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Outpost Recruitment welcomes the award of the $2.8bn Broadway Subway project

The winning consortium for Vancouver’s much-needed Broadway Subway project learned their fate this week.

The Broadway Subway Project is a 5.7 km extension of the Millennium Line, from VCC-Clark Station (Commercial Drive) to the Broadway & Arbutus intersection in Kitsilano. It will provide fast, frequent, and convenient SkyTrain service to B.C.’s second largest jobs centre, world-class health centres, emerging innovation and research hub, and growing residential communities. Once in service, the trip from VCC-Clark Station to Arbutus Station will take 11 minutes, saving the average transit commuter almost 30 minutes a day and relieving congestion along the busy Broadway corridor served by the B-Line bus. As part of the Broadway Subway Project, six new underground stations will be built to connect communities and neighbourhoods. Construction will begin in fall 2020, with the line in service in 2025.

The project budget is $2.83 billion, funded and delivered by the Government of B.C., with contributions from the Government of Canada and the City of Vancouver. The Broadway Subway project is a key part of the rapid transit program in Metro Vancouver’s Mayors’ Council 10-Year Vision. The Vision is funded by the governments of B.C. and Canada, TransLink, and local municipalities. As P3 project delivery has fallen from favour under the NDP government in BC, this project will be delivered as a design-build lump sum.

It’s been a long wait for a major transportation project in Vancouver and now with the $1.4bn Pattullo Bridge project in construction phase, Vancouver will have two mega projects coinciding.

Vancouver-based Outpost Recruitment are uniquely placed to assist in hiring for this project. Alongside their sister website, Moving2Canada, Outpost have been tracking local and international talent since 2011. “With the Vancouver market already stretched by a steady real estate market and a booming municipal infrastructure market, our clients enjoy our extended reach in national and global infrastructure talent,” commented founder Ruairi Spillane noting that B.C. continues to face a major labour shortage. “Despite the impacts of Covid-19, we expect to be very busy over the next 5 years as infrastructure is truly a global market and we help clients expand their reach and innovate through people using the latest technology and construction methods.”

“Overall, we’re seeing huge demand from both consulting and contracting clients for candidates with delivery experience in major projects and specific exposure to healthcare and rail projects,” said Spillane. “The outlook is excellent for candidates considering Vancouver as a destination with Western Canada bouncing back quickly from the impacts of the pandemic and subsequent economic shock. We’re hopeful that limitations on international travel will be eased as BC continues to flatten the curve.

Outpost are urgently seeking candidates for the following roles across contracting and consulting. Recruitment for further key organization chart roles will commence quickly once positive news is received by our client.

Contractor roles:

  • Superintendent – Civil / Structural
  • Project Manager / Coordinators – Civil / Structural
  • Site / Field Engineer – Civil / Structural
  • Design Managers / Coordinators
  • Quality Coordinators, QA/QC Manager
  • Project Controls / Contracts Managers / Procurement
  • Rail expertise (signaling, SER, etc)
  • Commercial Managers / Contracts Manager / Quantity Surveyors
  • BIM Manager
  • Planner / Scheduler
  • Equipment Coordinator
  • Field Document Controller
  • Field Scheduler
  • Mechanical & Electrical Managers / Coordinators
  • Environmental Manager
  • Traffic Manager

Consulting roles:

  • Project Manager, Owner’s Representative
  • Civil / Structural Designers / Project Managers
  • Environmental consultants
  • Geotechnical design consultants
  • Cost consultants

Expertise in tunneling and rail design/construction is highly sought after to ensure the success of this project.

If you want to be part of this exciting venture, please ensure you create a profile via our website so that we can review your CV/resume and profile. Sponsorship opportunities will only available to senior personnel (10+ years of similar infrastructure experience), so all other candidates must be eligible to work in Canada.

 

Future Hiring Opportunities

Employer sponsorship opportunities are not a certainty, so if you want to be part of the construction industry in Canada, we recommend working towards obtaining the right to work in Canada independently. Visit our sister website, Moving2Canada, for free immigration resources and this helpful guide.

Contact Ruairi Spillane at r[email protected] for more details.

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Spring 2020 Pipeline Update: Ontario remains committed to $60bn infrastructure pipeline

Jun 18 2020 – $60-billion in new infrastructure projects will continue to move forward despite a global economic correction. That’s the update announced by Ontario’s Minister of Infrastructure Laurie Scott today (Jun 18 2020), with the P3 project pipeline expected to create many jobs and drive economic growth in Canada’s largest province with significant project development in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). Scott predicts the projects will “generate thousands of jobs in the skilled trades, engineering, and design sectors.”

The plan outlines 32 P3 projects (public-private partnerships) already in active procurement or pre-procurement, plus 11 more projects in the planning stages. The pipeline of projects is anticipated to have a substantial impact on the construction sector, according to Scott, as key players in the industry will “partner with Ontario and successfully deliver the high-quality infrastructure that our province relies on and depends on.”

While the P3 project delivery format is immensely popular in Ontario, it is worth noting that other Canadian provinces are less enthusiastic about the public-private partnership model. BC’s NDP government, for example, has been moving away from the P3 model in recent years. Ontario remains firmly committed to infrastructure investment in Ontario and P3 project delivery which will stimulate the provincial economy post-Covid. This unprecedented investment will build critical infrastructure, create employment and deliver value for money using the P3 delivery model.

Thirteen of these projects are currently in procurement and another 24 projects are in the pre-transaction phase. In addition, 13 additional projects are currently included in the planning phase. The key updates are that some of the key transit projects have been fleshed out. Two new highway projects  (Highway 3 and Highway 17) will move forward. Many of the major hospital projects remain in planning mode.

The IO Market Update includes 16 new hospitals that will expand health care services across Ontario, plus a hefty lineup of transit projects in the GTA, including:

  • GO RER OnCorr electrification – Transit- $10bn
    • RFP issued in May 2019
  • Ontario Line subway – Transit – $10bn
    • Ontario Line – Southern Civil, Stations and Tunnel RFP issued in June 2020 ($~4bn)
    • Ontario Line – Rolling Stock, Systems, Operations and Maintenance RFP issued in Jun 2020e ($~2bn)
  • GO Transit expansion projects – Transit – $2bn
    • GO Expansion: Lakeshore East – Central Corridor RFP issued in April 2018
      GO Expansion: Milton Corridor Upgrades RFP issued in April 2018
    • GO Expansion: Lakeshore West Corridor RFP issued in April 2018
  • Scarborough Subway Extension – Transit – $5bn 
    • Advance Tunnel for Scarborough Subway Extension RFQ issued in Mar 2020 (>$1bn)
  • Yonge North Subway Extension – Transit- $5bn
  • Eglinton Crosstown West LRT – Transit – $4bn
    • Advance Tunnel for Eglinton Crosstown West Extension RFQ issued in Mar 2020 (~$1bn)
  • Highway 3 (King’s Highway) – $200m
  • Highway 17 (King’s Highway 17) – $200-500m)
  • The Hospital for Sick Children – Institutional – $2bn
  • Windsor Regional Hospital – Institutional – $1bn
  • The Ottawa Hospital – Institutional – $2bn
  • Kingston General Hospital – Institutional  – $750m
  • Mississauga Hospital – Institutional – $2bn

Scott said that the project pipeline is the single largest commitment to P3 projects in the history of Ontario.

Cancellations:

  • Hamilton LRT – Ministry of Transportation reviewed and they will still commit to a $1bn investment in public transit in the area
  • Halton Courthouse – postponed due to Covid

Outpost Recruitment feels the impacts

Already the team at Outpost is feeling the impacts of Ontario’s ambitious infrastructure objectives, with founder Ruairi Spillane noting increased demand in the region.

“We’re seeing huge demand from both consulting and contracting clients for candidates with P3 delivery experience and exposure to healthcare and rail projects,” said Spillane. “The outlook is excellent for candidates considering the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) as a destination. It’s the perfect storm for international candidates given both Toronto and Vancouver are expected to perform well despite the global economy entering a slowdown post-Covid. Infrastructure is truly a global industry. ”

Outpost works with general contractors, subcontractors, developers, and consultants who are hiring professionals across senior management, project management, operations, design, quality, and commercial roles.

  • Buildings & Infrastructure Contracting – Operations, Project Management, Design, Site & Commercial Management professionals for general contractors and subcontractors (civil, ground engineering, M&E)
  • Engineering Consulting – Civil / Structural / Mechanical & Electrical design and project management.
  • Cost & Project Management Consulting – Cost Management, Project Monitoring, Infrastructure advisory, Client-side project management.

Get in touch with Ruairi Spillane at [email protected] or 778-861-1244 if you would like to explore employment opportunities across Canada.

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The future of P3 project delivery in Canada

In November 2019, the annual CCPPP conference (Canadian Council for Public-Private Partnerships) took place in downtown Toronto. The conference attracts senior leadership from major industry players across Canada, from global contractors to engineering firms, and leading banks to boutique consultants. The public sector was strongly represented and attendees had the opportunity to listen to the Premier of Ontario, Doug Ford, who was joined by Ministers for Infrastructure from the provinces of Ontario, Saskatchewan, Nova Scotia, and Alberta.

Here’s what we learned about the future of Public-Private Partnership (P3) project delivery in Canada:

Canada will maintain its commitment to P3 delivery after years of successes

Canada has enjoyed great success with Public-Private Partnership (P3) delivery over the past decade and this run is expected to continue with strong support nationally. Ontario has committed to $65bn of P3 projects across healthcare and transit in the coming years, while Alberta’s new government has voiced early commitment to furthering public-private partnerships. Saskatchewan and New Brunswick have also reaffirmed their commitment to P3 delivery with Saskatchewan recently completing the Regina Bypass ($1.4bn), the largest P3 project in their history, and New Brunswick opting for long-term private sector engagement as the province plans a wide range of schools and healthcare projects. 

Train on rails next to city buildings
Ontario is investing in transit infrastructure development through the expansion of the GO transit system ($16bn).

Canada has a huge pipeline of P3 infrastructure projects

Ontario’s recently announced $65-billion in new infrastructure projects demonstrates the province’s desire to firmly establish a pipeline of exciting future projects. Minister of Infrastructure for Ontario, Laurie Scott, referred to this as “single largest commitment to P3 projects in the history of Ontario.” The CEO’s of Infrastructure Ontario and Metrolinx, Ehren Corey and Phil Verster, respectively, presented a session on Ontario’s $28bn transit plan. 

The enthusiasm expressed by both government and corporate entities signals a growing national interest in the P3 model, an interest we expect to continue growing in years to come.

Appetite from other provinces is strong as witnessed by the presence of senior government officials from Alberta, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Saskatchewan. Notably, British Columbia’s NDP government appears less enthusiastic about the P3 delivery model, though this lack of enthusiasm is offset by interest expressed by the other provinces. 

Changes are coming in risk allocation and mitigation

Canadian contractors feel they are carrying too much risk. SNC has pulled out of major project pursuits and Graham has taken a step back in 2019. Under current design build lump sum contracts, risks including permitting, geotechnical, and more that cannot be understood prior to starting the project, are being transferred to the contractor. 

In Ontario, feedback from potential bidders in the GO Expansion project ($16bn), previously known as Regional Express Rail (RER), to Infrastructure Ontario and Metrolinx has led to consideration of “revised delivery strategy” to address bidders’ issues. Options include breaking the project into smaller parts for procurement purposes or reducing the 35-year life span of the contract.

What’s the solution? It’s likely that Canada will see the benefits of an alliance delivery model like those used in the UK and Australia. Union Station in Toronto represents a test case as Canada’s first alliance delivery model. It is also possible that Canadian P3 projects may consider the Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) option for infrastructure where clients, general contractors, and sub trades all win / lose together by sharing risk. This model would incentivize early client and consultant involvement and align all stakeholders

Large colourful buildings of a hospital
The Glen Campus of the MUHC Hospital in Montreal is just one recent example of the many healthcare infrastructure projects expected across Canada in the coming years.

What skills does Canada need right now?

Canada’s population is expected to grow from 36 million to 50 million by 2050. The vast majority of this population growth will be a result of an aggressive immigration plan. Without immigration, Canada’s rate of population increase is expected to fall below zero in the next 15 years. Most newcomers to Canada will live in major cities, with ambitious infrastructure development expected in order to compensate for population expansion. The P3 model will continue to prosper as provincial governments seek to maximize their return on infrastructure investment by seeking private participation in the construction of public assets such as:

  • Healthcare (hospitals, mental health facilities, etc)
  • Transportation (highways, bridges, rail, port expansion, airport expansion)

Outpost are seeking the following skillsets for clients actively engaged in the P3 infrastructure market

Contractors:

  • Project Management: Project Directors, Project Manager, Project Coordinators
  • Site management: Superintendents, Field Engineers
  • Design Management: Design Manager, Design Coordinators
  • Commercial Management: Commercial Managers, Contract Managers, Quantity Surveyors, Risk Managers

Project Management / Cost Consultants:

  • Cost Consultants, Cost Monitoring, Estimating Managers, Project Consultants

Design Consultants:

  • Design Engineers and Project Managers across Civil, Structural, Mechanical, Electrical and Geotechnical disciplines
  • Asset Management Consultant

If you have any of these skillsets and you’re interested in being a part of Canada’s P3 infrastructure boom, please ensure you create a profile via our website so that we can review your CV/resume and profile. 

 

Future Hiring Opportunities

Employer sponsorship opportunities are not a certainty, so if you want to be part of the P3 infrastructure sector in Canada, we recommend working towards obtaining the right to work in Canada independently. Visit our sister website, Moving2Canada, for free immigration resources and this helpful guide.

Contact Ruairi Spillane at [email protected] for more details.

