The Construction Institute of Canada’s (TCIC) National Student Bid Competition was created to give students exposure to the project bidding process, and for one winning team from Toronto’s George Brown College this year, participation meant experiencing the thrills and stresses of bidding with heart-pounding intensity.
The foursome of Louis Poeta, John Sun, Victor Lee and team leader Muhammad Bassah was announced as winner of closest to the target completion at the awards gala held in downtown Toronto April 11. The team also picked up second place in the most complete and accurate bid category.
But as Bassah described it, their efforts over two months of dawn-to-dusk workdays almost went to waste as they raced to meet the 3 p.m. deadline for bid submission on March 29 at the appointed office in Vaughan, north of Toronto.
"It was wild," he said. "I have never experienced such stress at any moment in my life. Everything that could go wrong went wrong with us."
The final hours were especially tense.
"We were running out of time, we submitted our bid literally seconds before closing," Bassah recounted. "We even hit the highway from two ways just to get there on time.
"At the print shop the lady was taking her time, I had to tell the lady, ‘please hurry, this is a multi-million project’ — she didn’t need to know we were students. So we bought an envelope, we had to do our signing in the car, but when we brought it to the submission place our bid did not fit the envelope. That was another struggle, everybody was shaking. I walked up to the secretary, I had to beg, ‘We have been working on this for two months straight, four people, that is eight months of 16-hour days,’ and she brought us an envelope that fit."
Toronto Construction Association
Besides stressing the participants’ cardio systems, the competition exposes students to the real-world pressures of professional estimating, Building Information Modeling (BIM), presentation, technical and legal compliance, site mobilization planning, quality management document preparation, even LEED certification, explained Craig Lesurf, honorary chairman of the competition and vice-president of Walsh Canada.
This year there was also a significant health and safety component added to the bid requirements, the long-time safety advocate noted.
"This was an awesome year, I think our best yet," said Lesurf.
"We ended up with nine schools from all across Canada, from British Columbia to Nova Scotia, seven construction associations involved, over 300 participants with 80 teams, and we had a lot of engagement and a lot of diversity with our winners."
An essential goal of the competition is to produce higher quality graduates of construction programs, commented John Mollenhauer, president and CEO of the Toronto Construction Association and vice-chancellor and president of TCIC.
"What it represents from my perspective, it represents the ultimate collaboration between the employers and the schools that are training our future leaders," he said. "I can’t think of anything that is more vital than estimating."
The bid competition is managed by an executive team of 14 members, students who are voted in by their peers. The executive director for the 2017 competition was Johnathan Kerr. This year’s project was the recently completed headquarters of a major construction firm, unnamed to the participants, located in Toronto.
For both Bassah and Karen Grubb, team leader of the Ryerson squad that won the most professional bid award, the competition represented a huge personal learning opportunity compressed into two months. Grubb’s colleagues were Benjamin Joyce, Stephen Hewitt and Yerin Chdi. As team leader she said a significant revelation was learning to be decisive in taking corrective measures to improve the team’s output.
"I learned a lot about myself, about my team, working in team settings," said Grubb, who has a job in architectural project management waiting for her when she graduates.
"I also learned that you have to maintain calm and also as a leader, whenever you see a mistake or a problem, you have to take immediate corrective action. Because if you don’t the problem is only going to grow and grow and grow."
Bassah, who praised his team’s cohesion, had a similar take on leadership.
"I did a lot of planning ahead of time," he said. "I used to plan in my sleep even and wake up with thoughts about what to do next.
"I had to remain calm no matter how I felt on the inside."
National Student Bid Competition winners
Presented April 11 at the Queen Richmond Centre West in Toronto
• Most Professional: Ryerson University — Karen Grubb, Benjamin Joyce, Yerin Chdi, Stephen Hewitt
• Most Accurate and Complete: George Brown College — John Di Florio, Luke Butereri, Tsetsegbayar Shinebayer, Peter Jarmoszko
• Closest to the Target Price: George Brown College — Muhammad Bassah, Louis Poeta, John Sun, Victor Lee
• BIM: Ryerson University — Victoria Staseff, Youhyun Chang, Simon Chen, Sebastian Van Niekerk
• Esteemed Mentor Awards: Latif Hassanzay, Greco Construction; Norm Lux, LCVM Consultants; Chris Arney, Bird Construction; and Kelvin Mitchell, Gillam Group