“Our company is different from others in the area because of our amazing team. We are thankful to have over 25 per cent women and over 10 per cent Indigenous employees as our field staff.”
Those very enthusiastic words come from Lesa Lacey, the business manager of Lacey Construction Ltd., a medium-size company located 50 miles southeast of Vancouver in B.C.’s Fraser Valley.
“We are a full-service commercial and residential construction firm that specializes in high-quality custom homes and renovations,” said Lacey.
“The company works mainly in the eastern Fraser Valley, between Maple Ridge and Hope.”
Lacey says her husband, Erik, started the company in 1999.
“I met him in 2001 and we have been working together ever since,” she said.
“My job is primarily community outreach and engaging with the industry in volunteer positions.”
Lacey sits on committees and boards of numerous organizations, including the Canadian Home Builders Association of BC, BC Construction Association, SkilledTradesBC and Skills Canada BC, where she promotes career opportunities for women in construction.
“I spent a lot of time going to women-in-trades events, hoping to meeting future team members,” she said. “During that time we were part of developing the Industry Training Authority BC (now SkilledTradesBC) Best Practices in Hiring Women in Trades.”
Lacey is also the current chair of BC Construction Safety Alliance, and the first woman to hold the position.
“We’re a family company and our employees belong to our extended family, so we take seriously the safety of our one big family,” said Lacey.
Lacey Construction has “an amazing team” of tradeswomen and female project coordinators, many of whom actively promote the idea of more women in construction.
“We are fortunate to have had our construction manager Claire Seymour with our company for over 15 years,” said Lacey. “We went looking for more women to join our team, and hired Rachel Brown, the first Red Seal carpenter on our team who is a woman.
“Rachel and Claire play key roles in supporting and mentoring all of the women on our team, both through a formal mentorship program and also through regular, day to day interactions.”
Samantha Eddy and Kaylene Kavazovic are the respective “backbones” of the company’s new home and renovation divisions.
“And most of our paint crew is made up of women,” said Lacey. “Shaylah Saebels, Shelley Haggard and Paige Trottier are three-quarters of the painting team.”
In addition to being an excavator operator, Sasha Penner is an active promoter of women in trades. She spoke recently on a panel at the HAVAN (Homebuilders Association Vancouver) Career Expo.
“The diversity of our team is key to our success,” said Lacey. “We are very fortunate to have many team members who are either past clients, or family members of clients. We think that speaks volumes about the benefits of a career in trades.”
Speaking of which, the continuing labour shortage is a well-known challenge for construction. To help solve it, says Lacey, the industry needs to work with schools and trades trainers and encourage more young people.
“In our case, we are fortunate to live in the Fraser Valley,” she said. “We have amazing high school trades educators and trades advocates, such as Sheri Bawtinheimer in Chilliwack, Carolyn Chezzi in Mission, Karl Koslowsky in Agassiz and Michael Pearson in Abbotsford.”
Their efforts seem to be paying off.
For example, Pearson, who teaches the heavy equipment operator program at Abbotsford Senior Secondary, had the largest-ever number of women in this year’s student intake.
Mission high school student Carolyn Chezzi’s need of a pair of steel-toe boots to attend a SeaSpan ULC field trip provided the incentive to start the Canadian Home Builders’ Association Fraser Valley Boot Bank.
“Thanks to generous donations from an anonymous giver, there are now 60 pairs of steel-toe boots in our garage that are available for any Fraser Valley high school for field trips,” said Lacey. “The Boot Bank also has a supply of safety vests that were donated by Overlanders Manufacturing LP.”
Working with the Construction Foundation of BC, the Vancouver Regional Construction Association and the Independent Contractors and Businesses Association, Lacey put together a list of local companies that are ready to support high school students with field trip scholarships and other forms of assistance.
“Our industry has a responsibility to help solve the problem of a shortage of workers in the trades,” said Lacey.
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