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Find your role in Ontario’s new $65-billion infrastructure project pipeline

$65-billion in new infrastructure projects. That’s the ambitious plan announced by Ontario’s Minister of Infrastructure Laurie Scott last week, with the P3 project pipeline expected to create many jobs and drive economic growth in Canada’s largest province with significant project development in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). Scott predicts the projects will “generate thousands of jobs in the skilled trades, engineering, and design sectors.”

Known as the 2019 Infrastructure Ontario (IO) Market Update, the plan outlines 32 P3 projects (public-private partnerships) already in active procurement or pre-procurement, plus 11 more projects in the planning stages. The pipeline of projects is anticipated to have a substantial impact on the construction sector, according to Scott, as key players in the industry will “partner with Ontario and successfully deliver the high-quality infrastructure that our province relies on and depends on.”

The IO Market Update includes 16 new hospitals that will expand health care services across Ontario, plus a hefty lineup of transit projects in the GTA, including:

  • Hamilton LRT – Transit – $1bn
  • GO RER OnCorr electrification – Transit- $10bn
  • Ontario Line subway – Transit – $10bn
  • GO Transit expansion projects – Transit – $2bn
  • Scarborough Subway Extension – Transit – $5bn
  • Yonge North Subway Extension – Transit- $5bn
  • Eglinton Crosstown LRT – Transit – $4bn
  • The Hospital for Sick Children – Institutional – $2bn
  • Windsor Regional Hospital – Institutional – $1bn
  • The Ottawa Hospital – Institutional – $2bn
  • Kingston General Hospital – Institutional  – $750m
  • Mississauga Hospital – Institutional – $2bn

 Scott said that the project pipeline is the single largest commitment to P3 projects in the history of Ontario.

Outpost Recruitment feels the impacts

Already the team at Outpost is feeling the impacts of Ontario’s ambitious infrastructure objectives, with founder Ruairi Spillane noting increased demand in the region.

“We’re seeing huge demand from both consulting and contracting clients for candidates with P3 delivery experience and exposure to healthcare and rail projects,” said Spillane. “The outlook is excellent for candidates considering Toronto as a destination. It’s the perfect storm for international candidates given both Toronto and Vancouver are booming right now.”

Outpost works with general contractors, subcontractors, developers, and consultants who are hiring professionals across senior management, project management, operations, design, quality, and commercial roles.

  • Buildings & Infrastructure Contracting – Project Management, Design, Site & Commercial Management professionals for general contractors and subcontractors (civil, ground engineering, M&E)
  • Engineering Consulting – Civil / Structural / Mechanical & Electrical design and project management.
  • Cost & Project Management Consulting – Cost Management, Project Monitoring, Infrastructure advisory, Client-side project management.

Get in touch with Ruairi Spillane at [email protected] or 778-861-1244 if you would like to explore employment opportunities across Canada.

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Psychology of the job hunt

The only things that stand between you and your Canadian dream is obtaining a work permit or permanent residence and finding a job. Sounds easy, doesn’t it? While Canada’s construction market is booming, the bad news is that the recruitment process in Canada can be painstakingly slow. You will need to be mentally prepared as you prepare for what can be quite an emotionally draining process in a new country.

The Canadian recruitment process

International candidates often assume that similar immigration and recruitment processes will apply in Canada as they do in the UK, Australia, New Zealand, or the Middle East. This is not the case. Canada’s immigration system is focused on welcoming long-term permanent residents, as opposed to short-term temporary foreign workers, and consequently Canadian employers tend to be far more conservative when it comes to international hiring. Even those workers who arrive in Canada as temporary foreign workers are encouraged to transition to permanent residence through government programs created for that very purpose.

In our Preparation for an Interview article, we wrote about the two main weaknesses of a typical international candidate:

  • Lack of local experience
  • Flight risk

A Canadian employer will usually hesitate over hiring a foreign worker due to doubts over their ability to adapt and whether they will stay in Canada long term. Other things being equal, employers will prefer a candidate with local experience who is settled in Canada, so be prepared for questioning, hesitation, and delays.

How long will it take to find me a role?

This is a broad question, and the answer can vary depending on:

  • whether you are in Canada (overseas job hunting usually takes longer);
  • Junior vs Senior roles; and/or
  • the urgency of the role.

The recruitment process in Canada can often take 3-5 weeks, or even longer. That’s right, it can take around a month to finalize a job offer once we have delivered your resume to an employer. Although there is a labour shortage in Canada, employers like to take their time and will move along at their own pace. The recruitment process is a roller-coaster, so you need to buckle up and be ready for it, otherwise it will test your sanity. Here are some of the common reasons why it can take so long:

  • Determining interest from hiring managers can be slow when they are distracted with projects and operations.
  • Scheduling interviews and gathering feedback.
  • Making an offer.

While 2-3 rounds of interviews and a job offer can be closed off in 1-2 weeks in most developed economies, the process typically takes much longer in Canada. Don’t take it personally, as it’s easy to do so when you have arrived in a new country and need to find employment. Waiting on employers can quickly take the excitement out of your arrival in Canada, so be prepared for the slump as progress stalls.

Candidates start with lots of energy, but after just a couple of weeks in Canada you may start to question everything.

  • Why am I not hearing from employers?
  • Why such a delay in scheduling the second interview?
  • Why have I been waiting for over a week for the job offer they promised me?

It’s not about you. Blame Canada and the slow recruitment process, but don’t blame yourself. The process will take the exact same amount of time whether you go with it or against it, so arrive prepared and armed with patience, and maintain your self-confidence. Self-doubt may creep in, but remember your job search should be about finding a role for 3-4 years or longer, so an additional 2-3 weeks is just a minor blip in the process.

What not to do

  • Do not lower your standards. When we meet with some candidates on arrival, they are brimming with confidence before suddenly, two weeks later, they are in panic mode despite being warned. Instead of reaching for the stars, the candidate is now applying for B-list roles that didn’t excite them two weeks previously. Big mistake, as when you start your B-list role, your A-list employer will come calling and now you are indebted to your B-list employer. Create a game plan and stick to it!
  • Do not give up on Canada. Yes, it happens. I have witnessed the Canadian recruitment process really question candidates’ emotions. “Why don’t they want me? How can it be taking so long if they are interested in hiring me?” Ride the emotion!

What do I do to preserve my sanity while waiting?

  • Be mature. If someone told you you could have your dream job if it took 2-3 weeks longer than you expect, what would you do? You would find a way to keep yourself busy and finance yourself. Find temporary work if finances are strained.
  • Be conscious that self doubt is part of the process of starting a new life in Canada.
  • Keep busy. Sitting at home waiting for emails to arrive will drive any human being mad, so attend networking events, go on adventures, and make new friends. Do anything within reason to keep your mind busy.
  • Arrange job interviews via Skype pre-arrival and then plan some trips when you get to Canada. With less vacation time to be expected once you land your A-list job (which you will, with the right attitude), this period of unemployment should be cherished. Take the time to get to know your surroundings.
  • Focus on the positives. If your only measurement is finding a job, then you will consider yourself a failure until you have one. Set realistic and achievable goals like arranging 2-3 interviews in your first two weeks in Canada.

Most of all, remain positive.

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Outpost Recruitment welcomes the award of the $1.4bn Pattullo Bridge project

The winning consortium for Vancouver’s much-needed Pattullo Bridge replacement project was announced in January 2020. 

The $1.4bn design-build lump sum contract specifies the delivery of a new four-lane suspension bridge crossing the Fraser River between New Westminster and Surrey. It will be built about 100 metres upstream of the existing 1937-built structure, roughly parallel to the aging crossing.

The bridge is designed with the capability to be widened to six lanes in the future, but this is partially accomplished by narrowing the width of the original four-lane design. Improvements will also be made to the road network at the ends of the bridge. However, there will not be a direct connection between the south end of the bridge and Highway 17 (South Fraser Perimeter Road).

Artist rendering of Pattullo Bridge, in BC
Artist rendering of the Pattullo Bridge replacement project. (Government of BC)

Since the cancellation of the Massey Tunnel Replacement Bridge in 2017 and indecision around a new Surrey LRT line, confidence in British Columbia’s infrastructure sector has been low. Amazingly, Vancouver has had only one billion dollar mega infrastructure project, the Evergreen Line LRT ($1.4bn —completed in 2016), since the South Fraser Perimeter Road was completed in 2013. It’s been a long wait for a major project.

Vancouver-based Outpost Recruitment are uniquely placed to assist in hiring for this project. Through their sister website, Moving2Canada, Outpost have been tracking local and international talent since 2011. “With the Vancouver market already stretched by a strong real estate market and a booming municipal infrastructure market, our clients enjoy our extended reach in national and global infrastructure talent,” commented founder Ruairi Spillane noting that B.C. is facing a major labour shortage. “We expect to be very busy over the next 5 years as infrastructure is truly a global market and we help clients expand their reach and innovate through people using the latest technology and construction methods.”

“Overall, we’re seeing huge demand from both consulting and contracting clients for candidates with P3 delivery experience and exposure to healthcare and rail projects,” said Spillane. “The outlook is excellent for candidates considering Vancouver as a destination. It’s the perfect storm for international candidates given both Toronto and Vancouver are booming right now, as these are the most popular cities with incoming talent.

Outpost are urgently seeking candidates for the following roles across contracting and consulting.

Contractor roles:

  • Superintendent – Civil / Structural
  • Project Manager / Coordinators – Civil / Structural
  • Site Engineer
  • Design Managers / Coordinators
  • Field Engineers (Civil / Structural)
  • Quality Coordinators, QA/QC Manager
  • Project Controls / Contracts Managers / Procurement?
  • Commercial Managers / Quantity Surveyors
  • BIM Manager
  • Planner / Scheduler
  • Equipment Coordinator
  • Field Document Controller
  • Field Scheduler
  • Mechanical & Electrical Managers / Coordinators
  • Environmental Manager
  • Traffic Manager

Consulting roles:

  • Project Manager, Owner’s Representative
  • Civil / Structural Designers / Project Managers
  • Environmental consultants
  • Geotechnical design consultants
  • Cost consultants

Expertise in bridge and highway design/construction is highly sought after to ensure the success of this project.

If you want to be part of this exciting venture, please ensure you create a profile via our website so that we can review your CV/resume and profile. Sponsorship opportunities will only available to senior personnel (10+ years of similar infrastructure experience), so all other candidates must be eligible to work in Canada.

 

Future Hiring Opportunities

Employer sponsorship opportunities are not a certainty, so if you want to be part of the construction industry in Canada, we recommend working towards obtaining the right to work in Canada independently. Visit our sister website, Moving2Canada, for free immigration resources and this helpful guide.

Contact Ruairi Spillane at [email protected] for more details.

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Why the best job applicants may not need a cover letter

Do I need a cover letter for my job application? My short answer is: no, unless specifically asked to provide one. The reason is that a cover letter is generally used for an unsolicited online application. Online applications are anonymous cold introductions without any personal touch. Best avoided.

If you have read my blogs you will understand my dislike of unsolicited online applications. Resumes from such applications accumulate in corporate inboxes. They are typically viewed in the batches, often by administrative staff – not the best way to make a solid first impression.

Applying online is not the optimal route. Following this route can strongly suggest that you are unable or unwilling to network your way a personal introduction with a future employer. Why not find a contact to introduce you to the right people? Sitting at home churning through online job applications is a lonely existence and ought to be avoided. With online applications you typically don’t receive confirmation that your resume has been reviewed, nor do you receive feedback on the status of your application or any suggestions on how to improve. You either get called for an interview or you don’t. It’s just black or white. Many large organizations insist on online applications with cover letters, but that doesn’t mean you can’t coordinate this front door approach with another more direct way to ensure your resume finds the right person.

Applying online should be your last resort. But what are the alternatives?

Warm introduction

The role of a recruitment agency is often to bridge the connection between you and a company you would like to work for. A good recruiter negates the need for online applications and cover letters. The recruiter’s expertise is to establish a fit between your skills and experience and a potential role. The most favorable approach would be to have a recruiter provide your profile and resume to the hiring manager. Now you can optimize your job application, ensure your resume finds the decision maker, and gain feedback from the process.

Networking

If the company is not working with agencies, then you can do some research, find out who the hiring manager is, and network your way to him or her. Be creative. Find someone who can help you make a connection with the company. Instead of attaching a cover letter to your job application, you could provide a brief email note to this contact person with the following five components:

  • How you got the person’s contact information.
  • A brief summary (3-4 sentences maximum) of your skills, experience, and immigration status (if applicable).
  • What interests you about the company. Show the employer why you are interested by referring to projects, services, personnel, news stories, company values, etc, that have caught your attention.
  • Why you would be a good fit for the role (if a relevant job posting is available). Highlight your understanding of the job requirements and outline your suitability for the role.
  • Close by explaining what action you want the reader to take. For example, you could ask him or her to meet with you for a coffee, take a telephone call, or pass on your resume to HR or the Hiring Manager, as the case may be.

For more advice, read my quick guide to networking in Canada.

If you must write a cover letter. . .

The typical cover letter is focused on the candidate’s work experience and skill set. This information is already mentioned in his or her resume. Don’t repeat yourself. Cover letters can be effective when written well. This means your cover letter focuses on why you are a fit for a specific role or company and how you can add value to the company. A cover letter is the linking document between your skills and experience and the company.

Outpost Recruitment connects talented construction professionals with leading construction employers for civil, infrastructure and ICI buildings projects in Canada. To set up a confidential discussion, call us at 778-861-1244.

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Construction Recruitment: Should I use a recruiter?

