The story of how Jessica Sidhu came to be a Kinetic Construction Ltd project manager is one written by someone who, at a young age, knew where she wanted to go and figured it out.
Born and raised in Campbell River, B.C., a city of 35,000 on the east coast of Vancouver Island, Sidhu became interested in civil engineering when she was young and remembers building wooden models of various structures in middle school.
“But my interests shifted from civil engineering when I discovered construction project management,” said Sidhu. “Project managers oversee all aspects of the building process. They’re responsible for making sure the project is completed on time and on budget.”
Sidhu got her foot on the construction industry’s first rung when she was just 17 years old, taking an ACE IT, now called Youth Train in Trades (YTT), program in secondary school.
YTT is a dual credit program which enables high school students in Grades 11 and 12 to get to work on the Level 1 of technical trades training while still earning credit toward their high school graduation.
Funded by British Columbia’s Industry Training Authority, YTT programs are offered collaboratively by a high school and a post-secondary institution.
“I was the only female in a class of 20,” said Sidhu. “That certainly wasn’t a problem, because everyone knew each other.”
After graduating from high school, Sidhu enrolled in the carpentry program at North Island College in Courtenay, B.C., where she started her apprenticeship.
Sidhu then left Vancouver Island and moved to the mainland, signing up for
the Architectural and Building Technology Program, a two-year diploma program, at the Burnaby campus of the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT).
During the summer, Sidhu worked as a labourer with Vancouver Island construction companies.
“I was a carpenter’s helper on residential construction sites in Campbell River,” she said. “I’m a small person, so I had to work smarter. I didn’t slack off and made sure I kept up with the rest of the crew.”
She completed her practicum with Kinetic Construction during her final year at BCIT.
Katy Fairley, now principal consultant at Fairley Strategies and formerly vice-president of business development at Kinetic, says Sidhu’s potential was immediately recognizable.
“Jessica was given the task completing some trade contracts,” said Fairley. “She went away and a short time later she not only came back with the completed contracts, she announced she had found an error in the contract template, corrected it and then filled in all the contracts. Now that’s initiative.”
Perhaps not surprisingly, Kinetic subsequently offered Sidhu a permanent position as a project co-ordinator.
Sidhu has been with Kinetic for six years. Her tastes in projects are broad and varied. They include affordable housing, commercial tenant improvements, and renovations that have heritage components.
Her favourites are school projects.
“They’re challenging, and I like a challenge,” said Sidhu. “School projects come with clear, hard deadlines that absolutely must be met, because classes always resume in September.”
It pleases Sidhu to know she’s having a positive impact on education.
“I consider schools a specialty of mine, and I hope to do more in the future,” she said.
Sidhu has been a project manager for two years and looks forward to many more years in the industry.
“In the future I’d like to work on increasingly complex projects,” she said. “In the longer term I’m hoping to have a bigger role in the company, perhaps as head of a department or a branch.”
Although Sidhu is on a roll now, her parents weren’t initially pleased to see their daughter opt for a career in construction.
“They wanted me to be a doctor,” she said. “But I knew construction was right for me and went ahead anyway. Time passed and eventually they came around and now they’re happy their daughter is a working professional in construction.”
Sidhu says she enjoys going to a work site and being visible as a woman there.
“I feel like I’m setting an example for other young women who might be thinking of a career in construction,” she said. “Maybe if they see me it will spur them to think a little more seriously.”