After 11 years with BuildForce Canada, executive director Rosemary Sparks is retiring and while she has watched the organization evolve over the years, she hopes it continues to grow and thrive under new leadership.
Sparks is stepping down effective Aug. 31 and Bill Ferreira, former vice-president of government relations and public affairs for the Canadian Construction Association, is taking over the reins. He assumed his new role Aug. 8.
"I’m excited about the possibilities and where it’s going to go from here," said Sparks. "I think there is lots of opportunity for the organization and I’m looking forward to it flourishing under Bill Ferreira’s leadership. I would like to see it continue to grow and to continue to have its place in the industry as a valuable resource that industry can call on."
BuildForce Canada is a national industry-led organization that works with the construction industry to provide information and resources to help with its management of workforce requirements.
Sparks is particularly proud that BuildForce has continued the work that was started by the Construction Sector Council (CSC) established in 2001.
"Back then it was a fledgling organization, brand new, one of several sector councils in what was a reasonably new concept," explained Sparks. "It had built up a good reputation during the time as the CSC and it began to have the support of industry in a fairly strong way."
When the CSC funding was coming to an end and a new governance and funding model was needed for the organization, Sparks was part of the team that brought together key national industry stakeholders to develop new models and work through the requirements necessary to move forward. An agreement was reached and BuildForce was launched in April 2013. "I guess that was a test of the good work that CSC had done and really a test of the value proposition for what we were offering the industry," said Sparks.
"I would consider that we passed that test and the industry did step up and came on board. We revised the governance structure and it’s a very inclusive organization with all segments of construction and all the major organizations within the industry."
She said the board and industry stakeholders were instrumental in moving the organization forward.
"I was fortunate to have a terrific board of directors comprised of all the key players in the industry and great staff. It was really everyone’s efforts that enabled us to continue to progress," said Sparks.
Labour Market Information (LMI) has been the flagship of BuildForce from day one.
"It has continued to grow and we’ve continued to make changes to it to provide more detail for the industry," said Sparks.
"Within the LMI context the important message is that we continue to try and meet industry needs by enhancing and refining the information we put out every year and our evaluation of our labour market information products and programs tell us that more industry is engaged in our LMI. That’s an indication that industry is supporting this work and continues to support it and in fact, our engagement is growing."
Online learning, which was started by the organization in 2005, is also an important component of what BuildForce does. With over 70,000 participants registered in its e-learning centre, BuildForce is trying to be more responsive to meet the needs of the students of tomorrow.
"From then (2005) we have been continuing to add courses to our offerings and we’re right now in a process of updating our courses to reflect not only current content but current technology," Sparks explained.
"We all know how fast technology is changing and so we now have a new generation of workers coming on in construction and they are used to perhaps not working on PCs or computers. They want to do things on tablets. We’ve had to change the technology base that we operate on in our centre to accommodate that and we’re in the midst of that overhaul."
In terms of new initiatives, BuildForce received funding to undertake a large mentorship program across the country. They also received funding from Status of Women Canada to look at the issue of the retention of women in construction.
"I’m really pleased we’re doing this women’s initiative," said Sparks.
"A few years back we did do some research into the issue of women’s participation in construction and I’m happy to see that from there we are now into a project that is actioning some of the things that we learned in that research."