Outpost Recruitment founder, Ruairi Spillane, has spent five years placing jobseekers with Canada’s top construction and engineering companies in permanent roles. Jobseekers often ask themselves ‘should I use a recruiter?’ In this opinion piece, Ruairi outlines six scenarios where jobseekers should instead apply to companies in those industries directly. As one of the premier construction recruitment agencies in Vancouver, we think their advice can help you.

As a jobseeker, the idea of outsourcing your job search sounds fantastic. The job search often starts with a buzz of excitement and suddenly week or two later, it’s a very different story. Finding employment in Canada is an extremely slow process. Engaging with the right recruiter can help set your expectations, provide you with a trusted advisor and establish a clear strategy. That said, outsourcing your search to a recruiter is not always the best choice.

What are my options?

  • Go it alone – use online jobs boards and personal connections to manage your own job search
  • Engage the right recruiter – seek involvement of a recruitment professional to expand your knowledge of the market and include a wider network of opportunities.

To understand reasons why you should not use a recruiter, it’s important to first examine the reasons why companies will call on a recruitment agency to assist with their hiring.

  • Urgent need – Outsource HR process due to time constraints
  • Hard to find skills – Broaden the reach of HR
  • Convenience – Client is happy to outsource their HR function purely to save time and effort
  • Headhunting – Client use an agency to assist with an approach to a target

When a company pays an agency fee to source talent, they’re paying with the expectation that candidates presented by an agency are going to be of an extremely high quality. For the recruitment agency, this means the candidate must meet and exceed established job requirements

At Outpost Recruitment, we specialize in permanent roles for construction professionals across civil, infrastructure, and buildings projects. Based on five years of experience, we can gauge when a candidate’s chances will be hindered, because the employer is unlikely to want to pay a recruitment agency fee for a jobseeker who has to overcome a significant barrier. If they’re taking the risk of hiring that jobseeker, they want to do it as cheaply as possible, and it’s not in our interest or the jobseeker’s interest to present them to the company.

Here are six scenarios where we will usually advise a jobseeker to approach the company directly.

1. Lack of consistent work experience

When employers use a recruiter, they want a return on investment. Hiring a candidate who has never lasted beyond 2-3 years with a previous employer means this return on investment is less likely to be realized. Sometimes this movement is beyond the candidate’s control but if a candidate has displayed a tendency to “jump around”, then they are not an ideal recruitment candidate for an agency and will be better served directly convincing an employer of their merit.

2. Lack of relevant experience

If your experience level if way off the requirements for years of proven experience, then an employer is not likely to hire you via a recruiter. If you are junior or you are switching role/industry, we often recommend you apply directly. It’s rare that companies will use a recruiter for junior level roles so directly managing your job search is highly recommend for candidates with less than two years of proven experience.

3. Language barrier

Strong communication skills, including working fluency in the local language, are crucial when a company decides to use a recruiter. At Outpost Recruitment, we focus on technical roles so a candidate must have demonstrated their ability to work through English (Note: We are not active in Quebec so we focus on English speaking candidates only). If your written and spoken English is anything less than perfect, then you should consider managing your own job search. A recruitment fee is just another obstacle for you to overcome if you are not the perfect fit in terms of communication skills.

4. Lack of local / western world experience

The local experience paradox. Canada’s aging population desperately needs international workers, but employers crave local experience. If they don’t get local experience, they seek the next best thing which is experience in a similar western economy to Canada. Candidates without this level of experience will typically represent a higher risk to the client.

5. Cultural barrier

We often meet strong international candidates that cannot make a breakthrough because local employers are looking for a long-term candidate that will be a cultural fit in Canada. This is more common outside of the main cities but it is a factor to recognize. Candidates coming from differing cultures will always have a relatively higher settlement risk so we will often suggest that they job hunt directly to improve their chances.

For example, an international candidate coming from Sub-Saharan Africa to Edmonton may have a difficult time convincing an employer they are making the right long-term hire as the employer may be concerned that the candidate may struggle to settle in a dramatically different climate.

6. Immigration barrier

Unlike the Middle East and Australia, gaining employers sponsorship in Canada is extremely difficult and therefore not very common. Canada is a resource-driven economy so when commodity prices are low the demand for international workers in the economy will drop. If you need immigration assistance, it will dramatically reduce your attractiveness to a Canadian employer, so this presents yet another obstacle to finding employment. For these reasons, we rarely present candidates that require immigration assistance unless they are all-stars with extensive estimating or senior management experience.

Benefits of using a construction recruitment agency in Vancouver

On top of the points outlined above, you might still be unsure of the inherent benefits that come from using a dedicated construction recruitment agency like Outpost Recruitment in Vancouver. Honestly, we understand why you may have some reservations but benefits do exist. If you feel like the above six points don’t apply to you and you want to give yourself the best chance of finding a job that you’ll thrive in in Vancouver then we can help.

There are many benefits to using a construction recruitment agency like Outpost recruitment, some of the primary benefits are as follows:

Construction recruitment agencies have industry insights

While you may think that you know your industry inside-out, the reality is that this is unlikely to be the case, especially if you are making a start in a new city like Vancouver. As construction specialists, Outpost recruitment can offer a range of unique insights to both your sector and the city to ensure that you find the opportunity that best meets your needs. These type of insights can save you time, and increase exposure to other opportunities, as well as salary advice.

Construction recruitment agencies offer exposure for candidates

As well as have a range of experienced and in-depth insights, construction recruitment agencies can provide their candidates with the necessary professional exposure that can ultimately lead to a career rather than just a job. At Outpost Recruitment, we use our decade plus of combined experience in the Vancouver construction industry to give our candidates a little more exposure than they may receive elsewhere. Additionally, in some circumstances, construction recruitment agencies have opportunities which are not always available elsewhere, not to mention that working in partnership can give you a competitive advantage.

Construction recruitment agencies save you time and make you money

If you have ever spent time applying for a job then you will know that it is a full-time position in itself. So, if you want to save yourself time and effort while you search for your dream job in Vancouver then you need to enroll the help of a construction recruitment agency like Outpost Recruitment. On top of that, by working with us we can help you negotiate a starting salary that matches your skill and qualifications.

Need help figuring it out?

If you’re unsure as to whether these apply to you, or would simply like a second opinion, we encourage you to contact us so we can advise you.

We gladly represent jobseekers where it’s possible to do so. And if not, at least you’ll know.

Register with us and make the first step.

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Top 10 mistakes job seekers make

There are many simple mistakes job seekers make, which can be easily avoided. Outpost Recruitment founder, Ruairi Spillane, explains how.

Over five years of working in recruitment, Outpost has gathered lots of anecdotal evidence on what works and what doesn’t when searching for a job. Do you have to use a recruiter? Absolutely not! But while most candidates may be excellent in their specific area of construction, many lack expertise in defining their strengths, managing their job search and their ability to communicate to employers.

1. A weak resume

If you cannot demonstrate your value on paper, then how can you communicate it to an employer in person? I wish I could stress this point enough as failing to put your best foot forward will delay your career progression. Outpost’s core competence in terms of consulting is to help a candidate discover their strengths and communicate them on paper.

READ: Discover the power of a killer resume in Canada

2. Applying online

Applying online is a waste of time, there is always a better way! If you are a job hunter, you need to realize that you can network your way to find a useful contact with almost any company you wish. Use a recommended recruiter or LinkedIn to get to the decision maker instead of your resume being one of 200 on a pile. Seek to differentiate yourself!

See online job postings as the tip of the iceberg. Not all open opportunities get posted. You are missing a trick if you relying on the front door along with the crowds. Companies post roles when they can’t find good people via internal means. Being first is everything in your job search so network a better way.

3. Spray and pray

Be selective in where you send your resume. Document each application on a spreadsheet and control where you resume goes i.e. ask your recruiter to seek permission before presenting your resume. Canadian markets are pretty small, so employers talk. Focus on quality not quantity when making job applications. Believing that job hunting is a numbers game creates the wrong set of behaviours as you dismiss negative results or lack of results.

Top 10 mistakes job seekers make

4. Misguided expectations

Nobody knows it all. It never hurts to chat to an industry peer to ensure your expectations are in check. Communicate your plans and ask a colleague, industry contact or a recruiter for their candid advice. Ensure you audit your job search tools (resume, LinkedIn profile, etc.) and your role and salary expectations before you start.

5. General job applications

While being a potential jack-of-all-trades is attractive when you are a junior / graduate keen to make a breakthrough, being undecided on your best role or potentially desperate is not. General job applications are a giveaway sign that you have not performed your research or you are not confident in your skillset. Be specific about what you feel you best role is and target this. Leave it to an employer to ask if you are flexible.

READ: What job titles are used in construction in Canada

6. One resume fits all – Wrong!

Failing to adapt your resume to different regions, different industries and job titles is one of the most critical mistakes job seekers make. Do you want to look like a lazy job hunter or do you want your future employer to feel that you have taken the time to understand the region, industry and job title that you are targeting? Always adapt your resume every time you send it, so it meets the expectations of the specific job posting you’re applying to.

READ: Discover the power of a killer resume in Canada

7. Punching too far above your weight

By all means, be daring and ambitious but also be realistic in terms of applying for jobs you are not qualified to do. Be aware of the difference between being ambitious and grossly under qualified for a role. Applying for roles beyond your skill set and experience will not help morale and the trade off is to spend more time applying for roles that you are qualified for.

8. Not following up!

“I sent him / her an email and he never responded” – Classic job hunters excuse when given a lead for help. Someone has created an obstacle in my path! Understand that your job search is your priority. Take responsibility for the outcome. Ensure you have a way to follow up and get it done. Seek to get a Yes/No from each employer instead of embracing the unknown.

Top 10 mistakes job seekers make

9. Ignoring help/advice

Take all advice on board and seek to understand where it is coming from. Your attitude to critical feedback has a huge determination on the success of your job search and your overall career. Seek feedback and ways to improve your process.

10. Immigration bubble

If a job is posted within Canada and does not welcome international applicants , then it’s fair to assume your chances of success as an applicant without a valid work permit are limited. Ensure you focus your time and energy of researching how to gain a work permit first instead of looking for the needle in the haystack role that can sponsor you. Become your own immigration expert and then you will impress a future employer.

READ: How do I immigrate to Canada?

Find out more

You now know how to avoid the most common mistakes job seekers make. Continue reading our series of blogs, to help you prepare for your career in Canada. Explore our articles now.

Explore the Outpost Recruitment blog

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A quick guide to networking in Canada

If you’re looking to advance your career, then you’ll need to make sure you take full advantage of the opportunities for networking in Canada. Outpost Recruitment founder, Ruairi Spillane, explains.

Why do some construction professionals follow a seamless upward path from role to role? How do recruitment agencies know exactly what companies are hiring at the right time? Networking!

Recruiters are professional networkers. Our business is having the right connections and access to all the latest news. Some of the below tips may appear obvious but we are amazed at how people can overlook the simple things.

Here are Outpost Recruitment’s 12 tips to successful networking in Canada.

1. Business cards

Networking in Canada
It’s a no-brainer when you have a job, but every professional should have a business card whether they are employed or not. Don’t fumble with your phone, business cards are critical at creating a solid first impression and building long-term relationships.

Handing out business cards is a self-branding exercise and makes you look professional. If you won’t promote yourself, then nobody will. You can order 100 business cards for around $20 online. It’s a small price to pay for the sake of your career advancement.

2. Do your research

Networking
Identify the companies and recruitment agencies you would like to work for. Ask people for referrals and now you have a starting point. Your job search should start narrow and then gradually widen.

Always do your research before you contact someone and ask for their time/help. Use LinkedIn, Google, their company website and any other resources available to help demonstrate you are motivated to build a relationship.

3. Know the best recruiters

It’s easy! Instead of trying to gather all the appropriate information on a particular market, speak with an industry expert to gather ideas and news. You don’t need to be job hunting to contact a recruiter for help. Keep communication channels open at all times.

4. Know the best people in your industry

Make a point of spending more time with colleagues whose networking skills you admire. Tag along with them to events or simply bring them for lunch and ask them for tips on how to keep up with the market.

5. Informational Interviews

Networking in Canada
One of Canada’s best qualities is how helpful people are. If you are organized, persistent and tactful enough, it’s very likely you can achieve a 20-minute coffee with executive level people in your industry.

Start at the top and work your way down. You may be pleasantly surprised that someone will respond positively if they feel you have something to offer their company.

6. Better still, offer lunch instead of coffee!

“If you want something done, ask a busy person to do it”.

With a little tact and persistence, perhaps you can persuade the person you want to meet to give up a portion of their time with the offer of some food instead of offering a mundane coffee. Everyone’s gotta eat! A small investment to get a busy person’s time.

7. Events for networking in Canada

Networking in Canada
Meet like-minded people, who are keen to learn, discuss industry news and practice their skills when networking in Canada. Dress to impress and arrive early so you can assess the gathering crowd. This step will allow you to watch the dynamics of the room unfold and make some easy new connections to assist you through the sea of strangers.

Are there industry leaders giving a speech at these events? Don’t be shy about approaching them directly for a quick chat. Be respectful of their time, be ready with your business card, and leave the chat having agreed a way to follow-up with them at a later date.

8. Use LinkedIn

Networking in Canada
The ultimate social networking tool but never a substitute for face-to-face networking in Canada. LinkedIn is a great tool when preparing for networking events and maintaining connections.

While connecting on LinkedIn is considered a reasonable follow up, try to take action on interesting contacts by following up and scheduling a time to chat further over the phone, a coffee/drink, or lunch. This one-on-one meeting is an ideal chance to further develop the relationship as being a LinkedIn connection is not very intimate any more!

Set a reminder to follow up with a connection in 2-3 days for essential queries or 2-3 weeks if it’s not urgent. Remember: your priority is to get to know them, so don’t be afraid to follow-up.’

