BY SHANNON MONEO - When Robyn Quinn took over as manager of education and communication for the Vancouver Island Construction Association (VICA) one year ago, she had a few items on her wish list, including the creation of a leadership program specifically for the construction industry.
So, in July she organized a half-day focus group to find out what would make a useful program.
Using that feedback, and customized content from the B.C. Institute of Technology (BCIT), the inaugural Corporate Leadership in Construction Series will launch on Oct. 15 in Victoria.
It will be the first program in B.C. to groom construction industry employees (everyone from engineers to carpenters) in the demanding art of leadership.
"The course is designed to help those from a purely academic background to become more grounded and also for those on the ground working to become more unfettered in their goal to become a leader," said Quinn, an accredited public relations professional.
"It will be a viable opportunity to understand the leadership role in construction. It's good for those who want to move into strategic positions."
Aware of the work around leadership training that BCIT had done with the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters group, Quinn approached BCIT to see if it could create a construction-focused program.
Key to the course was that it shouldn't be academically-focused and that learners, busy at their jobs, didn't have to make a significant time investment.
Veronica Madore, manager of corporate and industry training for BCIT's School of Business, had overseen programs for manufacturers in the Lower Mainland.
With the assistance from several teachers, Madore's team customized the manufacturers' content for VICA.
Modifying what worked for manufacturers to what was applicable for construction wasn't that difficult, she said.
Typically, people come to a trades-type program with a hands-on background, and aren't ready to supervise.
They've worked their way up to be a great plumber or machinist, for example, and suddenly they're asked to be a boss.
The problem is that they often lack management or leadership skills.
The other similarity is that whether it be construction, manufacturing or transportation, there's a growing need for individuals to develop more skills within their own company due to succession planning and large numbers of retirements, Madore said.
While some people are the proverbial "born leaders," Madore said that teachers can "Work with people to help them recognize what it takes to be leader-like," in a non-theoretical way.
Learners are also taught what it takes to be part of a team.
They also realize that they can learn from one another and others' experiences.
"There are huge benefits from cross-learning," Madore said.
"People come out with great a-ha moments."
When the half-day focus group was held in July, the dozen participants, representing Vancouver Island construction companies, were given what Quinn calls, a tasting sample of the program.
Asked to think about, "What is leadership?", they broke into teams where they were given scenarios related to leadership.
One week after the session, Quinn called each of the participants to ask them whether a course on construction leadership was viable and whether the content used at the focus group was relevant.
"It was a resounding yes," Quinn said.
The first series runs full days on Oct. 15, Nov. 12 and Dec. 10 in Victoria.
Registration is open, but is limited to 15 people. If demand dictates, a second series could be held in Nanaimo, Quinn said.
While participants don't earn credits, they do receive a statement of completion recognized by BCIT and VICA, Quinn said.