Applications are now being accepted for the 2019 CONtact Innovator Mentorship program, which matches innovators with industry leaders to get input and feedback on the products or services they provide.
Recently launched by Canadian Construction Innovations (CCI), in partnership with the Canadian Construction Association (CCA), with support from the National Research Council of Canada Industrial Research Assistance Program, the program aims to provide a platform to help aspiring entrepreneurs/innovators hone their solutions for industry adoption and provide a new opportunity to attract young, tech-savvy workers to the industry.
“We launched this last year as a pilot to really raise the profile of innovation with our members,” explained Mary Van Buren, CCA president.
“One of the criticisms of the industry is that it’s not seen as very innovative or tech savvy and with this program we are able to attract aspiring entrepreneurs, whether that’s with a new solution or a process, as well as connect them with the industry to showcase what is going on and then we can demonstrate with live examples just what is happening in the industry.”
Innovation and attracting a younger workforce are top priorities in the CCA’s five-year strategic plan, noted Van Buren, adding another aspect is the industry’s workforce shortage.
“This is another way to put the industry on the map and to alert people to all these opportunities where millennials can be innovative and leave a lasting legacy through the building or the infrastructure they’ve contributed to,” she said.
The objectives of the program are to encourage entrepreneurs to create solutions for the industry, build knowledge of emerging solutions within the industry and increase the adoption of innovative solutions.
As a mentor you can help shape a whole solution, maybe provide some advice that would take it from interesting to useful,
— Mary Van Buren
Canadian Construction Association
Some of the benefits of becoming a mentee are tapping into the knowledge of established and experienced industry professionals to finetune their product offerings or ideas; establishing new relationships by networking within the industry; receiving feedback from industry professionals; and learning and acquiring knowledge, skills, tactics and competencies.
“This is an opportunity to get one on one with some of these entrepreneurs and to understand first-hand what these innovations are,” explained Van Buren.
“As a mentor you can help shape a whole solution, maybe provide some advice that would take it from interesting to useful.”
“For mentees it can be really challenging for them to get in front of industry leaders with their products and services,” she added.
“This is really important market feedback that they probably couldn’t get otherwise,” said Van Buren.
Mentees are being encouraged to apply for the program online until August 30. The mentorship meetings, a maximum three-hour feedback session between the parties, will take place from October to December either in person or virtual and can be one-on-one or with a group.
“The purpose is for the firm to present their idea or solution and for the mentor to provide whatever feedback the entrepreneur is looking for so it might be on the product itself, on the pricing strategy, it might be who is the best target audience,” said Van Buren.
The successful applicants will be announced in September. CCI will match industry volunteers with entrepreneurs and coordinate the meeting.
“At the end of the day we do try to match those who can provide value,” she said. “If it’s concrete, you want someone who is knowledgeable about that.”
“It’s very much meant to be sharing and it’s not a sales pitch,” she added. “This is not for them to try and find their venture capitalists or their investors.”
The program includes one meeting but there could be follow up sessions if a mentor is interested.
“If a mentor is inspired and wants to build a relationship that’s fantastic, that is one of our goals is to help more of these entrepreneurs be successful and for the industry to adopt new tools techniques processes solutions that will make them more productive,” said Van Buren.
The program is open to those with a product or service with an innovative solution for the Canadian construction industry based in Canada. It targets firms with under 500 employees.
“The criteria is more along the lines of is this new, is this relevant, is it something that could have a big impact on the industry, so not a solution that exists in the industry, we’re looking at if it can dramatically increase productivity or provide a new solution to an existing problem,” she said.
Those interested in the program are asked to visit cca-acc.com/contact.