Constructive Conversations

Constructive Conversations #3: Boyd Kampen of Saskatchewan’s Impact Energy Services

Boyd Kampen is a Saskatchewan native who started Impact Energy Services along with his partner Tyler Gilchrist. Boyd was interested in energy and construction since he was a young boy and always knew he wanted to make an impact on his community. In fact, when talking about his business he remarked that “it’s much bigger than maybe making money at the end of the day.” For Boyd, supporting local businesses is the best way to keep the community thriving and ensuring that their neighbours, soccer coaches, and friends are able to operate another day.

It is fitting then that when Boyd first opened Impact Energy Services he did it with an old friend who still lived in the Saskatchewan area still. While Boyd moved away to Calgary for a brief period of time, once the duo decided to start a business he quickly came home to the region that he wanted to impact. To start their business they had to get a small loan from a local bank and do a lot of marketing. He mentioned a sign on the road and that they did extensive marketing and still didn’t have a lot of work that first year because they were just trying to get established and get their name out.

Boyd went on to explain that right now is the first time in years that they are a “referral business” and don’t need to worry about marketing, and they are proud to be “a community member with a big history.” Not to say they haven’t had challenges along the way. Unlike other construction and trade businesses where employees are hired and then laid off based on projects, they feel indebted to their employees. They even have some employees who have been with them for 10+ years which is virtually unheard of, but Boyd treasures the community they work in.

In fact, he commented that when the “work slows up, you take it upon your shoulders to be like we need to figure this out” and it is what “keeps me up at night and always will.

Outside of creating steady work for long-term employees, Body mentions that the very structure of Impact Energy Services has been a challenge. Unlike other companies with one specialty, his business offers electrical, plumbing, instrumentation, HVAC contractors, and new construction. However, he explains the wide array of options stating “you need to have a broad range of skill sets” and “it’s something you can’t get in a rush to be with.” They handle it by maintaining separate teams and separate project manners so that projects can be managed one-by-one efficiently and smoothly.

Other challenges currently facing Canada and in particular Saskatchewan according to Boyd are the new sustainable directions of energy. Solar and wind are on the table and there are a lot of renewable energy projects on the horizon. He commented they have been doing a lot of solar projects and the “new microreactor technology looks very exciting.” Given the smaller nature of the Northern Communities, he is just “excited about the way the energy sector is going to go.”

Despite his eye towards the future, one of Boyd’s favorite projects is still the work his team did for Mainline Motors in Rosetown back near the start of the company. He loves driving by it daily and looking at the great building they helped perfect and the “great group of owners” they worked with. This reflects his final comments, that when you start planning business, you need to think “what are you going to leave behind… what’s going to be your mark.” His only real mission in life is to create a place “employees are proud to come to work every day.”

Constructive Conversations #2: Chris Gardner of British Columbia’s ICBA

Chris Gardner may have graduated with a law degree from The University of British Columbia, but it is clear from the way he discusses the construction industry that construction is his first love. Today Chris uses his law background to help spur policy changes that will open up the construction industry in Canada and ensure that all workers within the field are properly represented and cared for.

For the past four years, Chris has served the President of the Independent Contractors and Businesses Association (ICBA) and actively takes on policy development work, ensures employees have access to health and retirement plans and encourages new graduates to actively consider a career within the construction industry. He believes that Canada offers “tremendous opportunities for young people pursuing a career in the trades” and that “the opportunities in construction are significant.”

Chris is also careful to point out that while the construction industry was hurt by the pandemic, as were all areas of industry, it was able to continue onwards and was labeled an essential service. This allowed men and women within the field to continue to work and support their families. This essential service designation makes it an even more stable industry to consider as a new graduate leading Chris to note it’s “exciting” and “doesn’t get the attention that I think the sector deserves.”

One of the primary goals of Chris’ role at ICBA is to ensure that women and men receive proper benefits and support throughout their careers in the British Columbia region. He added that they are a large sponsor of Trades Apprentice and “there’s nothing more important right now than finding workers.” In addition to external pressures such as COVID-19, the sector is working hard to attract new younger workers and he feels that strong benefits and stability is the best way to do so.

The pandemic actually proved how stable the construction industry is noticing that while 15% of overall activity was down, most projects continued onwards. One of the reasons for this is “construction consultants are good at mobilizing people and equipment and maintaining a schedule to get a project to completion.”

One of the largest issues facing the construction industry is the red tape that surrounds construction permits, and that is one area where Chris and ICBA are trying to create stronger policy. Canada is a G7 economy but it ranked number 64 for the length of time to get a construction permit and that is disappointing and an “embarrassing statistic.” However, it is something that can be fixed and corrected, and it’s a chief concern for the ICBA.

However, what ICBA is focused on now is balancing a new workforce that is diverse and dynamic. Women and immigrants are key demographics and the industry is working hard to show that the industry is a place with room for “stellar growth,” stability, benefits, and something for every single person.

Constructive Conversations #1 – Tanya Worms of Manitoba’s MD Steele

Our first episode of Constructive Conversations interviews Tanya Worms, a woman making a difference in Manitoba construction.

Tanya Worms never expected to spend her life creating bridges, but today she is a very accomplished senior project manager and engineer at MD Steele, a proud member of the Merit Contractors Association of Manitoba.

She regularly helps build bridges and supervises dozens of other infrastructure projects across Manitoba and loves the chance to get out on the job site and really watch the designs she works on come to life. For her, working at a company that is locally owned by Manitoba construction crews creates a dynamic work atmosphere.

Tanya describes the company as “family-owned – not family-owned, like a small community-style of a construction company.” In her own words, the company is in its “third generation of ownership” and with a younger leader, MD Steele is reinventing itself and growing which makes it a fun place to be at the moment.

That spirit of change is an inspiring thing for Tanya, who has spent a great deal of her life working towards the project manager role while helping other young women rise along with her. While her background is as a transportation engineer, working at MD Steele has allowed her to grow working in many diverse industries including bridge works, woad works, mining, and concrete works.

Tanya welcomes a good challenge and enjoys major logistical challenges like working with utilities and overseeing complex projects that involve maintaining traffic and pedestrian walkways at the same time.

At the same time, she notes that one of the obstacles facing her industry and MD Steele is challenging young people to view construction as a lifetime career. She actively gives back to the community working for several mentoring organizations to try to get the word out that “we are never going to run out of a deficit of infrastructure” which means “there’s always going to be a revenue stream.”

Another goal of hers is to attract more women engineers to the construction field noting that as a woman engineer in construction. She says, “you sometimes feel that you’re on the outside looking in.” Despite this, she considers herself lucky that she has always had great mentors even though all of them were males. However, the industry is great for those with a mathematical mind and a thirst for problem-solving, which is why she teaches a project management class several times a year to encourage young women to move into the engineering field.

Tanya clearly loves her field noting that when she teaches she is a tactile teacher and that she loves “getting people excited about what you get excited about gets people excited about doing it.”

The stability of construction engineering and the fact “there is always going to be work” should attract those who want a solid career in these challenging times, and she has no plan to leave MD Steele anytime soon. In fact, her dream is to one day build a massive bridge over a giant canyon.

With her hard work ethic and experience, it’s probably only a matter of time before her dream becomes reality.