I was born/grew up in: St. Bernard’s, NL
I now live in: Iqaluit, Nunavut
I completed my training/education at: I worked in the construction industry and gained skills and knowledge by working with others. When I felt I had the necessary background I wrote my Red Seal examination in carpentry at the College of the North Atlantic.
Describe what you do at work.
During a regular day I manage the accounts payable (what we owe to others) and receivable (what is owed to us). I also deal with the human resources (HR) issues. I interview and hire new workers. I help workers with issues they may have. And, when necessary, I let people go.
Working in the far north means you have to do a lot of planning. You put a budget together for jobs that are six months to a year in advance. We have a short season for shipping in materials and for building so it is important you have everything on site when you need it. For example, I’m now working on a $40 million dollar project that will take two years to complete. I have to do a lot of forecasting on what prices will be for materials 24 months down the line. You can’t be too conservative or you will waste money. You have to use your knowledge of the economy and the trends taking place so your budget works.
The most important piece of technology that I use is Microsoft Excel. I use it for budgeting and to analyze the jobs we are working on to see if we are on track in terms of time and money. The numbers don’t lie so if a project is off track it will show up and I’ll take steps to get it back on track.
I keep in constant communication with everyone in the company. I have daily conversations with the superintendents and foremen in the field. This is to make sure that everyone is doing what they need to be doing. It’s also to make sure they are looking forward and planning ahead. When I’m out it the field on a job site, I make sure to talk to the people working there. Regardless of who they are (e.g., journey person, labourer, foreman, etc.) everyone has an important role to play. I want them to know I appreciate the work they do.
When I was a student I enjoyed:
How does your job affect people’s lives?
I feel really blessed with the time I’ve spent here in the north. I was welcomed by everyone and given opportunity to make a good living for myself and to help others. There are lots of struggles for the people living here and having good, affordable housing is a major issue. Every time we hand over keys to a new house or complete the renovation of a house that was not fit to live in, I feel good. It feels good to give back to the people here and to make a difference one family at a time.
What motivates you in your career?
I’m motivated by having a feeling of success in my work. The north is a challenging place to work. You can’t get too comfortable as there are always risks and challenges. In the construction industry there is so much to do that I can’t wait to get up each morning and to in and get at it!
When I was a student, I would have described myself as someone who:
Describe your career path to this career.
When I graduated from high school I attended university. I planned to be a social worker. I really didn’t know what else was available. When we had career information sessions in school we never saw anything about the trades. But my father worked in the construction industry. During the summer months I went up north and worked with my father on construction. I did the manual, labour work. I picked up garbage on the site, carried materials to the workers, etc. I did this for three years and it got to a point where I was enjoying the work I was doing in construction more than the academic work I was doing in university. So I quit university and went north to work construction full time.
I worked alongside of experienced carpenters and learned from them. I guess what I was doing was a type of apprenticeship. When I made mistakes, someone showed me what I did wrong. And then I fixed that mistake. I learned a lot by making mistakes. I think it’s ok to make mistakes as long as you learn from them. When I had enough qualifying hours I registered with the College of the North Atlantic to write my Red Seal exam. Passing this was a real confidence booster and I think that led to me taking on management roles.
After I had my Red Seal for carpentry I continued to work in the north. One of the benefits of working here is that you have to learn how to do things outside your speciality trade area to help reduce costs. In southern construction sites you have people who only do one specific job. But in the north, you can’t afford that. So I would put up the two by fours for walls and then do the drywall and plaster. You learn a lot when you have to. I started off as a labourer on job sites. I worked hard and developed a lot of trade’s skills. I’m now the Vice President of a construction company. I use the knowledge I gained on different job sites to make sure our company is successful. Some of my teachers were not happy when I dropped out of university. It was like they felt I was giving up. But today I think this was the best decision I ever made. I have a great job that pays well and challenges me to be the best I can be every day. I would not change a thing.
What activities do you like to do outside of work?
I’m involved in a lot of volunteer activities and organizations. I work with Skills Canada – Nunavut to promote careers in the skilled trades and technology. I sit on several advisory committees (e.g., to set codes and practices for Nunavut construction, to set safety procedures, and to develop safe and affordable housing for the people of Nunavut). I’m also a member of the board of directors and fundraising chair for the Iqaluit Habitat for Humanity.
What advice or encouragement would you give others seeking a similar career?
My advice is to start at the grassroots level and work up from there. This way you will have a good understanding of all parts of your field. Get all the experience you can in every job that you do. Aim high – don’t be afraid to take risks. Don’t forget where you came from; when you rise in the industry, remember to give back to the community and new workers.