9. Tact and Persistence

Networking tact and persistence
Anyone can make a request once. It takes organization and persistence to ask the second, third and fourth times. Differentiate yourself through being tactful and persistent.

“I contacted Person X and they never got back to me.” This is such a lame excuse, so don’t use it. If you want their help, leave blame and ego behind.

10. Ask and you shall receive

Networking in Canada
Be bold and daring as fortune favours the brave. Be open and upfront with what you are hoping to get from a new contact. State your purpose and you will always get better results. Ask the hard questions instead of assuming the other party knows what your objective is. Always ask for advice, introductions and recommendations on further contacts.

11. Map out your connections

Networking
Draw out your key connections on paper or a spreadsheet so you can visualize who you know and assess who you may need to know (target roles/people/companies). If you are job hunting, this is your job hunting team!

12. Dress to impress

Networking
Canada is considered to be relatively informal in terms of business attire. That said, it’s always better to overdress than underdress.

For networking events, informational interviews and coffee meetings, business casual will suffice but ensure you wear a suit for an interview.

And remember…

Outpost 05_LinkedInCover
Building your network can take time so don’t shy from contacting Outpost Recruitment if you would like to tap into upcoming opportunities, market intelligence or industry outlooks.

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How can I be a Construction Project Manager in Canada? Our career profile of Alan Moat.

Curious about a career as a Construction Project Manager in Canada? Get a snapshot of what it’s like, thanks to this career profile of Alan Moat.

At Outpost Recruitment, we strive to build learning tools to help newcomers be successful in Canada. We’ve invited a range of successful immigrants, across various construction and engineering roles, to share their experience in moving to Canada and growing their career.

In the latest of our series, Alan Moat chats with Ruairi Spillane and shares his experience in moving to Canada to work as a Construction Project Manager in Canada.

Alan Moat – Construction Project Manager in CanadaAlan Moat: Construction Project Manager Canada

Alan grew up in Birmingham, England. In 1992, he graduated from the University of Exeter with a degree in Civil Engineering.

He has worked in a variety of roles related civil and structural engineering design and construction, predominantly in the railway sector.

Alan was a CEng MICE in the UK and whilst he gained his PEng APEGBC equivalent when he moved to Canada, Alan is now a Construction Project Manager with his PMP designation from the Project Management Institute.

After moving to Canada in 2006, Alan was employed as a Construction Project Manager in Canada with SNC Lavalin for 10 years. In 2015, Alan joined Parsons as an Area Manager in B.C. overseeing the Roads & Structures group.

He is based in Vancouver and has worked on the Canada Line and Evergreen Line rapid transit projects for four years each, with the two years between spent on bidding projects across North America.

He is married and has a six-year old daughter and two-year old son.

When he’s not delivering complex transit projects, Alan enjoys mountain biking and road riding, skiing, snowboarding and passing those skills on to his children.

SNC Lavalin is the largest engineering and construction company in Canada and one of the largest in the world with offices in over 50 countries.

Your move to Canada

Why did you choose Canada?

In 2005, I decided I needed a change of scenery.

I’d been working in the railway sector for around seven years, and as a consultant for the last five years.

My engineering and construction skills were transferrable around the world, and I narrowed down my options to New Zealand, Australia and Canada.

Really, I wanted to move for the lifestyle as much as the work experience, so it had to be somewhere close to the mountains or ocean.

I’d been on vacation hiking in the Canadian Rockies in 2001, Australia in 2003 and New Zealand south island in 2004 and loved them all, but Australia’s too hot for me, with not enough mountains and there wasn’t much work in New Zealand at the time, so I decided to focus on Western Canada.

Was career progression or lifestyle a bigger decision factor in the decision?

I was earning at lot of money for a 30-year-old single guy when working as a contract engineering manager back in the UK.

I took a considerable pay cut to move to Vancouver and take a regular salaried position, so it was definitely a lifestyle decision.

The first position with SNC Lavalin I took was a design manager role which I found easy and something that I’d been doing five years earlier in the UK.

It wasn’t soon before they saw my capabilities and promoted me to the Project Manager responsible for the construction of the three downtown stations on the Canada Line.

What made you choose Vancouver?

I was weighing up the options in Australia and Canada, and when I discovered there was a lot of work in Vancouver ahead of the 2010 Olympics, I focused my efforts on there.

I never gave much thought to Calgary to be honest. I secured a one-year working visa through the exchange scheme, and started contacting employers, including the companies bidding to build the new Canada Line SkyTrain from the airport to downtown.

I applied for a few positions on Olympic projects but didn’t get anywhere. I came out to Vancouver on vacation in the summer of 2005 to walk the west coast trail and dropped into the SNC Lavalin office, and managed to convince the Canada Line Project manager to interview me.

The visit to Vancouver convinced me that this was the place for me and eventually, after a lot of following up, they offered me a job in September 2005. I arrived on December 31, and started work on January 4, 2006.

My advice to anyone seeking employment here is use your initiative, be persistent and don’t give up.

Did you move alone?

I arrived in Canada on my own, along with my mountain bike and snowboard on December 31, 2005.

I met my wife, Nicole, who is Canadian, 18 months later at the Crankworx mountain bike festival in Whistler and we got married in 2012.

Your education and professional experience prior to Canada

What motivated you to study Engineering?

My dad was a carpenter and I have always been into building stuff.

I found maths, physics and chemistry easy at school as engineering seemed like a good option for me. I did a general engineering course for the first two years, then after being offered summer work by Mott MacDonald, I decided to chose civil for the last two.

To what extent did your career diverge from the original plan (if any)?

I never really have a long term plan to be honest. I focus on a goal one or two years ahead and revisit that plan regularly as things develop.

If I’m not happy I change direction until I am happy.

The two big changes I made to my career path were to work as a consultant in 2000 which worked out great and earned me a lot of money and secondly moving to Canada.

Working as a consultant enabled me to make the jump from the design consultant side to the construction contractor side, which suits me better to be honest.

The Canada plan came out of the blue to a certain extent.

I was working in Liverpool on the Merseytram Project and wasn’t really enjoying the project or the city. That was the push I needed to move abroad and as they say the rest is history.

Briefly highlight your career path prior to moving to Canada.

I worked for Mott MacDonald for six years after university.

This included spells in the Birmingham design office, the London Project Management office and seconded to a contractor for a year.

Most of the work involved designing, inspecting, building bridges.

I got my CEng in 1997 and I was headhunted by Atkins Rail in 1998.

From then on I’ve worked exclusively on heavy and light rail projects.

At the end of 2000 I decided to quit Atkins Rail and work as a consultant, in initially this was for Atkins Rail and then for Carillion as Design Manager or Engineering Manager on a series of West Coast Mainline upgrade and remodeling projects.

My last role was contract with Parsons Brinkerhoff as a section project manager on the ill fated Merseytram project in Liverpool which was cancelled two weeks after I quit late in 2005.

Preparing for the move

What did you know about your career prospects as a Construction Project Manager in Canada?

I had a job pre-arranged before setting out. If I hadn’t managed to arrange a job before the last date to start my visa (December 31, 2005) I would have moved here anyway and tried to secure something when I arrived.

Worst case, I’d have been a ski bum or a bike mechanic for a year.

What did you do to prepare for your move? What was the biggest challenge?

I was lucky enough to be able to negotiate a contract that included a housing allowance for two months and SNC Lavalin arranged an apartment for me.

The rest was pretty easy to be honest. The extra baggage for a single guy isn’t much. Preparing for the move well in advance is the trick.

Just make sure you are organized and can redirect all your post to someone in the UK you can try to help manage it for you while you are away.

I’m lucky enough to have my mum to do this for me and she still does a great job for me.

Did you have a professional network in Canada prior to your move?

I didn’t have a professional network prior to my move, but there are a lot of expats in Vancouver so you’ll soon make contacts if you out yourself out there.

I had a couple of friends in Vancouver before I moved here which made life easier to settle in and I quickly made some good business contacts at work and some good friends who I’m still friends with ten years later.

Your professional development in Canada

What are the key differences between being a Construction Project Manager in Canada and the UK?

The role was initially similar to work I’d done as a design manager in the UK, however it soon changed to a very different role as a construction Project Manager, which was new to me.

Aside from that engineering and construction is the same the world over and with no language barrier, the transition was easy.

The level of pressure is a bit lower in Canada as the working environment is a lot more collaborative and generally everyone wants to help and push in the same direction.

Initially I had a lot more spare time but after a couple of years I had about the same amount as I had in the UK. However of course I now have so many more fun things to do with my spare time!

Working environment in Canada

Is the working environment as a Construction Project Manager in Canada similar or different to previous locations in which you have worked?

The working environment here is fairly similar to the UK, though maybe a little bit more laid back and there is less pressure to work long hours.

The construction working environment is definitely less confrontational which is good in general, but sometimes gets in the way of getting issues brought to a head and resolved quickly.

How would you rate the career prospects for newcomers looking to be a Construction Project Manager in Canada?

It can be tough for newcomers if they have no experience here. Priority is given to local graduates.

However, if you have experience, skills and can sell yourself then you should be able to get a job in the industry.

Use your contacts if you have them and use agencies.

Your lifestyle in Canada

What do you like most about Canada?

I’ve got kids now, but I remember in my first five years I’d go snowboarding with some mates after work.

In less than an hour of leaving my desk I’d be hitting the powder on the north shore mountains until they closed at 10pm.

Whistler is less than two hours away at weekends too. When I first moved here I did a lot of hiking, climbing and mountaineering and there’s countless mountains to be scaled and backcountry camping to be had only a few hours out of the city.

What actions did you take to help you settle in Canada on a personal/family level?

Throw yourself in 100pc. Don’t expect Vancouverites to come up to you and make friends.

You have to put yourself out there. It helps if you are a biker/hiker/skier/boarder or have some other interest as there are a lot of like minded people to meet here.

Canadians are the friendliest people in the world, but they are a little difficult to get to know sometimes.

Do you see Canada as a long-term home?

Yes, absolutely. The BC licence plates don’t say the ‘Best Place on Earth’ for nothing.

I’ve been here for ten years now and I’ll never leave. Apart from the house prices in Vancouver it’s the perfect place to bring up a family and very safe.

Success factors

What was the best career advice you have received?

If you are a Construction Project Manager and expect to get everything done before you leave work at the end of the day, then you’re in the wrong job.

Never expect to get everything done, else you’ll be constantly stressed.

The art of being a Construction Project Manager is to keep 100 balls in the air and don’t drop any. You’ll always have a list of 100 things to do and your job is to prioritize those things. As soon as you do one, two more will be added to the list.

Live with it and make sure the important things are done before you leave.

What advice would you give to people looking for work as a Construction Project Manager in Canada?

Get some good experience back home first.

Get varied experience also. Don’t just do one thing for the first five years of your career else before you know it you are pigeon-holed.

Develop a great resume and you’ll be in big demand as a Construction Project Manager in Canada.

Follow Alan’s path

Interested in working in construction or engineering within Canada? Want to build a career as a Construction Project Manager in Canada like Alan?

Read more about how Outpost Recruitment helps job seekers

Other articles in this series:

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How can I be a Construction Estimator in Canada? Our career profile of Stephan Blank.

Curious about a career as a Construction Estimator in Canada? Get a snapshot of what it’s like, thanks to this career profile of Stephan Blank.

At Outpost Recruitment, we strive to build learning tools to help newcomers be successful in Canada. We’ve invited a range of successful immigrants, across various construction and engineering roles, to share their experience in moving to Canada and growing their career.

In the latest of our series, Stephan Blank chats with Ruairi Spillane and shares his experience in moving to Canada to work as a Construction Estimator in Canada.

Stephan Blank, Construction Estimator CanadaStephan Blank – Construction Estimator in Canada

I am a Senior Construction Estimator in Germany but worked in Canada for 10 years after relocating to Vancouver. I was an Estimator in Canada at Bouygues and Kinetic Construction and thoroughly enjoyed my time in Canada before returning home in 2017.

I am a single dad of an amazing daughter and construction professional of 22 years.

I am a former current Chair of the Under 40 Professionals at the Vancouver Construction Association and I am training to finish my first Ironman.

Your move to Canada

Why did you choose Canada?

I have traveled almost entire Europe and 2006 Canada was my first destination outside of Europe.

I spent three weeks around Vancouver / Vancouver Island and simply fell in love with this place. Also Canada had just been awarded the 2010 Winter Olympics and it was “construction paradise” at the time which made the decision even easier.

Was career progression or lifestyle a bigger decision factor in the decision?

Both are equally important and this remains the case.

In Germany, you tend to work hard and don’t really enjoy live as much. What I found here in Vancouver is that you still work hard and you have fantastic opportunities to progress in your career but also you take the time to enjoy live.

What made you choose Vancouver?

The pure beauty of this place, the ocean, the mountains and the nature. Also, you have similar weather conditions to Europe.

Did you move alone?

This was the most difficult part of the decision. I am a single dad, my daughter was nine years old at the time, and I didn’t know how this whole plan would work out.

I left her with my parents for 18 months until I was fully settled in, and then brought her to Vancouver.

It was a hard time, but looking back it was the best decision I made in a long time. Moving to a new country is a bigger deal than people think at first.

I had packed up my bags four times in the first year, and was ready to give up. Today I am very happy that I didn’t, but I’d advise anyone to really think everything entirely through – it really is a very big decision.

Your education and professional experience prior to Canada

What motivated you to study construction?

I was always fascinated by construction of any kind, so my career choice was quite easy.

I wanted to be a Project Manager, but I wanted to learn the job the proper way and start on the tools. I did my apprenticeship in bricklaying and formwork carpentry, and worked my way up through the ranks as lead hand, foreman, superintendent, and finally became a Project Manager before doing my masters.

