The odds were long for a team from Toronto’s George Brown College competing in the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) Global Student Challenge showcasing construction management talent.
No Canadian team had ever won the competition during its five years in existence and the George Brown threesome — comprised of Lucas Dang, Mike Lino and Nicholas Lourenco — represented the only college and the last North American entry remaining in a final six that included top-ranked construction management schools from around the world including Cambridge University.
As the six finalists were rhymed off by CIOB president Christopher Soffe during a black-tie president’s gala held in Toronto July 12, the anticipation grew from the home crowd as they realized George Brown’s team was in the top three, then the top two — then was announced as the winner, prompting an eruption of cheers.
Dang, Lino and Lourenco were serious and professional as they described what it took to win in an interview after the gala.
“It feels very humbling to know that we have performed in such a manner to compete with some of the most prestigious universities across the world, Hong Kong, Cambridge, they are fantastic universities with great courses and good professors,” said Lino. “It goes to show how good we can be in Canada as well.”
Lourenco commented, “When I first enrolled at George Brown, I never thought I’d get a degree, and I never thought I would be entering a global student challenge, and I never thought we’d come out winners.”
The challenge is based on MERIT software, a simulation developed in the U.K. in which students run their own virtual construction companies and are required to use a full range of skills from marketing, estimating and bidding to financing, human resources, project management and long-term investment. Fifty-three universities entered the challenge this year.
While George Brown’s Angelo DelZotto School of Construction Management is part of a college, under its chair Clint Kissoon it has taken advantage of the opportunity offered by the provincial government to offer full university-style degrees.
Dang, Lino and Lourenco have completed five years of schooling, first earning construction engineering diplomas then recently graduating with a degree in construction management.
“Ensuring that the students could be recognized internationally was one of the things I wanted to do,” said Kissoon, who attended the CIOB event and serves as a Toronto CIOB representative.
“I sponsored them, getting them into the competition. It is such a global profession, and we showed we could have students become champions.”
Dang, Lino and Lourenco were mentored by Andrew Gordon, a faculty member at George Brown, and received guidance in class from Prof. Blago Blagoev.
“They are immensely talented,” said Blagoev. “The program can help them only so far, it gives them an opportunity to learn how to work in teams, and you see the fruits here. They know each other so well, and they can trust each other with split-second decisions, I think that comes from years and years of working together and getting to know each other, and that is unique to our program.”
Lino explained how the team worked together: “We knew each other’s strengths and weaknesses, we knew what each individual was able to do best and we stuck with that. We sat down and each took turns to understand each person’s role and responsibility and how to make decisions.
“We were all able to make quick decisions based on the trust between the three of us, the knowledge that we all shared, not only for the competition but for real world business. We all do a lot of reading outside school to increase our knowledge base on business.”
The win comes with a cash prize worth the equivalent of about $3,300 that will be split three ways. Lino showed he’s not all business — he plans to buy golf clubs with his winnings.
All three are already employed in the field. Lino works with A and O Contracting, Lourenco is with Mattamy Homes and Dang has returned to his home country of Vietnam to work in a small construction company.