Last month, in addition to my regular travel schedule, I made a special trip to Dallas, TX, to participate in the StonExpo Education Committee Advisory Meeting. And as I waited for my flight to depart from Newark Airport in New Jersey (my current “home away from home”), it occurred to me that the stone industry is offering more educational opportunities than ever before. Moreover, these sessions are well thought out and they are addressing some of the most important topics in the stone industry -- from fabrication to installation, sales and management.

Our meeting in Dallas touched on a broad range of industry issues, and for each topic, there seems to be a speaker (or a panel of speakers) available to offer unique insight and solutions to many problems. Educational tracks that will be offered at StonExpo this October in Las Vegas will focus on business management, material and design market trends, fabrication and installation, technology and machinery and sales/marketing.

In addition to the StonExpo program, there are many new sources for industry education.

As the voice of the stone industry for over two decades, Stone World has often been a forum for industry issues, and we will be hosting three full-day educational seminars on the West Coast this April. “The Stone Fabrication Workshops” are intensive one-day seminars that deliver cutting-edge information and practical tips from respected industry experts, and the sessions are intended for fabrication shop managers, owners/decision makers and fabrication shop workers.

The Marble Institute of America (MIA) has also made what it refers to as a “quantum leap” in its educational offerings, as it will be adding one-day regional programs and customized training for member companies as well as two-day seminars on the residential natural stone business. Gary Distelhorst, executive vice president of MIA called it the most dramatic expansion of the association's regional programs, which will jump from two in 2004 to 19 in the current year.

Addressing natural stone in the design community, both the MIA and Stone World will separately be hosting seminars specifically aimed at architects and designers. MIA has begun the first pilot phase of a new localized continuing education program on designing natural stone projects. The program, which will be taught on a local or regional basis by members of MIA, will eventually include eight power-point presentations that cover an introduction to natural stone, natural stone selection criteria and how natural stone goes from the quarry to the residential countertop or commercial project. Called the “MIA Natural Stone Continuing Education Program,” the package is being developed to train architects, interior designers, general and residential contractors and stone industry employees.

In a new venture, Stone World's architectural seminars will provide architects with valuable Learning Units (LUs) from the American Institute of Architects, and they will focus on stone and tile specification, installation and maintenance.

Another helpful set of seminars will be offered at Coverings 2005 in Orlando, FL, which is set to take place from May 3 to 6, 2005. These seminars are broken up into a range of tracks, including Architecture and Design, Installation and Specification, Stone and Distributor and Retailer. (A preview of the sessions that will take place in Orlando can be found on page 70 of this issue.)

In yet another avenue for industry education, all of the International Tile & Stone Show events will now include seminars for attendees.

I have always felt that the stone industry is particularly good about sharing information with one another. New fabricators are invited to see the operations of industry veterans, and there has always been an open exchange among fabricators who have attended our “Fabricator Forums” over the years. And more than ever, it seems there are more ways for fabricators to hone their craft even further. These education sessions are not only an opportunity for the industry, but they are an obligation for those who want to ensure that the level of craftsmanship in our industry remains at a premium level.

Editor's Note: The Stone World Stone Fabrication Workshop dates and locations are as follows: April 18, 2005 in Burbank, CA; April 19, 2005 in Anaheim, CA; and April 21, 2005 in the San Francisco Bay Area, CA. A registration fee of $195 includes the full one-day workshop, all workshop meals (continental breakfast, lunch and

beverages), a Networking Reception immediately following the workshop, an informational CD-ROM and other materials from Workshop sponsors. To register for the Stone World Stone Fabrication Workshops, call 1-888-530-6714 or visit