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Construction Foundation of BC offers industry ways to give back

Russell Hixson
Construction Foundation of BC offers industry ways to give back
SKILLS CANADA BC — A student competes at a Skills Canada BC event. The events offer an Olympic-style competition for young people interested in the trades. The Construction Foundation of British Columbia is encouraging companies to help support the students as they try to advance through to the national and global levels of competition.

The Construction Foundation of British Columbia has come a long way since its humble beginnings in the offices of the BC Construction Association (BCCA).

Abigail Fulton, executive director of the foundation, helped start it in 2012 while working as vice-president of the BCCA.

“As an organization, we recognized that charitable giving and the idea of CSR (corporate social responsibility) was on the radar for a lot of companies and there was no charitable arm specific to the industry,” Fulton said.

She helped convince the BCCA board to move forward and began running the new foundation with a colleague from her desk.

“When we discovered there was something there, we just started building it with a view to ultimately have an organization that exists on its own,” said Fulton.

In 2013 the foundation received charitable status and the team hit the ground running with its first major initiative – Project Shop Class. The goal was to raise money for schools eager to train students in the trades that lacked proper shop facilities and equipment. The foundation was able to raise $3 million and the province contributed $15 million. The total money that went to improve school shops was double what Fulton had anticipated.

“That opened doors for us in the high schools and we recognized that it was a good place for our foundation to focus on, as our mission is to build the next generation in trades and technology,” Fulton said.

The foundation now funds a program to assist kids in attracting an employer. This includes coaching teens about what career aspects an employer is looking for when selecting a young employee – like playing sports, volunteering and work experience.

The long-term objective is to get kids interested in the trades,

— Abigail Fulton

Construction Foundation of British Columbia

 

“We are a bridge between the industry and the school system,” said Fulton.

As the foundation began to grow she eventually left her job at the BCCA to work at the foundation full-time as its executive director.

“We are our now our own organization, not funded by anybody,” said Fulton. “We only exist as long as we come up with a charitable product so that we can get people to invest.”

The foundation’s latest campaign is a partnership with Skills Canada BC which hosts a series of Olympics-style competitions for skill-based careers such as welding, robotics, heavy equipment service, steamfitting and many more. Students who compete can advance to provincial, national and even global skills competitions.

The WorldSkills competition was held this year in October in Abu Dhabi. Two B.C. students advanced that far. Fulton said the foundation plans to utilize the competitions to generate more excitement in the trades and send a larger delegation to the next WorldSkills in Russia.

The foundation hopes to help the underfunded provincial competitions with supplies, tutoring and transportation. The foundation is also asking companies to consider sponsoring students.

“The long-term objective is to get kids interested in the trades,” Fulton said. “Schools become an opportunity to connect the dots to employment. For industry, it’s an opportunity to support kids who are clearly interested in the trades.”

The foundation is also in the early stages of developing an ultimate frisbee league to support leadership and conflict resolution among indigenous youth. The program will be modelled after a similar program called Ultimate Peace which unites Israeli and Palestinian youth in friendly competition. The foundation is also working to support refugees as well as youth in care.

Fulton said she is curious to see if other similar foundations are established as the industry becomes more focused on CSR.

“I always felt like ultimately it was the right thing to do at the right time and I’m just really grateful that the board of the construction associations were supportive and also picked up that vision and let us run with it,” said Fulton. 

She added many in the industry are reaching the end of their careers and are looking for a way to give back.

“They want to leave the industry on a high note and I think this is a great way to do it,” Fulton said.

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