construction in Canada

What job titles are used in construction in Canada?

Transitioning to work in construction in Canada as a newcomer can be difficult. When you lack local experience it’s crucial that you can get up to speed on the local market as quickly as possible. At Outpost Recruitment, we understand what employers are looking for when assessing international candidates. 

In our blog series, we’ve dealt with topics such as adapting your resume, networking, and organizing your job search, but now we focus on how to map your international experience to a role within construction in Canada.

Don’t expect an employer to identify the best position for you. Do your research, target specific roles and try to understand your strengths and weaknesses with regard to the local candidates you are competing against.

The first step is to understand what the job titles used in construction in Canada actually mean. We don’t go into detail on the generic duties and responsibilities of each role but focus on relevant points to note when comparing construction in Canada to international markets.

Pre Construction job titles:

  • Pre Construction Manager – Client facing role involving business development with a focus on coordination of pursuits and the tender process. Works on preparing early paperwork requirements prior to breaking ground before handing over to a Project Manager.
  • Chief Estimator – Leads estimating team.
  • Estimator – In Canada, general contractors will typically prepare their own Bill of Quantities for a tender. Some firms will allow an Estimator to help deliver a project once they have been successful but it’s more typical for an estimator to be focused solely on pre construction duties.
  • Design Coordinator – common role for design build projects from $50M upwards. There may be specific design roles for Civil/Structural, Mechanical, Electrical or combined roles depending on the complexity of the project.

Project Management job titles:

  • Project Manager (PM) – Typical role will include pre construction and project delivery functions such as planning, scheduling, budgeting, cost control, contract administration. The key difference in construction in Canada is that the Project Manager will assume commercial responsibility for the project. The PM will deal directly with the client and subcontractors.
  • Senior Project Manager <> Construction Manager (CM) <> Project Director – Interchangeable construction job titles that describe an experienced PM who will oversee multiple projects and manage lower-level PMs.
  • Commercial Manager – Emerging commercially focused role but not very common in construction in Canada except for large projects (CAD$40M+) as commercial duties are typically under remit of the PM.
  • Project Coordinator (PC) <> Junior PM <> Assistant PM – Project management role which focuses on any of the main PM duties. This role is typically a training area for aspiring Project Manager’s or a sand box for international Project Managers while they adapt to the Canadian market. Some PCs may have a specific on-site focus, a commercial focus, or focus on project planning/scheduling. The Project Coordinator role will vary in terms of time spent in the office versus time spend on site.
  • Scheduler / Planner Emerging role for larger construction projects. Contractors are seeking experienced project planners now beyond candidates who are strong with scheduling software such as Primavera P6.

construction in Canada

Site Management job titles:

  • Site/Project Superintendent – Often coming from a trades background for buildings projects, this role will typically be held by an engineer for more complex technical projects. This role manages and supervises site operations for the project.
  • Civil / Mechanical / Electrical Superintendent – Typically coming from a trades background, this role manages and supervises site operations for a specific discipline on larger projects.
  • Foreman <> Assistant Site Superintendent <> Lead Hand – More common on larger projects where the Superintendent requires support for site operations.
  • Health & Safety Advisor <> Certified Safety Officer (CSO) – will either be a career Health & Safety professional but may sometimes be an experienced tradesperson who is no longer keen to work on the tools.
  • Field Engineer <> Site Engineer – Role focused on technical engineering aspects of site operations and more common on large infrastructure projects but may appear on a large buildings project ($40M+).
  • M&E Project Manager / Coordinator – In recent experience, this role is more common for larger buildings projects (CAD$40M+). Depending on the size of the project their may be specialized Mechanical or Electrical PMs or PCs.
  • Quality Manager – common for large infrastructure or building projects which will encompass quality audits and processes for construction.

Job titles that are not typically seen in construction in Canada:

  • Quantity Surveyor – All cost control and commercial management duties for the project are part of the PM’s remit. A QS moving to work in construction in Canada must either find a rare Commercial Manager role, reinvent themselves as a project management professional (PC or PM) or else they may opt to pursue a career in pre construction as an Estimator.
  • Contract Administrator – These duties will most likely be picked up by a PC who may have a focus on costs and contracts. This role can often be found on large projects ($40M+) but is not very common.
  • Site Agent – This common role in the UK is a combination of a PM and Superintendent. A Site Agent will need to decide on a site-focused (Superintendent) or project management (PM) role.
  • Project Engineer – This role is more commonly seen with engineer consultancy firms. In construction in Canada, you may see a Project Engineer role on larger infrastructure or industrial projects.

Professional Engineer Status

Engineers from abroad can’t use ‘Engineer’ in their job title in Canada until they are registered with the provincial engineering body and obtain their Professional Engineer (P Eng) status. This usually takes a couple of years at least.

International candidates that hold their Chartership can gain P Eng status via the Washington Accord once they gain 12 months of Canadian work experience and sit an ethics exam.

‘Engineer-in-training’ is a term is used by engineering graduates who are working towards their P Eng status. Chartered engineers can transfer their status to Canada once they register with the provincial P Eng body.

Refer to Engineers Canada and specific provincial engineering organizations if you need more information

Gold Seal Certification

The Canadian Construction Association (CCA) Gold Seal Certification Program is a comprehensive certification program that is internationally recognized. Candidates need to fulfill two years of local Canadian experience. The qualification is interchangeable with the CIOB Chartership from the UK.

CONTINUE READING: Explore the Outpost Recruitment blog series for more straightforward career advice.

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