To what extent did your career diverge from the original plan?

It didn’t. Somehow, I was very lucky and driven, and everything worked out as planned.

Tell us about your career path prior to moving to Canada.

From 1994 to 2006, I worked for a general contractor which specialized in concrete work up to €30 million.

  • 1994 – 1997: Start apprenticeship as bricklayer / formwork carpenter
  • 1998 – 1999: Lead hand
  • 1999 – 2000: Foreman
  • 2001 – 2003: Superintendent
  • 2003 – 2006: Project manager

Preparing for the move

What did you know about your career prospects in Canada?

Honestly, nothing.

What did you do to prepare for your move? What was the biggest challenge?

The biggest challenge was the language. I didn’t speak a word of English, so I booked a course in a three-month language school in Vancouver.

In the last month, I spoke enough English to apply for a job and go to interviews. Once I secured a job, I rented an apartment and went back to Germany to sell everything in my old place, and three weeks later, I started working in Vancouver.

Had you previously worked in a foreign country?

No.

Did you have a professional network in Canada prior to your move?

No.

Your professional development in Canada

How did you find your current role?

The quick answer? Hard work.

My first experience in Canada was anything else than pleasant; a larger formwork contractor here hired me as a project manager.

The week I moved here, I was told they didn’t have a project for me and asked if I could start on the tools for three months.

Once started, I found that the owner had done this with a few more people and that was just the beginning. I got charged a crazy amount of money for my work permit and I was paid less then half what was agreed to in the contract.

I confronted the owner and his response was: “Your work permit is only valid for my company, what do you want to do? Go back to Germany if you don’t like it.”

Exploring my options, I found a great general contractor who was willing to help me.

I signed a job offer with PCL Westcoast in April 2007, but had to wait until October 2007 for the new work permit to arrive.

In this time I was still working on the tools for the first contractor. I worked for four years at PCL as a Construction Estimator and Project Manager and met some great people who helped me grow in this industry.

Moving on, I had good opportunities at Doka Canada and Scott Construction before starting as a Senior Estimator at Bouygues Building Canada.

In this role, I was exposed to Design build and PPP projects valued at over CAD$100 million. Now, I am working as a Senior Estimator for Kinetic Construction, a mid-size general contractor specializing in new construction, tenant fit outs and design build projects.

What are the key differences between your role in Canada and Germany?

Now as an estimator, I am responsible for securing the work instead of executing the work as project manager back in Germany.

Was there anything you could have done prior to your move to prepare?

Learning the language, and especially all the specific construction terms.

Have your career objectives changed since you arrived?

Not really, I am still in construction. The only thing what changed is the actual full time estimating position, which now brings great and exciting new goals that I want to archive.

Working environment in Canada

Is the working environment as a Construction Estimator in Canada similar or different to previous locations in which you have worked?

It depends on the size of the company you choose to work for.

Working for a larger contractor was a far different environment than the family-sized company that I am used to in Germany. That’s probably why I feel very happy working at Kinetic, as it reminds me of the company I worked for back home.

Both the large and the small contractor have advantages and disadvantages. The actual construction environment is quite different in construction methods and quality of work.

What are the three main challenges you had to overcome to adapt to your role?

There were really just two: the language and the construction methods.

What actions did you take to help you settle into your new work environment?

I asked a lot of questions. Never assume something and never be afraid to ask a question doesn’t matter how silly the question may sound.

How is the work-life balance as a Construction Estimator in Canada?

It’s as balanced as you choose to make it. I tend to focus more on work than free time but it’s definitely possible to have a good work-life balance.

How would you rate the career prospects for newcomers in your role/industry?

Great! Canada has not nearly enough professionals for the years to come.

Your lifestyle in Canada

What do you like most about Canada?

I love all the fun things I can do here. Swimming, mountain biking, hiking, cycling and skiing.

What actions did you take to help you settle in Canada on a personal/family level?

Volunteering to meet some people.

Do you see Canada as a long-term home?

You never know what the future has in store, but I am sure it will be in Vancouver.

Success factors

What was the best career advice you have received?

Listen, learn and ask questions. Surround yourself with people in positions you want to be in and learn from them. Go out and network.

What advice would you give to people looking for work as a Construction Estimator in Canada?

Make a plan and see it through. There will be problems just keep sticking to your plan and don’t give up. Get some help from people like Ruairi.

Follow Stephan’s path

Interested in working in construction or engineering within Canada? Want to build a career as a Construction Estimator in Canada like Stephan?

Read more about how Outpost Recruitment helps job seekers

Other articles in this series:

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How can I be a Project Controls Manager in Calgary? Our career profile of Niamh Ní Chrónín.

Curious about a career as a Project Controls Manager in Calgary? Get a snapshot of what it’s like, thanks to this career profile of Niamh Ní Chrónín.

At Outpost Recruitment, we strive to build learning tools to help newcomers be successful in Canada. We’ve invited a range of successful immigrants, across various construction and engineering roles, to share their experience in moving to Canada and growing their career.

In the latest of our series, Niamh Ní Chróinín chats with Ruairi Spillane and shares her experience in moving to Canada to work as a Senior Estimator and Project Controls Manager in Calgary.

Niamh Ní Chróinín – Senior Estimator / Project Controls Manager in Calgary (Main Contractor)

Niamh Ní Chróinín: Project Controls Manager in CalgaryNiamh Ní Chróinín moved to Canada in February 2014 after working as an Engineer in Ghana, Ireland and London.

She holds a degree in Engineering, an MSc in Construction Law and is a Chartered Engineer with the Institution of Civil Engineers in the UK.

Niamh’s greatest passion in life is playing sports and this was the primary incentive for her to move to Canada. As a child she rode horses, in university she was a Taekwondo Instructor and now she spends most of her free time training with the local swimming club or rock climbing.

Niamh held a dual role of Senior Estimator/ Project Controls Manager in Calgary with Aecon for 3 years before joining Berkley Research Group as a Managing Consultant.

Your move to Canada

Why did you choose Canada?

I had been living in London for 6 years – working on the Olympics and Crossrail whilst also completing my MSc and Chartership – when I began to really start hating the place.

I considered moving to Australia but friends who had moved there earlier had told me the market was slowing down. I also considered the Middle East, but I wasn’t sure the lifestyle would suit me. Then, there was Canada. So, I suppose my choice came from choosing the best out of an otherwise bad lot!

Was career progression or lifestyle a bigger decision factor in the decision?

I felt that I had already progressed my career hugely in the past few years but at the expense of what I love most – sports. Canada is renowned for having a great work-life balance and that definitely sold me on the idea of moving there.

What made you choose Calgary?

I didn’t! I wanted to move to Canada and the interview I had was for Calgary. I suppose you could say Calgary chose me!

Did you move alone?

Yes – just me and four suitcases.

Your education and professional experience prior to Canada

What motivated you to study civil engineering?

I actually started studying science (math and physics) in NUI Galway, but quickly realized that I was not suited for a life indoors or teaching (which seemed to be where the job opportunities were at the time).

After two years, I dropped out of science to re-apply for civil engineering. To be honest, I was destined to be a civil engineer – I still have several train and Meccano sets at home that I used to get each Christmas.

To what extent did your career diverge from the original plan?

I always had a great love of civil engineering math but when I started working on the Olympics I gained a huge appreciation for the contractual aspect of construction.

In 2010, I went back to obtain an M.Sc. in Construction Law and Dispute Resolution at King’s College London – this is when my path diverged slightly away from Project Management and towards Project Controls.

Briefly highlight your career path prior to moving to Canada.

  • B.Eng. NUI Galway: 2006
  • Site engineer (Ghana): 2006
  • Site Engineer (Sisk): 2006-2008
  • Junior Design Engineer (Oran Precast): 2007
  • Site Engineer, Olympics (Bam Nuttall): 2007-2009
  • Section Engineer, Olympics (BAM Nuttall): 2009-2010
  • Sub Agent/ Bid Manager (BAM Nuttall): 2010-2012
  • Project Manager (Dragados Sisk, Crossrail): 2012-2014
  • C.Eng. (MICE): 2013
  • M.Sc. Construction Law and Dispute Resolution: 2013
  • Moved to Canada: 2014

Preparing for the move

What did you know about your career prospects in Canada before you became a Project Controls Manager in Calgary?

Very little. To be completely honest I was motivated to move to Canada purely because it meant I was getting out of London. I had spent years working long hours, giving up weekends and social events for work. I didn’t even consider career progression – I was very happy just to sit at whatever rank I was at – I just wanted to get my life back.

What did you do to prepare for your move? What was the biggest challenge?

I was very lucky. My company organized everything for me: my flights, the apartment I was to stay in for the first few weeks, my visa and moving any furniture I wanted to bring.

The biggest challenge for me was moving back to Ireland from London and then further on again. I have to say my company was great and really understood the reality of being so far away from home. My phone was already charged the day I arrived so I could call home and they had already loaded Skype on my work computer so I could call during work hours. It has definitely made the move easier.

Had you previously worked in a foreign country?

I have worked in Ghana, West Africa and London as a Civil Engineer.

Did you have a professional network in Canada prior to your move?

No, I didn’t have a professional network prior to my move (in terms of people I actually knew); however, I am chartered with the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) in London and they have an outpost here in Calgary called the Canadian Prairies Group of Chartered Engineers (CPGCE).

So, once I arrived I was introduced to the liaison officer and started meeting with the group once a month. Additionally, I am in constant contact with my institution in London and my mentors there so to be honest I don’t feel like I am isolated from my professional network or institution. Construction is a very small world.

Your professional development in Canada

How did you find your current role?

I found this role through a recruitment agency in Ireland.

Initially, they had not offered me this role because I don’t think many people understand what project controls entails. I began to get ‘assertive’ with this agency as I really wanted to move to Canada and asked them to start listing roles in companies they were hiring for. Project Controls Manager in Calgary came up and I knew this was something I wanted to move into more formally.

What are the key differences between your role in Canada and in London?

Here in Canada I am managing and supporting a larger area and there is a much bigger appreciation for project controls.

In London, I found that project controls was a good idea and every major project had a department but there was a disconnect between it and the operations side.

Was there anything you could have done prior to your move to prepare?

I had worked in project controls before but if I could do it again I would spend some more time reviewing the terminology.

It wasn’t a big deal but I did spend the first few weeks trying to align how things in Canada worked versus Ireland or the UK.

Have your career objectives changed since you arrived?

Well there are definitely more opportunities for career progression here in Canada and the companies are a lot bigger than those I am used to. To be honest I don’t really have an objective as such – I’m still learning every day and I like being a Project Controls Manager in Calgary because it is so versatile.

Working environment in Canada

Is the working environment in Canada similar or different to previous locations in which you have worked?

I think the working environment here is different. It’s not as adversarial as at home and to be honest, I kind of liked it at home because you could be completely honest if you had reservations about something.

Here, it’s very defined and you have to stick to the chain of command and sometimes I find that difficult.

What are the three main challenges you had to overcome to adapt to your role as a Project Controls Manager in Calgary?

  1. Legislation: I was more than familiar with the UK and Ireland in terms of H&S legislation and contractual mechanisms. I was a bit deflated having to re-learn such systems and I am still learning them.
  2. The roles and responsibilities of teams members: Definition of a site engineer isn’t really the same as at home, nor is foreman so I was getting confused putting tenders together as sometimes I didn’t have the required workforce.
  3. The lingo: Schedule = programme; letter of credit = unconditional bond; rock truck = moxi; ride = lift. I have a list on my desk at work so I don’t unintentionally insult someone during a conversation!

What actions did you take to help you settle into your new work environment?

Honestly I really didn’t have to do anything. My colleagues made me feel at home from the first day. There were lunches and drinks organized with the various teams so I could meet everyone and I was sent to our head office in Toronto 2 weeks later to meet my counterparts there.

How is the work-life balance as a Project Controls Manager in Calgary?

Very good but as with any other job you are in charge of it. If you want to work 24/7 companies will welcome it. Here, I feel it is not expected as much as it was in the UK or Ireland.

How would you rate the career prospects for newcomers in your role/industry?

The sky’s the limit in terms of career prospects for both my role as a Project Controls Manager in Calgary, and the industry.

One thing I do find that’s different here is that age doesn’t seem to be a problem so you won’t be held back just because you might be a bit younger. If you show talent and enthusiasm there will be nothing in your way from progressing.

Your lifestyle in Canada

What do you like most about Canada?

For the most part, I am home at 5:30pm and the whole evening is my own. Actually, for the first few weeks here it was nearly lonely because I was home so early.

But now I have joined several clubs and I am doing some kind of activity every evening. Also, I love the mountains. Calgary is a city but nothing like London so I feel a lot more comfortable here having come from the countryside (County Clare) than I did in London.

What actions did you take to help you settle in Canada on a personal/family level?

I went out, joined clubs, made friends and bought a massive winter jacket!

Do you see Canada as a long-term home?

I am afraid to answer this! I love Ireland and I will always want to move home regardless of where I am. So to answer positively I will say:

  • I am applying for my Permanent Residency.
  • I have made loads of friends and I find the majority of Canadians are very similar to the Irish.
  • I am enjoying travelling around Canada and the U.S.
  • I am definitely enjoying playing loads of sports again.
  • The weather does not bother me – as a matter of fact I love winter.
  • Could I settle here? Yes.

Success factors

What was the best career advice you have received?

I have received this advice several times and even recently when I was dealing with a sensitive matter.

The advice is: be decisive. Weigh up the issues, use your judgment and make a decision. 80% of the time or more, you will be right.

As for the other 20%, at least you will have made a decision when others wasted time. The 80% will carry you through.

