Well, what an interesting last 12 months.
Provincially, we have a new premier and new government. Changing our priorities to be less company and more government is proving hard for an NDP government in Alberta. In Canada, where I thought we had moved on, déjà vu hits us right between the eyes with back to the future Prime Minister, little Trudeau. I can't wait to see how he uses his fingers in western Canada.
Internationally, we have a race to the White House between a Wall Street supporter and a billionaire talk show host. It will be an interesting November.
With oil prices taking a big hit and the dollar out of par, the dynamic of Alberta is something that we have not seen for many years. Granted, there have been ups and downs, but last year and throughout this year, it will challenge every one of us. In times like these it is important to reflect on what went well in poor economic years and also reflect on the failures during the good times. I am sure that the good times will return and you need to be ready for the onslaught. Look at your core staff. Analyze your output and optimization during the last economic upswing. Research better systems and train your staff in using them. Prepare your staff for inevitable changes in health and safety regulations and make sure that you cost out these changes in you estimating structures. Now is the time to prepare, not when you are run off your feet with work and do not have the qualified staff to deal with it.
Finally, the devastation of Fort McMurray and area will bring an economic construction boom for Edmonton and towns in northern Alberta. As the area recovers a tremendous amount of work needs to be completed so that this important Alberta community can return to its glory.
On the AWCA front, a new website is finally up and running. There were opportunities over the last couple of years to launch a sub standard web-site. But with the help of industry partners, sponsorship, a strong board and ‘M’ manipulating and molding the team, we now have something that can provide a key use to your daily work routine. The next step is to launch the commerce side of the web-site to reduce time delays in event registration and payment as well as bond finance and marketing.
In December, ‘M’ and I met for two days to review the strategic plan of the association and work on the nuts and bolts of the web-site. The strategic plan a tool the board uses to track where we were and where we are going. The plan provides a timeline for critical milestones as well as reoccurring programs. One important way that we use the strategic plan is when a program idea comes to the board for consideration. The first look at the opportunity includes making sure that the 6 core values of the association are in line with the opportunity. The second part of the litmus test is to look at the associations’ 10 goals and see if they fit the opportunity. If all these items fit, then we can move forward with analyzing the value of the program, implementing the program, inserting the program into the strategic plan and finally delivering the program to the membership.
My year has been spent largely on the road or in the air. To say it has been difficult to fulfill my duties would be an understatement. However, I can tell you that these travels have been an opportunity for me to spread the word about the AWCA. The Texas wall and ceiling association has just completed their 2nd class of 1st year apprentices. They have also provided certification opportunities for journeyman to challenge the test. Over 1,300 journeymen have now been certified. In other states like New York, the apprenticeship boards are looking at moving away from calling their journeymen 'carpenters'. I hope to see them adopt the ISM acronym soon.
As we move forward, the alliances with the three other western provinces will become crucial to the success of our industry. Apprenticeship training and safety training will become a necessity and not considered fringe needs.
Speaking of apprenticeship, our numbers continue to grow year after year, with the government and NAIT taking notice that we as an industry have no desire to be relegated to the status of 'occupation'. Red Seal holders can now put there certification acronym behind their name, providing new value to those that choose to be educated.
The trade coalition is moving towards getting government on side with legislation that deals with prompt payment. The general contractors would appear to be the only group lobbying the government against this critical legislation.
The TES (Technical, Environment & Safety) Committee has been very busy this year under the leadership of Steve Boser. (Thank you to all who serve on the TES!). This committee continues to be the backbone of the association. With site reviews on the rise and peer review numbers going up even faster, this valued tool will become a cornerstone of your business in the future. A perfect example would be the presentation of Keith Robinson and Dialog's insertion of "contractor must conduct peer reviews during milestones of the construction process".
Finally, we have severed ties with our accounting and book keeping partner. This was a very difficult decision and one that weighed heavily on all of us. I apologize on behalf of the board in regards to the tardy practice last year of getting out invoices and statements. I am confident that with our new system and our new accounting firm, we can put that matter behind us and move forward.
