Richard Lyall / RESCON
Construction is no longer a career path just for men. Just ask Lisa Bell, the most recent recipient of RESCON’s scholarship at The Centre for Skills Development and Training in Burlington.
Six years ago, the 37-year-old resident of Mississauga left her job in marketing and decided she needed a career change.
The mother of four went to an employment centre and took an aptitude test to find out what she’d be good at: she told RESCON that she knew the answer all along – construction.
RESCON scholarship recipient Lisa Bell of Mississauga poses with RESCON VP Andrew Pariser at The Centre for Skills Development and Training in Burlington.
While raising three children, she committed herself to getting some part-time experience in the industry, taking odd jobs as an electrical assistant running wire, as a painter, and then as a sub-contractor marketer for a concrete business.
“I’ve always been interested in fixing things,” says Bell, whose children are 20, 7, 5 and 2 years old. “I’ve wanted to do it for so long.”
So she continued to apply to The Centre for Skills Development and Training in Burlington to kickstart her career. For about 15 years, The Centre has had a specialized program called the Women in Skilled Trades (WIST) program. About 80 per cent of the 200 graduates who have come through find a job in their chosen career within six months, says Lorna Hart, The Centre’s business development manager.
Last year was a breakthrough year for Lisa. She was accepted into the 29-week WIST program, impressing her instructors and classmates with an 80% academic score, and was honoured with RESCON’s WIST program bursary. “I couldn’t believe they chose me for the award,” she said at the time.
She said her eldest daughter, Keyanna, who has been “one of my biggest supporters, cried just like I did” over the RESCON award.
'THRILLED TO GET INTO THE PROGRAM'
“I was just thrilled to get into the program. You get to build a house from the ground up in the facility; you build in the foundation and flooring, and panelling and walls, and then the finishing, trim, doors and windows … it’s everything that I wanted.”
Other areas of study in the program include: painting and interior finishes, stairs, siding, construction and applied theory, Energy Star building practices, drywall installation and repair, blueprint reading and the Ontario Building Code.
Her success has continued to snowball since then – a week after graduating the program last fall, she was hired as a lead hand with Remodex, a Brampton-based renovation and construction company. There, she has been installing tile, baseboards, laminating flooring and quarter round, as well as demolition.
Hart says no one at The Centre or within WIST is surprised by Bell’s success.
“Her program instructors describe Lisa as being very inquisitive and engaged,” Hart says. “She has an authentic desire to learn, works well independently and applies herself fully.”
Even as a child, Lisa was enthralled with learning how to fix anything.
“We would have someone come over to fix my mom’s stove or car battery and I would sit and watch people do it. When I was 12 years old, the bathroom was being redone and I sat there for eight hours with the contractor, watching him tile the entire bathroom after putting up the waterproof board behind the tiles,” she says. “It was awesome.”
Despite her foray into marketing – she graduated from Sheridan College with a business administration and marketing diploma – she knows she is now on the right career path.
"Supporting WIST and Lisa is an easy decision as the results speak for themselves," says Andrew Pariser, RESCON vice-president. "In Ontario, we are currently experiencing a skills gap in residential construction and without meaningful programs like this one, the economy will fail to live up to its full potential. Over the next 10 years, we will need to hire more than 100,000 skilled construction workers in the GTHA. Success stories like Lisa's should inspire all parties involved to make the required changes which will ultimately benefit employees, employers, the economy and government."
UPDATE ON LAST YEAR’S WINNER: Last year’s RESCON scholarship recipient, Heather Turner, has been hired as a carpenter apprentice with Master Homes in Burlington. Heather starts her first round of classroom training for her carpenter’s apprenticeship at Mohawk College in Stoney Creek. She has strong feelings about what women give to the construction workforce: “We’re more inclined to speak up when we have issues. We’re more inquisitive, we like to prepare and getting feedback helps. The key is, every day, you get a little more confident in yourself.”
For more information about our partner, The Centre for Skills Development & Training and their WIST program, please visit www.thecentre.on.ca.
Richard Lyall, president of RESCON, has represented the building industry in Ontario since 1991. He is also a frequent speaker and writer on issues related to the construction industry. Contact him @RESCONprez or at firstname.lastname@example.org.