One colleague even told me to read about when Alex Ferguson dropped Jim Leighton as Manchester United goalkeeper, and I have zero interest in soccer but I did read it. It highlighted the importance of decision making. You will not expand your career unless you can rise above the rest, make decisions and accept whatever consequences there may be.

What advice would you give to people looking for work in your field?

Every day is a school day, be humble and continue learning.

Project controls is a growing field with several niche areas, you need to have a good grasp of everything from finance, tendering, contractual matters, project management, working with and managing people and scheduling to name a few.

More often than not, for this role we pick those based on enthusiasm and train them to suit the role. Not everyone can juggle all these tasks. Be open to new challenges and show an interest in all of the aforementioned topics.

Follow Niamh’s path

Interested in working in construction or engineering within Canada? Want to build a career as a Project Controls Manager in Calgary like Niamh?

Read more about how Outpost Recruitment helps job seekers

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How can I be a Commissioning Consultant in Canada? Our career profile of Dave Green.

Curious about a career as a Commissioning Consultant in Canada? Get a snapshot of what it’s like, thanks to this career profile of Dave Green.

At Outpost Recruitment, we strive to build learning tools to help newcomers be successful in Canada. We’ve invited a range of successful immigrants, across various construction and engineering roles, to share their experience in moving to Canada and growing their career.

Next up, Dave Green chats with Ruairi Spillane and shares his experience in moving to Canada to work as a Commissioning Consultant in Canada.

Dave Green: Commissioning Consultant CanadaDave Green – Commissioning Consultant in Canada, Buildings

David is originally from London, England and he has 30 years of experience in the construction industry. David is a UK Chartered Engineer Member of CIBSE and a member of ASHRAE.

He is also one of only a few holders in Canada of the ASHRAE Commissioning Process Management Professional designation. David relocated his wife Linda and his three sons Jake, Finn and Cade from Toronto to Edmonton in December 2012, to commence CDML on a new journey in Alberta.

Your move to Canada

Why did you choose Canada?

I am lucky in that I’ve been to Canada before – I first visited way back in the late 80s and early 90s, when I learned about the quality of life, standard of living and the opportunities that Canada holds if you work hard for it. Canada is a country that rewards hard work and that was a big factor in my decision to come back here.

Was career progression or lifestyle a bigger decision factor in the decision?

Career progression – being given the opportunity to start a department for an established organization was a huge factor in my decision. The lifestyle was also important as I have small children who deserve to grow up in a safe environment.

What made you choose Toronto?

The job opportunity was in Toronto, with travel nationwide.

Did you move alone?

I moved my whole family – my wife and my two children (at the time – we have subsequently had another child) all came with me.

Your education and professional experience prior to Canada

What motivated you to study Building Services?

Many years ago, my father took me to the library and told me that I needed to study a trade and that was the end of the conversation! At that point, any thoughts I had of being a footballer or a rock star were ended. Do I regret that advice? Not at all – I love what I do and always have; I am lucky that no matter where we have lived, I can drive around with the kids and they can see some of ‘Daddy’s’ buildings, which makes me feel very proud of my contribution to the country.

To what extent did your career diverge from the original plan (if any)?

I always thought that I would be a technical engineer/project manager solving other peoples’ problems. I never imagined that today, I would be the part owner of 20-person strong commissioning and digital manuals company. Never thought that I would enjoy meeting clients and creating opportunities much more than I ever liked technical engineering…. it’s funny how coming to Canada really got me out of, what I guess you could say, was a bit of a rut.

Briefly highlight your career path prior to moving to Canada.

After being an apprentice Engineer for five years for Mathew Hall in London UK, I progressed from being a drafter to a designer, to an engineer to Project Manager and now, Company Director.

Preparing for the move

What did you know about your career prospects as a Commissioning Consultant in Canada?

I always knew the career prospects were good, especially given that I came here in early 2009 when things were looking pretty bleak around the world. It was all down to me to make the most of the opportunity that was handed to me, and I like to think that I have done just that.

What did you do to prepare for your move? What was the biggest challenge?

To prepare for the move, I rented our house in the UK, packed up what we wanted to bring and sold the rest. The biggest challenge in moving to Canada is that you are coming here as an immigrant (not as an expat). So you’re basically starting a new life on a fresh page…things like credit rating and car insurance are zero when you arrive and you need to be aware of this and factor it in when you move.

Had you previously worked in a foreign country?

I have lived and worked in Canada before.

Did you have a professional network in Canada prior to your move?

No, I didn’t have a professional network prior to my move – I have created it over the past five years. However, it’s a pretty easy place to work and people are receptive to what I have to say. Having a ‘funny’ accent is also a bonus as it makes you memorable.

Your professional development in Canada

How did you find your current role?

I found my original position through answering an advertisement in the CIBSE Journal; within a few months I was not only responsibility for the department but also had a separate company. Today I am part owner of that company – it has been some roller coaster ride over the past five years.

What are the key differences between your role in Canada and the UK?

The UK has a very mature construction industry compared to Canada. Canada has a lot of growing up to do when it comes to constructing buildings, especially iconic ones. However, this just means opportunity for someone with my knowledge and experience – this is the way I have always looked at it.

Was there anything you could have done prior to your move to prepare for life as a Commissioning Consultant in Canada?

Personally I don’t think there was anything I could have done prior to my move to prepare, but for someone else I would totally recommend understanding the provincial engineering regulations and what your qualifications may mean to the provincial bodies. Forewarned is forearmed – you may avoid disappointment and heartache if you do your research and understand the system.

Have your career objectives changed since you arrived?

Completely – when I first arrived, I was starting a department. Now, I am running a company and my objective now is to have a CDML Consulting Ltd. office in every province.

Working environment in Canada

Is the working environment in Canada similar or different to previous locations in which you have worked?

We have tried to create a very European-like, open environment within the CDML offices, which is completely different from the usual North American culture of cubicles. The traditional working environment in Canada is completely different to the UK and this is probably the biggest challenge immigrants will face. We have deliberately tried to make CDML a great environment to work and grow your career in without too many rules. The best description I can give you is that it’s an entrepreneurial environment.

What are the three main challenges you had to overcome to adapt to your role?

Cultural differences, travelling distances and lack of understanding of building services engineering and commissioning.

What actions did you take to help you settle into your new work environment?

Personal and professional development courses.

How is the work-life balance as a Commissioning Consultant in Canada?

My work life balance is pretty good, although I work hard as it is my company. The commute to my office is 15 minutes each way or 20 minutes by public transport; this really helps with my work life balance.

How would you rate the career prospects for newcomers in your role/industry?

The career prospects here are excellent; there is a serious lack of skilled people here which makes it the land of opportunity, if you are prepared to work hard for it.

Your lifestyle in Canada

What do you like most about Canada?

Standard of living is very high and the pace of life is slow compared to London.

What actions did you take to help you settle in Canada on a personal/family level?

Stop converting from to dollars to pounds – it is counter productive as you are paying taxes at a much lower rate here.

Try to assimilate as much as you can into understanding the Canadian culture and way of doing things – it is pretty unique… a bit like the UK used to be in the early 80s. There’s a naivety and I really like it. Also, my advice is to work at it everyday.

Do you see Canada as a long-term home?

I do see Canada as a long-term home. I have bought a house in Edmonton and my kids are settled in school here. It’s a safe place for them to grow up with lots of opportunities.

Success factors

What was the best career advice you have received?

Be the best you can be, learn from your mistakes and never let the past dictate your future.

What advice would you give to people looking for work as a Commissioning Consultant in Canada?

Soft skills are just as important, if not more, than technical knowledge. The power of communication should never be underestimated, especially when it comes to defusing a potentially difficult technical situation.

Follow Dave’s path

Interested in working in construction or engineering within Canada? Want to build a career as a Commissioning Consultant in Canada like Dave?

Read more about how Outpost Recruitment helps job seekers

Other articles in this series:

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How can I be a Client-Side Project Manager in Calgary? Our career profile of Fergal Duff.

Curious about a career as a Client-Side Project Manager in Calgary? Get a snapshot of what it’s like, thanks to this career profile of Fergal Duff.

At Outpost Recruitment, we strive to build learning tools to help newcomers be successful in Canada. We’ve invited a range of successful immigrants, across various construction and engineering roles, to share their experience in moving to Canada and growing their career.

Next up in the series, Fergal Duff chats with Ruairi Spillane and shares his experience in moving to Canada to work as Project Manager in Calgary (Owner Representative).

Fergal Duff – Project Manager in Calgary (Owner Representative)

Project Manager in Calgary

Fergal grew up on a farm in County Laois, Ireland. In 2000, he graduated from University College Dublin with a degree in Architecture. He has worked in a variety of roles related to real estate development in many countries across the world.

While still a chartered Architect, Fergal is now a full-time professional Project Manager in Calgary and since moving to Canada in 2012, he was employed as a Director with Pivotal Projects before setting up his own consulting practice, Vision Development Management.

He is based in Calgary but works on projects for clients across Canada. He is married and has a one-year old daughter. When he’s not delivering complex development projects, Fergal enjoys being a parent, driving, mountain-biking and snowboarding.

Your move to Canada

Why did you choose Canada?

Canada became a destination very suddenly and unexpectedly. In 2012, my wife and I had been living in Doha, Qatar for several years and had no immediate plans to leave. In March of that year, we got married in Houston, Texas, where my wife is from. We had invited my old boss, who had relocated to Canada. On the morning of our wedding he emailed me to say he couldn’t make it but asked if I’d be interested in joining his new team, saying: “Something to think about when you’re walking down the aisle.” Throughout that day, our guests asked us what our future plans were and we replied that we would probably stay in the Middle East, at least until my US Green Card was approved and then we would see. However, within a few months of going back to Doha, we decided the opportunity in Canada could not be declined. We arrived in Calgary in late October 2012, so it all happened quite quickly.

Was career progression or lifestyle a bigger decision factor in the decision?

The work experience I gained in Doha over a relatively short time cannot be surpassed. When I left Doha I was the Project Manager on a $2.6 billion mega project – an opportunity that rarely comes along. So, the decision to move to Canada was definitely made due to lifestyle and culture. Speaking as a European, even though it is quite a progressive country there is very limited freedom in Qatar. As a non-Arabic speaking, foreign worker, it is also a frustrating environment to live and work. Canada seemed like a good compromise between my cultural expectations and my wife’s American, yet socially liberal, sensibilities.

What made you choose Calgary?

In all the research we did about the Canadian economy while making our decision, Alberta seemed like the safest bet from an economic perspective. I was still bruised from the experience of the Global Financial Crisis and an economy closely linked to the energy industry was familiar, in terms of our experience in Qatar and our links to Houston. Initially, when we started seriously talking with Pivotal about a possible move to Canada, the likely destination was Edmonton. In the end, Calgary was chosen for us because of the projects that were in the pipeline here. It turned out to be a very good cultural fit. My wife’s parents recently moved to Colorado, so now we are in the same time zone, which helps communication.

Did you move alone?

I arrived in Canada with my wife in October 2012 and our daughter was born just under a year later. I have family in Toronto, but that was not a factor in our decision to move to Canada. 

Your education and professional experience prior to Canada

What motivated you to study Architecture?

I have always been very creative and I felt that I needed a more artistic outlet than what engineering could offer me. In fact, I remember doing a career guidance test which recommended either Art or Engineering as a career choice, so Architecture seemed like a logical compromise in university. My older sister is also a very talented architect and established her own firm shortly after registration. She was definitely an influence on my initial career choice.

To what extent did your career diverge from the original plan (if any)?

I was a good student and always did well in college, but I was never fully committed to the design aspect of the practice of Architecture. I was more interested in the implementation and delivery side and I always got along well with clients, who responded well to my no-nonsense approach. This eventually resulted in my being hired by an Australian client as a Development Manager and Design Director. I was always surprised by the number of consultants engaged on Australian projects and architects generally did a fairly ordinary job of coordinating and managing them all. It was in this role – as a Owner Representative – that I was first introduced to the concept of Project Management as a separate profession; it made sense to me.

Briefly highlight your career path prior to moving to Canada.

I worked for a successful design firm in Dublin for a few years before a mini-recession in late 2001 prompted a move to Australia in 2002. I briefly worked in Singapore as an architect on a sub-way extension and then settled in Sydney until late 2007. In that time, I moved around different architectural firms fairly frequently before joining a small boutique development company. I moved back to Ireland and gave architecture another go, joining one of the largest firms in the country in 2008. A second, somewhat more serious recession provoked my move to Doha, Qatar in 2009 where I reinvented myself as a Project Manager. In Doha, I made a significant investment in training to get my PM credentials up to speed with my experience. Later, I enrolled in an executive MBA with the Manchester Business School (Dubai), which has been an enormous benefit to my career.

Preparing for the move

What did you know about your career prospects in Canada?

I had a job pre-arranged before setting out. I would not have done it any other way.

What did you do to prepare for your move? What was the biggest challenge?

I negotiated a contract that included a generous allowance to cover our moving expenses and accommodation for the first month after our arrival. Even still, we had about nine suitcases, which were a challenge on the flight transfers! Pivotal’s HR department was very supportive in helping us get set-up, otherwise.

Did you have a professional network in Canada prior to your move?

I didn’t quite have a professional network prior to my move, but a few contacts – including, most significantly my boss, who had made the same trip about 12 months before me, so that was a great help. I inherited an extensive professional network when I joined Pivotal at work on my second day in Canada.

Your professional development in Canada

What are the key differences between your role in Canada and Qatar?

The role is similar although given the difference in scale of projects, the work is done by a smaller project management team so everyone has to be a generalist. In Doha, I managed a team of up to 48 specialized professionals on a single project. In Canada, I have five others on my team and we manage multiple projects concurrently. The level of pressure is much lower in Canada as the working environment as a Project Manager in Calgary is a lot more collaborative and not as politicized. I have about the same amount of spare time, but infinitely more choices of what to do with it.