I want to thank “M” for being a pillar in this association, for keeping me on task, for finishing what our committee’s start, for organizing events, for keeping a great attitude when challenged by individuals and of course for being a friend. Because of my schedule, I quite often am in a position where I can only check in at 7, 8 or 9 at night or sometimes on the weekend. She has always answered or gotten back to me.
To all, please have a safe and enjoyable summer and I look forward to reporting more exciting news in the fall!!
Most participating companies in the RAP draft program are now enjoying the fruits of this program. Some companies have now created loyal tradesman from this important high school program. Others have not yet fully understood the long term value of the program. Students will come and go, but you should develop a plan for yourself on how you can turn these high school summer students into long term employees and a better more knowledgeable generation of worker. The word is out at the high school level now. Students, teachers, councilors and administrators have all been taught about the ISM Trade. With each group of students going through the AWCA's system of trade shows, showcases, seminars, interviews and employment, the understanding of our trade and the excitement of ISM as a career path improves.
Apprenticeship numbers are now at a point where classes are filling up earlier instead of the last minute panic mode that we have become accustom to. Now come the serious questions that need to be discussed for the health of our trade. How do we keep the momentum going? Why should you consider apprentices now when the economy is in a down turn? Why should you invest money in these people now when the market is so tight. Well, I am not sure I have the answers to these questions, but let me talk to some important concerns in a different way.
I was talking with a contractor a few weeks ago who told me that his two main workers were 65 and 67. That's not their employee number. That's their age! They had repeatedly refused to work with young people because they said that these young guys didn't know anything. His youngest staff member was 48. He was thinking that he would have to shut his business down in about three years because his two main guys were talking about retiring. The worst part of the conversation was that the contractor was not hearing what he himself was saying. He was not ready to retire but his staff were putting him in a position where going on would be impossible. His staff was in essence devaluing his business with each passing day as they closed on retirement without a plan for training new people.
A company’s value is based on three principals; work on hand, good will and the potential for growth. In this employer’s model, growth is not an option. Work on hand would be diminished because of staffing restrictions. Good Will would also be diminished or eliminated by the same age of employee issue. Ask yourself, would you buy a company that was in this kind of downward cycle?
I was the victim of exactly the same circumstance; staff that were not willing to train apprentices. I had become dependent on those old buggers. I found my business lacking a business plan to have an element for training. I always thought of myself as a trainer, but when I looked at the guys that I had trained, I realized that what I had done was to train them on how not to share their knowledge. My bad. The company was strong in a diminishing asset and before I knew it, I was in trouble. So, how can you learn from this lesson? Each company has their own business plan. Each company runs their business in a unique way. It is important to have a solid group of employees around you that are of like mind. This does not mean that they are not going to challenge you. On the contrary, it is imperative that they do challenge you. Employees today need to know that they are valued. They need to have a place in your plan that encourages them to mentor new young people in developing skills and attitudes that mirror what your business plan represents.
The merry go round that we have today of transient workers providing half assed efforts is not the answer. We will always need to them, but we as an industry depend to much on these individuals and to build a business model around them is crazy. Earlier this week, I ran into a guy that had previously worked for me some 10 years ago. He did not last long, but he had an impact. Not a positive impact though. I asked him how long he had been with his current employer and this is what he said. "After I left you, (he was released) I went to @@@ and ###", and he went on and on. In total I counted 14 employers and 5 of them were repeat appearances. WOW. I couldn't help but to think about all the money that was spent on orientations, safety training and a care free attitude, because he knew that he was a lifetime member of the merry go round.
We are all guilty of falling into this trap. Employees, not worthy of a job are being treated like precious commodities. Why?
There are companies in Alberta that put an effort into training and education of their staff. If you look at the companies that continue to succeed through the downturns and the booms, I think you will see the correlation between long term success and training. This does not have to ownerless on the company. A little planning will go a long way. You are not alone. Your apprentice is not alone. The AWCA can help to direct you and your apprentice to valuable funds through grants, scholarships and loans. Here is a quick rundown of some of the products that are available to your apprentices. Please look up the links below and make this happen for your own well being.