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.