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Industry Perspectives: The gauntlet is thrown, what are you doing to promote construction?

Giovanni Cautillo
Industry Perspectives: The gauntlet is thrown, what are you doing to promote construction?
Giovanni Cautillo

With a looming skilled labour shortage plaguing Canada’s construction industry, the Ontario Construction Careers Alliance (OCCA) is hoping to combat the problem by reaching out to high school students across Ontario with the goal of educating them about the many career opportunities available to them in construction. This is the second of a series of articles that will be appearing in the Daily Commercial News over the coming months outlining the goals of the OCCA and the impact the alliance aims to have on future generations. This particular column is a call to action from OCCA treasurer Giovanni Cautillo.

I have a simple question to ask every company, organization and association that make up the construction industry: Are you ready?

What is your company doing to promote construction to the next generation of workers contemplating a career? What is your company doing to prepare for the pending labour shortages as depicted by BuildForce Canada?

We have all been aware for some time that there is a looming demographic shift, due predominantly to the aging baby boomers.

These boomers are currently in all positions throughout construction and very soon will be retiring en masse. What will this do to the construction industry? What will this do to your company?

The organizations that started the OCCA pondered this very issue over nine years ago.

Instead of simply shrugging our shoulders and waiting for the tidal wave to make landfall, a group of like-minded associations banded together, raised the necessary funds and created an alliance that would promote construction as a sector. We set our plan in motion.

The OCCA’s primary mandate is to educate students, educators and parents on potential careers in construction. Our goal is to attract youth to choose construction. We speak in broad terms and depict construction as a destination, dispelling the historic stigma of construction as a possibility only when all other options have failed. This way of thinking is antiquated and does not correctly reflect the reality of the ever-changing world of construction. We place construction on par with the legal and medical professions. The similarities are that you enter into any of the three in broad terms and then you can specialize according to your likes or interests.

Our industry is dynamic; we build things! Those in the industry know this and are proud to be part of what we do. But what about students? How do they get to hear about possibilities in construction? The OCCA is how.

We promote to high school students, and our message is clear, to select construction as a career. Think of the options for young people today. In very short order they are going to be entering a working landscape that requires people in every facet of society and in every capacity and their options will be many.

We can all promote construction to the youth of today by constantly promoting what our industry does for society and how we give back. Construction provides people with a solid purpose. Every aspect of our lives is touched by construction. Think about it for just a second.

You wake up in your home, constructed by residential builders and multiple trades. You take a shower, use the bathroom, drink a glass of water or make a cup of coffee, constructed by sewer and watermain contractors. You get into your car and drive along any number of roadways, constructed by road building contractors. You may drive over a bridge or two along the way, constructed by bridge contractors. You arrive at your work, perhaps an office building, hospital, school, shopping centre or any physical structure you can see, constructed by industrial, commercial and institutional contractors.

Have I made my point?

My examples only touch upon the depth that the construction industry has to offer. And yet we have consistently been viewed as the last resort option instead of the first choice. Why? Because we do a very poor job of promoting construction. We do not let the general public truly know about all of the incredible opportunities and accomplishments our industry offers.

The OCCA has been continually promoting construction for the last eight years and we are now starting to generate the interest that construction deserves. We are a broad sector encapsulating multiple facets and industries and yet allow for specialization and diversification. We are promoting construction at tradeshows, conferences, seminars, speaking engagements and of course during classroom presentations.

Additionally, through a number of local construction associations, we have successfully and repeatedly demonstrated to students varying facets of construction through "Construction Day" events. This gives students a hands on opportunity to view our industry.  walk through of potential for them.

So now that you have been made aware of the OCCA, you can no longer claim ignorance of the efforts being conducted behind the scenes and over the last number of years towards the betterment of our industry.

So why haven’t you joined the OCCA? I ask once again, what is your company doing to promote construction to the next generation of workers contemplating a career? Are you ready?

Giovanni Cautillo is treasurer of the OCCA board and is also the executive director of the Ontario Sewer and Watermain Construction Association. Send comments and Industry Perspectives ideas to

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