Scheme to draw new Canadians into construction eases skills shortage

CIOB representatives in the greater Toronto area have joined a Canadian government scheme called ACCES to help newcomers to the country gain accreditation as construction professionals and match them with skills-hungry employers.

Candidates in their hundreds as well as the province’s top employers have expressed interest in the initiative, which helps establish people in their careers, ease Ontario’s skills shortage and grow CIOB membership all at the same time.

GCR spoke to organiser, Hamza Momade MCIOB, to find out what’s going on.

GCR: What is the ACCES Engineering Connection programme?

HM: It’s sponsored by the Canadian government to help new arrivals gain accreditation in a variety of professions so they can start working in their field as quickly as possible. Participants attend academic sessions for six weeks. In the construction stream, that includes workshops on local engineering codes, health, safety and project management principles. It meets the criteria for 35 hours of project management training, which allows participants to sit a professional examination after completing the course.

Every session ends with a networking event that the CIOB is now actively a part of, which allows course graduates to meet industry leaders. CIOB helps potential members embark on the journey to chartered status.

The CIOB fills a gap for ACCES because most of the professional certifications in Canada require two to three years’ local experience, whereas MCIOB can be started and completed before landing in Canada, and it’s a global qualification.

GCR: How many potential candidates are there?

HM: Every six-week session includes 25 to 40 participants who can potentially become chartered CIOB members. To get on the ACCES programme, you must have a minimum of a Master’s degree and two years’ work experience.

Participants come from all over the world, including India, Pakistan, Jordan, Syria, Yemen, Jamaica, Hong Kong, Venezuela and Brazil, to name a few.

It is a win-win outcome because it allows candidates to join a global community, adds credibility to their skills, and opens the door for job opportunities. For the CIOB, it boosts membership and awareness. Employers get to meet skilled candidates who are ready to work, a plus for them because Canada is experiencing a major skills shortage in construction.

GCR: How have you promoted the programme?

HM: The CIOB’s partnership with ACCES was setup last year by myself, Andrew Gordon, and CIOB Hub team at Toronto. I completed the Engineering programme as a newcomer in Toronto two years ago and saw a great opportunity for the CIOB.

In the last quarter of 2021 we held two webinars to tell people about the programme, with one in October attended by 183 participants.

Marcus Gillam, owner of Gillam Group, a top 100 Canadian construction company has spoken at our events, as have candidates who’ve been through the programme, and Helen Patel, the CIOB’s representative who explained the value of CIOB chartered designations and the steps to them. We’ll hold two of these a year.

The next one, titled “Understanding the challenges faced in the Canadian Construction Industry”, will be held on 29 April.

GCR: Are construction companies getting involved?

HM: Yes. We’ve had strong interest and participation from industry leaders. Recent participants include from Gillam Group, a top 100 construction firm, Toronto’s transit agency Metrolinx, Turner & Townsend, Gordon & Gordon, Altus Group, Fairmark Contracting and others.

GCR: How many people have obtained CIOB membership through this route so far?

HM: Since the partnership began we’ve had one person attain chartered designation, Ojeiu Ohiosimuan (“Ojay”), originally from Nigeria, who was hired by a civil construction company within a month of gaining CIOB membership.

Five more are completing their professional review programme. The CIOB hub in Toronto has received lots of enquiries, and my Linkedin is flooded with queries from candidates.

I’m happy to see that this initiative is working so well, but there is a lot more work to do.

Meet the people taking part

Hajar Elidrissi, 28, from Morocco, arrived in Canada with a Master’s in civil engineering and more than five years’ experience in maritime, industrial maintenance, heavy civil and residential projects.

Finding a position that aligned with her technical background without local experience would have been a challenge, but ACCES helped and within three months of arriving in Canada she landed a role on a major residential development in the city of Kitchener, Ontario.

Obadah Aldalaty, 41, from Syria, has a Bachelor’s degree in civil engineering and construction management. He worked for 16 years on high-end commercial and residential projects all over the Gulf region, the wider Middle East, North Africa, Turkey and Europe.

He moved to Toronto in January 2021 and enrolled in the ACCES programme, where CIOB members helped him expand his professional network. In April 2021, Obadah joined Crosslinx Transit Solutions as senior project coordinator for civil and structural work on two stations of the Eglinton Crosstown LRT in Toronto, one of Ontario’s biggest transit projects.

Ojeiu “Ojay” Ohiosimuan, 40, from Nigeria, is a certified project manager with a Master’s civil engineering and construction management.

He moved to Canada in 2021 with more than 10 years’ project experience, but had trouble establishing his credentials in Canada.

Through ACCES he met CIOB members who guided him through the process of accreditation, and within a month of receiving his chartered designation he was hired as a project manager by a civil construction company in Ontario.

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