Working environment in Canada

Is the working environment as a Project Manager in Calgary similar or different to previous locations in which you have worked?

Culturally, the working environment here in Canada is a huge improvement over the working environment in the Middle East. I definitely don’t feel like an outsider or an expat here. The optimism reminds me of Australia in the mid-2000s. However, I believe Calgary is unique in that it is very business friendly and feels like a small town, particularly in the real estate and development industry. A lot of deals are built off relationships and networking activity.

What are the three main challenges you had to overcome to adapt to your role as a Project Manager in Calgary?

Climate has been generally challenging but not to my role per se…

  1. I was very suspicious of people when I first arrived from the Middle East. It is difficult to explain the effect of spending over four years feeling like you could get fired and deported any day. It took me a while to realize that Canadians are as trustworthy and honest as they are friendly.
  2. The proclivity of developers to engage contractors on construction management contracts was surprising. There is great deal of trust between clients and contractors that I haven’t experienced before. There is always a place for CM contracts, but it would not be my default recommendation.
  3. It has been challenging to deal with some of the financial aspects of moving to Canada, particularly the access to finance as a temporary resident, despite a healthy salary.

What actions did you take to help you settle into your new work environment?

I listened a lot. I have a lot of international experience but I felt it was a good idea to learn as much as I could from the people around me. I attended as many networking events and got introduced to a lot of people the industry. This has been very valuable, especially in the context as a Project Manager in Calgary.

How is the work-life balance as a Project Manager in Calgary?

It’s fairly good. Obviously it all depends on the workload in any given week but in general I feel like I have enough spare time and lots of interesting options for spending the time.

How would you rate the career prospects for newcomers in your role/industry?

At the moment I would encourage anyone with good prospects to consider moving to Alberta. I’d rate the prospects to be reasonable. I know that we struggle to find experienced candidates when we have an open position. Unfortunately we compete with the energy industry for good PM’s. Oil and Gas companies  seem to have deeper pockets but they tend to be more volatile and have less interesting projects, so we differentiate on the basis of culture, creativity and stability.

Your lifestyle in Canada

What do you like most about Canada?

The people and the landscape are what make Canada a wonderful place to live. It is one of the safest places I’ve lived and I can’t think of a better environment for my children.

What actions did you take to help you settle in Canada on a personal/family level?

It didn’t take much in fairness, but we made a decision at the outset that we wanted to live close to the city if possible. We felt that settling in suburbia would have limited our ability to have a good social life and to integrate successfully into Canadian life.

Do you see Canada as a long-term home?

We have no reason to think otherwise. I don’t see us moving back to Ireland, but if an amazing opportunity came up in the States or somewhere in mainland Europe, I think we would give it serious consideration in a few years.

Success factors

What was the best career advice you have received?

“It is better to regret something you have done than to regret something you haven’t done.”

What advice would you give to people looking for work in your field?

Do your research. Trust professionals to give you important advice, not Facebook pages. Present yourself honestly and in the best possible light you can. Make a memorable first impression. If you have the qualifications and experience, it is only a matter of time and flexibility.

Follow Fergal’s path

Interested in working in construction or engineering within Canada? Want to build a career as a Project Manager in Calgary like Fergal?

Read more about how Outpost Recruitment helps job seekers

Other articles in this series:

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How can I be a Construction Project Manager in Edmonton? Our career profile of Colin Rigney.

Curious about a career as a Construction Project Manager in Edmonton? Get a snapshot of what it’s like, thanks to this career profile of Colin Rigney.

At Outpost Recruitment, we strive to build learning tools to help newcomers be successful in Canada. We’ve invited a range of successful immigrants, across various construction and engineering roles, to share their experience in moving to Canada and growing their career.

In this article, Colin Rigney chats with Ruairi Spillane and shares his experience in moving to Canada to work as a Construction Project Manager in Edmonton with a Main Contractor.

Colin Rigney – Construction Project Manager in Edmonton, Buildings (Main Contractor)

Colin Rigney - Construction Project Manager EdmontonHaving relocated to Canada in 2011, Colin was a Construction Project Manager in Edmonton with Clark Builders for 4.5 years before joining Chandos in 2016.

Colin previously worked as a Contracts Manager with John Paul Construction in Dublin. Colin has three small children (one true Canadian) ranging in age from 1 to 5 years old. Before life with children he was an avid scuba diver and loved to travel.

He enjoys all types of sports and since moving to Canada, he has taken up curling and plays in a rookie league in the local curling club during the winter months. During the summer he enjoys a lot of long weekends away camping with friends.

Your move to Canada

Why did you choose Canada?

When I was trying to decide where to move (during April through June of 2011), I considered several places such as:

  1. London: My view was that this market would take a nosedive after the 2012 Olympics. In addition, I didn’t fancy the long commutes in London.
  2. Middle East: I was not interested in moving my family to a country where women were treated as second-class citizens and was not interested in leaving my family in Ireland and seeing them every couple of months. Further, the Libyan and Syrian civil war had commenced and riots had just started in Bahrain.
  3. Australia: At the time, we were hearing that future growth in Australia was in jeopardy. Also, from a distance perspective Australia seemed too far for parents/siblings/friends to be able to travel to see us on a regular basis.
  4. Canada: My wife and I visited Edmonton for a week in June 2011 and it was then that we decided that we were going to move to Canada primarily due to:
    • Clark Builders and the overwhelming welcome that we received;
    • Friendliness of the people in general;
    • It was a place that we really could see ourselves living in and where we could raise our children;
    • Endless opportunities here for the entire family;
    • Perceived similar culture to Ireland; and
    • Closer distance to Ireland than Australia.

Finally we moved to Canada in September of 2011.

Was career progression or lifestyle a bigger decision factor in the decision?

Both formed an important part in the decision-making process but quality of life was definitely more important to us.

What made you choose Edmonton?

We had never heard of Edmonton until we started talking with Clark Builders. Clark Builders’ head office is based in the city, and this is where my job offer from Clark as a Construction Project Manager in Edmonton came from, so the choice was made for us!

Did you move to Canada alone?

No – my wife, my two young children and I moved to Canada together. My wife and I had always agreed that we would stay together as a family unit wherever we decided to go. We were not interested in the family staying at home and me travelling abroad to work.

Your education and professional experience prior to Canada

What motivated you to study construction?

I had always been interested in construction from a young age. My primary qualification is a degree in Civil Engineering from UCD.

To what extent did your career diverge from the original plan (if any)?

Not really much apart from the fact that I am now living and working in a different country – this was not part of the original plan!

Briefly highlight your career path prior to moving to Canada.

  • BE UCD (1997)
  • Site Engineer John Paul Construction (1997)
  • Site Engineer Noonan Construction (1998)
  • Senior Engineer John Paul Construction; completed a part time Diploma in Trinity College in Project Management at the same time (1998)
  • Construction Project Manager, John Paul Construction (2000)
  • Contracts Manager, John Paul Construction (2008)
  • Moved to Canada (2011)

Preparing for the move

What did you know about your career prospects as a Construction Project Manager in Edmonton?

I had secured a job with Clark Builders before we moved over; however, coming to a new country I knew that I would have to take step backward in order to move forward.

What did you do to prepare for your move? What was the biggest challenge?

Lots of research on the Internet and as well, Clark Builders were also a huge help. We came over to meet with Clark Builders before they made us an offer and before we decided to move. Clark Builders organised a number of appointments for us during this week including a meeting with a mortgage broker and a realtor who showed us a number of properties.

Had you previously worked in a foreign country?

I had worked in  New Jersey, USA for 4 months on J1 Student VISA.

Did you have a professional network in Canada prior to your move?

None, apart from the contacts we had in Clark Builders.

Your professional development as a Construction Project Manager in Edmonton

How did you find your current role?

I was approached by a recruiter in Ireland who was recruiting on behalf of Clark Builders.

What are the key differences between your role in Canada and Ireland?

  • The majority of prime contracts here in Canada are either Construction Management or Lump Sum contracts, whereas most contracts in Ireland are based on BOQs (Bill of Quantities) and are typically re-measurable. I have personally not come across BOQs here in Edmonton.
  • Relationships, roles, responsibilities and reporting requirements are quite different on Construction Management contracts.
  • The project management (PM) role here is a lot more financially orientated and financially hands-on with primary responsibility for compilation and issuance of budgets and forecasts etc. to clients/owners and internal company reporting. Most of this role is fulfilled by a quantity surveyor (QS) in Ireland whilst the PM will manage the overall process; the PM will review the budgets and forecasts but not actually produce them.
  • The majority of subcontracts are lump sum and most PM’s will typically tender and award each subcontract package themselves.
  • Winter construction and seasonal work in Alberta means you take on a big learning curve and is something that we don’t deal with in Ireland. We typically don’t pour concrete in Ireland below +5 degree Celsius; we pour concrete in Alberta into the high minus teens!

Was there anything you could have done prior to your move to prepare?

Learn Canadian! We had done a lot of preparation and research and suppose the only thing to do next, was actually move and grab the bull by the horns and go for it!

Working environment in Canada

Is the working environment as a Construction Project Manager in Edmonton similar or different to previous locations in which you have worked?

It is similar to Ireland in the boom years – good positive and dynamic environment to work in.

What are the main challenges you had to overcome to adapt to your role?

  1. Adjust to a new company’s management style and expectations.
  2. Big learning curve on the financial reporting and forecasting side of things
  3. Winter Construction
  4. Subtrade scope delineation is somewhat different.

What actions did you take to help you settle into your new work environment?

Asking my colleagues plenty of questions!

How is the work-life balance in your profession?

I would guess that work-life balance in the construction industry in general is not good but it is also my view that this is really dependent on two key drivers:

  1. Company Ethos
  2. Personal Preference and Time Management

Clark Builders promote a good work-life balance and I personally have always maintained a good work-life balance – work to live rather than live to work!

How would you rate the career prospects for newcomers in your role/industry?

The construction industry is booming here in Alberta so there is a lot of potential to gain some great experience for future career growth. Also, there will always be construction in some part of the world!

Your lifestyle in Canada

What do you like most about Canada?

The genuineness of the people, the Rockies, camping (hard-core tenting style), Alexander Keith’s (Canadian beer) and curling!

What actions did you take to help you settle in Canada on a personal/family level?

Get out there, get acquainted and make friends and get a good babysitter!

Do you see Canada as a long-term home?

That is the Million Dollar Question… who knows what the future holds?

Success factors

What was the best career advice you have received?

If you are going to do something, do it with a smile or it will take all the good out of it.

What advice would you give to people looking for work in your field?

I will answer this in terms of Construction Project Managers looking to relocate to Canada;

  • Come with an open mind and be prepared to take a step back for a year or so until you adapt to the PM role here in Canada. This will also probably be reflected in your initial offer in terms of starting salary.
  • There is a good contingent of Irish people and other nationalities now living and working in Canada. Reach out and connect – you will generally know someone who knows somebody who can give good advice about a company you are dealing with or an area that you are looking to relocate to. LinkedIn is a good resource for this.
  • Be prepared to make some lifestyle changes as it may take up to 18 to 24 months or so to become financially stable; this is very much dependent on personal circumstances. There are a lot of initial out-lay costs which is inherently associated with any major relocation.

Follow Colin’s path

Interested in working in construction or engineering within Canada? Want to build a career as a Construction Project Manager in Edmonton like Colin?

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How can I be a Mechanical Engineer in Canada? Our career profile of Eoghan Hayes.

Curious about a career as a Mechanical Engineer in Canada? Get a snapshot of what it’s like, thanks to this career profile of Eoghan Hayes.

At Outpost Recruitment, we strive to build learning tools to help newcomers be successful in Canada. We’ve invited a range of successful immigrants, across various construction and engineering roles, to share their experience in moving to Canada and growing their career.

In the latest of our series, Eoghan Hayes chats with Ruairi Spillane and shares his experience in moving to work as a Mechanical Engineer in Canada.

Eoghan Hayes – Mechanical Engineer in Canada.

Mechanical Engineer in Canada: Eoghan HayesEoghan moved to Vancouver from Ireland in 2007.

In 2005, he graduated from Dublin Institute of Technology, Bolton Street, with a degree in Building Services Engineering and a Diploma in Electrical Services Engineering.

Since moving to Canada, Eoghan has gained extensive consulting experience in mechanical HVAC and plumbing design and building computer energy simulation, before setting up his own consulting company in 2014.

Eoghan believes the industry today is designing backwards and his business addresses the needless divide between mechanical HVAC design and energy modelling simulation.

His consulting firm, Ions Engineering, integrates these functions and combined as part of his approach to the integrated design process ensuring the building energy systems perform in reality as they have been modeled and designed.

Eoghan has demonstrated significant cost and energy saving results using energy modeling as a design tool throughout his career.

When Eoghan is not pushing the boundaries to come up with new innovative ways of saving energy he enjoys running, reading and socializing and spending time with his girlfriend.

Your move to Canada

I moved to Canada on December 13, 2006 with two college friends.

My friends and I had previously traveled on J1 visas to Boston. We decided to go to Vancouver as everyone seemed to be going to Australia and we wanted to go somewhere different. We wanted to go somewhere that had a summer (so that we could lie on the beach) and a winter where there was snow.

Our plan was to come to Canada for a year and then go to Australia for year and then move home to Ireland. Eight years later and phase two of the plan has yet to be implemented!

Your education and professional experience prior to Canada

I completed an honours degree in Building Services Engineering in DIT Bolton Street in 2005 and a diploma in Electrical Services engineering in DIT Kevin Street two years prior.

