By Karen Frisa
Ontario Construction News staff writer
Following a successful pilot project that ran between January and March of 2019, the Canadian Construction Association (CCA) plans to create a mentorship program to match up entrepreneurs with seasoned business owners in the construction industry.
Called CONtact, the program will be receiving applications from prospective mentees over the summer, beginning around the middle of June. CCA will have a deadline for submissions at the end of August or in early September. The number of candidates chosen will depend on how many qualifying applications CCA receives, says CCA president Mary Van Buren.
Applications will be screened by an advisory council of about 10 people from the construction industry, against a set of criteria. “They will assess, is this something that’s unique, could it solve important or prior issue, does it look viable or doable,” Van Buren says.
Then, successful applicants will be matched up with industry mentors. “We will ask for mentors to apply, too,” Van Buren says. “And we will use our partnerships with local associations to reach out based on the product or service mentees have to offer.” Mentors are asked to give a three-hour span of time to hear a presentation about the product or service or technology the new business has on offer, and to give constructive feedback on aspects like price point, the usability of the product, or the ability to scale it.
“It’s not meant to be a pitch,” Van Buren says, but an honest critique of the entrepreneur’s business. After the meeting, of course, either party is free to reach out about a possible partnership.
This program has the potential to benefit both sides of the mentorship equation: mentees gain valuable insights into what makes a successful business and what the industry’s needs are right now, while mentors get to see up and coming ideas and technologies that could help their existing businesses.
Van Buren says that studies show Canada’s construction industry tends to lag behind those of other nations in efficiency and effective use of technology. “This is a good way to spark and share some of the exciting innovations happening in Canada,” she says.
CCA reports that innovation and attracting a younger workforce are both top priorities on the organization’s 5-year strategic plan. In fact, CCA noted in its key takeaways from the Canadian Construction Innovation Conference, that the availability of data from sensors in mobile phones and high-resolution visual data available from drones and video cameras, has the potential to revolutionize how work is done in construction when combined with artificial intelligence.
Meanwhile, BuildForce Canada reports in its 2019 National Summary that the construction industry will need to recruit, train, and retain an estimated 300,000 new workers over the next decade, mostly to replace expected retirement of current workers.
The CONtact mentorship program could help with bolstering careers of newcomers, and of adoption of exciting new technology.
John Reid of Faber Technologies was a participant in the pilot program. In a presentation to construction industry leaders as part of the pilot program, Faber was quoted as saying that valuable feedback that allowed him validate and refine his company’s offering was a “golden opportunity.” Faber Technologies is based in Vancouver, BC. It is a platform that helps construction workers connect with potential employers in their areas.
CCA’s program is running with support from the National Research Council of Canada Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC-IRAP) and in partnership with Canadian Construction Innovations (CCI).