last two, three years, let alone in the last 10, 20 years. How are you using that in the classroom? I know you just sort of gently walked through, but I was just a little bit more detailing.
Well, conversation could be like, say for an example, if a student says to me, “Hi Sandro, I’m trying to look for work?”, and I’ll go straight into, okay, so are you on any social media?
And they’ll go, yeah, I’ll go “Are you on Facebook?” Yes, I am. Okay, great. Fantastic. On Facebook there’s a couple of industry sites, things like, carpentry in Brisbane or Brisbane carpenters and so on. Those sites, they’re just all carpenters who’ve joined and I tell the students, you can join up. Cause even though you’re not a fully fledged carpenter, you’re actually learning. So you can, as part of your, the registration, you can put down your studying carpentry. So you are doing, you know, certificate III in carpentry. And so that enables them to get on there, and see the materials that they’re using, the tiling, whether it’s tiling or carpentry. They’ll see people talking about materials, but, a lot of those sites are actually posting work opportunities. You know, it could be a carpenter saying, “Hey, I’m building a house. I need a couple of tradesmen, or I need a couple of labourers”. So I will have those sorts of conversations. On Instagram, there’s some really good hashtags and tiling sites that I’ll get in, get on, and I’ll show the students about what other industries or other, you know, titles around the world, whether it’s Australia, New Zealand, America, and how they may do a process that’s slightly different, how they may cut in a floor, the different patterns of different this. And so, that just gives them broader knowledge than just a very, you know, having the blinkers on about how you can do things. Cause there’s lots of ways of doing things, incorporating Australian standards and everything else. But there could be lots of different ways that potentially we’re not, we’re not thinking. So that’s how I will use social media, just to give the students more content and more context as well.
It’s quite a blended learning style than in your classroom, so you’re going from the practical to the theory and then, a good online component as well.
Yeah, most definitely. Most definitely. But I’ll also, what I’ll also do is I’ll bring in experiences and stories. Stories are great, you know, I’ll always talk about the different jobs. And sometimes I don’t remember the client faces or the names, but I remember the jobs and I’ll talk about how, you know, people will do things that it may not be to what we like, but we we’re there to do a job and that is to give them a quality product. And so I’ll talk about the different people and the different customers and their expectations. So stories are just to help the students who understand that, you know, our job, we’re the professionals, we’re installing the product professionally. Clients may have a different perspective on colours and patterns that we may not agree on. So, yeah, I’m bringing in lots of conversations about lots of things because, you know, the students need to understand that you know, just because somebody has a different way or different colour that may not be suitable or may not, we might think, oh, that’s a completely hideous colour. It’s not about that. We’re giving them what they want. They want this, they’re gonna love this, and we’re gonna give it to ’em. So yeah, I have lots of conversation and bring lots of elements to the learning, to that holistic learning.
When you know you are on job and you’re installing someone’s bathroom, tiling on the floor, those sorts of things, you’re making a big fashion statement for the client as well. Do you teach anything in and around those design choices where people, where you can just see someone’s making a horrible decision and you’re gonna try and guide them elsewhere?
Oh yeah. Look, look, most definitely. All the time. All the time. I mean, when I go, when I used to go in and see clients and I have a conversation, we wanna do this, we wanna do that, we wanna do this, and they go, great. Ok. Why do you wanna do this? And they’d probably paint this picture of, “oh, you know, the architect said we should do this and that”. Okay, but what do you think you wanna do? And so my job is to go in and find out why they want to do certain things, have the conversation with them, give them the pros and cons of each thing. I’ll give you two examples. Number one, I had a lady by the name of, Oh, geez, I can’t remember her name now. A lovely lady. Sheila was her name. She was South African. She lived in, she lived in, Kenmore Victory Tree Pocket, and she wanted a multicoloured wall in her bathroom. Oh. We’re laying a hundred by hundred mils. Yeah. Hundred by hundred mil tiles. And she said, Sandro, I want, I want this, I want random colour on this wall. And I said to her, okay, well my interpretation of random could be completely different. So how about this? How about I give you some grid paper and you colour in the squares that represent the tiles in the colours that you want in the position. And I’ll follow that to the T because then that is giving you what you want. And she said to me, she goes, ah, you know, my husband kind of think, you know, I’m just getting mental about this and blah, blah, blah. And I said, well, look Sheila, I always look at this way here, when people are doing, making their choices about designs and colours for their bathroom, it’s a permanent fixture. It’s not something like side cabinet that you can just remove and get a new one. It’s fixed and it requires a lot of money to replace. So there’s two ways of looking at it. Are you doing this renovation to sell the property? Or are you doing this renovation because you’re gonna be here forever? And she said to me, oh, they’re gonna have to take me outta the box. I’m here forever. I said, well then when you are building something, renovating something, you wanna love it. mYou wanna be able to walk into the place and go, I love it. And it’s the same with tiling. When you tile the bathroom and creating a bathroom, you wanna be able to walk into it and go, I really love this bathroom. It’s everything I wanted. And that’s what she got.