Prior to traveling to Canada I wanted to get some work experience in engineering at home as I knew it would be easier to secure employment abroad with experience, versus just coming over right out of college. I worked at home for 18 months prior to moving to Canada.

Working in construction in Ireland from 2005 to 2006 was great as I was able to gain valuable experience in the workplace that you just don’t get in an educational environment.

This included working with some great architects and engineers and getting to know how the construction business in Ireland operated; in addition, I got to use both of the educational qualifications which I was not able to do once I moved to become a Mechanical Engineer in Canada.

In Vancouver, engineering consultancies do not have combined teams of electrical and mechanical engineers; teams either focus solely on mechanical or electrical design.

This seemed counter-intuitive to the integrated design process many consultancies advertise as part of their service offerings to clients. In the end, as part of my first interview here I chose to be Mechanical Engineer in Canada as it was a steeper learning curve and typically has a greater impact, energy-wise, on the amount of energy a building consumes.

I still miss electrical engineering to this day, but thankfully in my new role I’m starting to use my electrical knowledge more and more.

Preparing for the move

Prior to moving, I knew with the Winter Olympics being hosted in Vancouver in early 2010 that the construction industry would be busy in Vancouver. Having said that, it still took nearly seven weeks to secure employment in Vancouver; this was mainly due to the time of the year.

Also, the industry can be quite close-knit, so if you don’t have a contact in a company or in the industry it can be hard to get a start. Networking is critical for finding employment as a Mechanical Engineer in Canada.

I brought some college notes over I knew I would use as the engineering programs studied in DIT are very industry specific and you actually do end up referring to college notes to execute day-to-day tasks and calculations. I also emailed some companies here prior to coming to Canada and updated my resume (CV).

I had worked in Boston on three J1 visas from 2002 to 2004 in a restaurant and a bike shop so I had a bit of knowledge on North American culture.

This was great experience as I had a really great mentor in the bike shop who taught me valuable customer service lessons that are key to effectively communicating in North America. His bike shop is located on a street with two competing bike shops located either side of his bike shop, to this day he still runs a very successful business and has remained open for over 83 years.

Your professional development in Canada

At first my current role was very hard to settle into. I thought Canada was on the metric system prior to moving here – it is, but because of its close proximity to the US, the industry uses both metric and imperial units and it can be hard to translate between the two in your head.

There was steep learning curve initially, but after about six to eight months I got the hang of it and adapted to the industry here.

Thankfully, I got to work on some very interesting projects in Vancouver: a 25-storey high-rise office that is LEED platinum rated; and VanDusen Botanical Gardens, a visitor’s center building that is targeting net zero energy and water on site. I also got to work with some great engineers from Canada, Serbia and England who have over 80 years of experience combined.

After four years of working for a consultancy, I decided to move into retrofitting of existing buildings with geo-exchange energy. During this time I got to project manage a large geo-exchange project and design the first mechanical geo-exchange retrofit of an existing high-rise building in Canada.

With eight years of working in Canada and knowledge of new and existing building system mechanical design I decided to set up my own computer-based building energy modeling simulation company to bridge the gap between computer building energy simulation and how buildings actually perform in reality.

At first I intended to work for one company and move up the corporate ladder, however after four years at both companies I concluded I can make a greater impact to building owners (clients) and design teams if I was part of an independent energy simulation company, with no vested interest in any particular renewable technology, system type or outcome.

Working environment as an Mechanical Engineer in Canada

The main challenge I had to overcome in my role was accepting how hard design engineers are expected to work here.

The construction industry is ruthless and project deadlines must be met. Sometimes engineers (who have no training or experience in this arena) get promoted to project management positions.

As a result, proper mentoring and project planning tend to be compromised. They have to endure long hours of overtime and lots of stress is put on them and the engineers on the team they are managing (or should I say, mismanaging).

Right now, the industry is so busy that it is hard to get a proper work-life balance unless you demand it and schedule your time properly. You need to learn to manage up in this industry and make you sure you allocate timeframes in your calendar for all tasks.

I found it was easier to open up my calendar and ask project managers which tasks you want to divert to a later date, rather than to just say I’m busy working on ‘X’. This way you throw the ball in their court and encourage them to project manage more effectively.

Working in engineering consultancy can be very challenging, especially when you first move to Canada and need to get up to speed on local codes and standards.

I spent many hours doing overtime to ensure I was getting up to speed on these areas so I was less stressed out and was more of a benefit to my employer (who at the time, was sponsoring my permanent residency application).

You also need to do some work on getting up to speed here. Learning is your responsibility, nobody else’s. It’s up to you to get the information you need to execute your job; a good mentor will point you to where to find it but they won’t learn it for you.

I say this as I have seen many young engineers blame senior engineers on not being mentored properly or being taught properly. If you don’t know something, find the answer yourself – this is something you learned or should have come across in university and the industry is no different.

Career prospects are excellent for anyone wishing to be an Electrical or Mechanical Engineer in Canada at the moment. The city is very green-conscious and wants to be the greenest city in North America by 2020. This is a big challenge, especially with the current rate of property development in the Lower Mainland.

Your lifestyle in Canada

The lifestyle is what I like about Canada the most, and how close everything is in Vancouver. I used to spend nearly three hours commuting to and from work in Dublin; in Vancouver my travel time is, on average, 30 minutes each day.

The scenery and the amenities in the city are great; in addition I feel very safe here, there is little to no crime except bicycle theft and handbag snatching from cars.

It’s a very easy city with lots to do and lots of events on all the time. The city does not really feel like a city, it’s very small and condensed compared to other North American cities.

More of my friends from college moved over here in 2008 and 2009 and are still here. This definitely helped as it is always better to have friends with you from home and you can help one another out and can relate to one another better.

At present I do call Canada home, but I would not rule out of the possibility of returning home to Ireland (especially if I have a family one day). For the moment, though, I can’t think of a better place to be at this stage of my life.

Success factors

What was the best career advice you have received?
Work hard and smart, if you don’t know something go and find the answer and take on what you want achieve, don’t blame others for anything.

If you don’t like something change it, don’t complain about it.

What advice would you give to people looking for work as a Mechanical Engineer in Canada?

Make sure your resume is specific not just to not just the industry but also the job you are going for. Network, network and network.

There is a great Irish community here that can help make your journey of gaining successful employment easier.

One of the great aspects of Irish culture is our desire to help our neighbours – don’t forget this when you leave Ireland. There is a reason there is an Irish pub in every country and major city in the world.

Follow Eoghan’s path

Interested in working in construction or engineering within Canada? Want to build a career like Eoghan’s and be a Mechanical Engineer in Canada?

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How can I be a Commercial Business Manager in Canada? Our career profile of Richard Shipway.

At Outpost Recruitment, we strive to build learning tools to help newcomers be successful in Canada. We’ve invited a range of successful immigrants, across various construction and engineering roles, to share their experience in moving to Canada and growing their career.

In the latest of our series, Richard Shipway chats with Ruairi Spillane and shares his experience in moving to Canada and his wide-ranging career.

Commercial Business Manager in CanadaRichard Shipway – Commercial Business Manager in Canada – Axiom Builders

Richard was born in the UK, and emigrated to Vancouver in 1997. Richard and his wife have settled in North Vancouver.

Richard is strongly involved in the Vancouver Regional Construction Association (VRCA).

Over his twenty years in the Vancouver construction market, Richard has worked with Altus Group, Ledcor and Axiom Builders.

Your move to Canada

Why did you choose Canada?

My great uncle had immigrated to Red Deer, Alberta, 80 years ago so I was always curious about Canada.

I came to Canada for the first time on vacation 21 years ago with my wife, and did a road trip around British Columbia and Alberta taking in the Rockies. It was absolutely spectacular and reinforced our wish to live in such a beautiful, clean, vibrant city.

We decided we both needed a new challenge, and we focused on living in Vancouver.

Was career progression or lifestyle a bigger decision factor in the decision?

Definitely lifestyle. When I lived in the UK, I spent up to four hours commuting each day and worked a 12-hour day. I had lots of money but no lifestyle.

What made you choose Vancouver?

We fell in love with Vancouver when we visited. The weather in Vancouver seemed to be very similar to what we were used to in the UK, given it doesn’t get too harsh winters like other parts of Canada. We also knew that Vancouver was a very progressive city so there would be lots of opportunity. And of course, the people: friendly, welcoming, and diverse.

Did you move alone?

I moved with my new wife, just five days after our wedding in December 1997. Canada was going to be a long-term honeymoon for us.

Your education and professional experience prior to Canada

What motivated you to study Quantity Surveying?

I spent my summers as a teenager working in construction.

When I left school, I worked with a general contractor, gaining lots of experience in various roles in the company. After doing some estimating, I thought being a QS was the best fit for me.

I changed companies and was employed as a QS with a day at University. After two years, I had gained a diploma. Afterwards, I went to university full-time for two years to gain my degree in Quantity Surveying, and RICS designation.

To what extent did your career diverge from the original plan (if any)?

Having started as a labourer for a summer job with a contractor, my career evolved as each new opportunity was found or presented itself.

It’s always important to be flexible and willing to try new things. You never know where you will end up.

Briefly highlight your career path prior to moving to Canada.

1991 – 1995 > QS consultancy
1996 – 1997 > Senior QS with Takenaka (UK)
1998 – 2003 > Cost Consultant with Altus Group in Vancouver
2003 – 2009 > Senior PM with Ledcor Group
2009 – 2017 > Project Director with Ledcor Group
2017 – Present > Commercial Business Manager in Canada with Axiom Builders

Preparing for the move

What did you know about your career prospects in Canada?

Very little. I was 30 years old and keen for adventure so promised myself to give a two-year minimum trial. Doing some research at home, I sent out half a dozen prospective resumes and made some initial contact to various potential employers.

What did you do to prepare for your move? What was the biggest challenge?

Speaking with other British expats was very useful in terms of understanding how things differ between the UK and Canada. Being open to working quite differently and embracing it was crucial to my success in Canada from a work perspective. Always being humble and respectful.

Had you previously worked in a foreign country?

No, and hadn’t really ever considered it either.

Did you have a professional network in Canada prior to your move?

No. I had chatted with one individual prior to my move, but had no solid contacts in Canada. When we arrived, we knew nobody at all.

Your professional development in Canada

How did you find your current role?

I was contacted by an industry recruiter I had known for many years about an opportunity to lead a new division in an existing leading general contractor. After several months of discussion, I started in my new role – re-energized, and excited to start something new.

Was there anything you could have done prior to your move to prepare?

Selling my house in the UK prior to my move would have made things much easier. I would strongly encourage anyone moving to wrap up your business at home first. It’s a big move changing countries and there’s lots to learn and enjoy – so to concentrate on that is enough for anyone.

Have your career objectives changed since you arrived?

Totally. I’m now involved in various construction associations and represent my company at many levels, so my role is much more political and industry-shaping. Promoting the construction industry with children is something I really enjoy and I’m also involved in more volunteering and a diversified field of mentoring.

Working environment in Canada

Is the working environment in Canada similar or different to previous locations in which you have worked? ?

There was little quality of life for me working in the UK 20 years ago, but I hope things may have changed. Canada has a great work-life balance, and there is a strong emphasis on networking, especially in Vancouver. It’s considered OK to leave the office at 6pm and leaving before your boss!

Canada is a large country, so different experiences are available in different areas. The principles of collaboration, hard work, humility, respect, and fun remain.

What are the three main challenges you had to overcome to adapt to your role?

  • Re-inventing myself as a Project Manager as my background was as a QS.
  • Networking, and lots of it – it’s all about who you know in Vancouver.
  • Different approach to business, processes, and procedures, much more relaxed and people-centric.

What actions did you take to help you settle into your new work environment?

  • Research in the form of informational interviews,
  • Networking – meeting as many people as possible,
  • Getting involved in as many events and organizations as I could,
  • Being open to learn, especially in a different way. Asking questions more often.

How is the work-life balance in your profession?

Great. The focus here is on getting the job done instead of clock watching. Titles are much more irrelevant, as are qualifications on business cards, and we generally work as a team to succeed.

How would you rate the career prospects for newcomers in your role/industry??

Very strong. The workload continues to be strong in Canada, leading the world in P3’s, for example. It’s a very stable and secure country with strong growth, and plenty of room for opportunities and innovation.

The industry actively recognizes more qualified people are required in all roles, and is much more sophisticated in its growth and training opportunities.

Your lifestyle in Canada

What do you like most about Canada?

  • Safe, clean, happy country.
  • Lots of opportunity here with a strong stable economy.
  • It’s a young country which means there is lots of innovation, heavily backed by the federal government.
  • Lots of exciting construction projects taking place, innovative and world-leading.
  • The business environment is very much people-focused with a strong emphasis on networking.

What actions did you take to help you settle in Canada on a personal/family level?

Focusing on my kids really helped me integrate, by taking part in schools and activities.

Getting involved and enjoying the place I live in. Being a tourist is okay even when you live here.

Do you see Canada as a long-term home?

I’ve been here for 19 years now, so yes! I have had offers from other parts of the world but it’s difficult to leave Vancouver. It’s a beautiful, secure place, full of opportunity and a real life balance. My two sons were born here, and even though we have travelled extensively, this is still home.

Success factors

What was the best career advice you have received?

Be humble, respectful, and treat people well. Respect, listen and seek advice from others.

What advice would you give to people looking for work in your field?

  • Your word and integrity are extremely important in Canada. Building strong relationships and networking to build your contacts will help you succeed
  • Don’t reinvent your career before you come here. Get established here before you make any career changes.
  • Be patient and have a 5-year plan
  • Move for lifestyle and not $$

Follow Richard’s path

Interested in working in construction or engineering within Canada? Want to build a career like Richard Shipway’s?

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