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VRCA launches committee to strengthen EDI in construction

Warren Frey
VRCA launches committee to strengthen EDI in construction

The Vancouver Regional Construction Association (VRCA) is launching a new committee focused on equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI).

VRCA president Jeannine Martin said members showed enthusiasm for the committee and its goals from the start.  

“The goal for the EDI committee was to get good representation across the divisions of VRCA and without even trying to do that, that’s what came in for volunteers. We have a really great cross section across general and trade contractors, manufacturers and suppliers and professional services,” Martin said.

Through seeing what members have already done in terms of EDI “we’re trying to envision and project where we could go with this. VRCA wants to show some leadership in EDI and provide resources and content to our members. We’re trying to frame with the committee. What can we achieve with this and what are the resources we have to develop that?” she said.

“In the construction industry, 90 per cent of companies have under 20 people, so they don’t have full-time HR staff or people focused on the topic, so if we give them the content, I believe most people’s hearts are in the right place and they’ll want to access that.”


Master electrician at the committee helm

Anna Lary is the committee chair. A master electrician and instructor in the electrical apprenticeship program at the British Columbia Institute of Technology, she said her own experiences will help inform the committee.

“I’m a master electrician and have a lot of time on the tools, so I have the frontline experience. I think my voice will be valuable if we’re thinking about workers who are doing installations and they’re experiences. I’ve done technical training for the past 11 years, so I’m in touch with my students and their experiences,” Lary said.

Lary also pointed out an emphasis on education is important due to a lack of diversity in construction management.

“They may not have the necessary perspective to make their workforces inclusive and the education side will be a big point for them, especially because there’s a labour shortage and diverse employees are becoming more and more important just to fill those positions. They have a need to make their workplaces more attractive to equity-priority employees,” she said.


VRCA already embarking on initiatives

Martin cited the recent LEAP conference focused on women in the construction industry as well as the association’s ongoing reconciliation webinars as current EDI initiatives and added the VRCA is partnering with the Rick Hansen Foundation on an accessibility initiative.

“We’re going to put some visibility on basic training through the Rick Hansen Foundation for our membership and then look if there’s desire and interest in going further with that training,” she said.

Martin added the committee will adapt to changing needs and circumstances but “It will be permanent for as long as it needs to be.”

Empathy, Lary said, is where companies should begin on their EDI journey.

“Think about things like if the jobsite has reasonable bathroom facilities, which everyone actually wants but becomes more of a priority if you have biological necessities. Are equity-deserving persons getting the training and promotion opportunities they deserve?” she said. “Why would you work for an employer who isn’t giving you those opportunities?”

She added companies should focus on interventions that are helpful rather than harmful.

“People hate feeling singled out, so just providing an environment that’s inclusive and respectful will go a long way to retaining equity priority apprentices and employees, and actively seeking those people out makes a big difference,” Lary said.

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