Another story I had a client, another client, Leanne, and I was actually just telling the story to the, to the students the other day. The builder said to me, oh, Leanne wants to have a quick chat to you about some tile selection. I said, yeah, no problem. She came up to me with a black mat, uh, six, uh, 400 by 800 tile for the floor, 300 by 600 tile for the floor in a porcelain tile, and she says Sandro “I really like this tile. You know, I like it cause I like black tiles”. And I said, yeah, okay. And she said, but I’m worried about cleaning. And I said, yeah, I’m too. And she goes, oh, but I would’ve thought you would hide the dirt. I said, yeah, hide the dirt. But it doesn’t hide the dust. But my biggest fear, if I was to lay this, you walk from the outside, inside and the footprint that you’ve picked up the dust and your footprint and you’re walking through the house and you’re collect the dust. And so you’ll see dust. You’ll see the dust, and she’s like, Hmmmm but is it gonna be a lot of dust? And I said, well, I can’t answer that question. Depends on whether you have a mat outside the door and this and that. And so a conversation continued on. She decided she wanted to do it, so we did it. No word of a lie, but 10 years after I did that job, every time I’d see the builder, work for the builder and I’d bring up that conversation Hey, how’s Leanne and Doug going at Kenmore? Yep. Still love the tiles, but hates the dust.. Hates the dust.
So yeah, you do go through those periods of, you know, when you’re dealing with your clients and you’re giving them as much information for them to make their choices. And some of them will make choices that, that, you know, aren’t great. But that’s the thing, you know, you can’t tell people what to do. You can offer them suggestions and sometimes they just, once they’ve got their head made, you know, their mind made up, they just make it. And sometimes they’re the wrong choices.
Amazing. So what, what I’m hearing from yourself, Sandro is you’ve got a lot of experience in the industry. You care deeply about your students, both professionally and also, from a very personal perspective. And not only that, you actively go out into industry to make sure that what you’re teaching is the highest class in world class facilities, using quite literally the best products you can get your hands on. How does the industry support you?
Oh, look, I think, I still speak to a lot of different tilers, and I actually by the public, I still get lots of calls from people. I had a call just late last year from a lady that I tiled her courtyard area like 10 years ago. And, I couldn’t remember her name, couldn’t remember anything about her, but when she told me what it was, then, I knew straight away. So from that perspective, from the public, I still get lots of support there. From the building side of it, you know, I try and keep in contact with them as much as I can. They’ll give us lots of support, you know, Base that were great, have been great over the last four, five years. They gave us a bunch of shirts. They’ve helped to facilitate training for the students by offering support, by, you know, workshops and, you know, large format tiling training that, you know, I had about 15 students go over there. So, yeah, we’ve had some really good support by different companies. Johnson’s have been really very supportive and they continue to do so. So yeah, we do get pretty good support from industry. Most definitely.
One last thing though, Sandro. If someone was considering your wall and floor tiling cert III, what would you say?
I would say to them that, it’ll be a great ride, it’ll be a great experience. You’ll learn a lot and potentially you’ll get a great year, a great career in tiling. You know I’ve seen a number of my students who have, born of the great things. I currently have got three students working for Aesthetic Tiling down the Gold Coast, and they’re now running their own jobs for, or running some of the jobs for Aesthetic Tiling. So you know, if somebody’s out there thinking about it, there is really a lot of opportunities out there to work for companies and also to go on further and have your own business. So I would say, come, let me train you, let me guide you, let me mentor you and let me, you know, enable you, enable yourself to be the best toll as you can so that you can have a great career.
I love it. He’s Senior Smooth in the classroom, smooth on his tiles, and he’s super smooth on the podcast The Workshop. Sandro, thank you so much for your time. I greatly appreciate it, and this is episode one of our Everthought Trainer Showcase, and we’re looking forward to showing you the other disciplines as well. Thank you.
Thanks for listening to the Workshop podcast. We hope you enjoyed this episode and we will see you again next week. The podcast is hosted by Everthought Education RTO 32438 and Everthought College of Construction RTO 51681, CRICOS 02898C.