The BC Road Builders & Heavy Construction Association's (BCRB) successful collaborative approach will continue as it enters a new chapter of leadership, says its new president Kelly Scott. "We have a good model to work from, thanks to Jack Davidson's hard work," said Scott.
"We will continue to work from that model, with its emphasis on fostering and maintaining good working relationships with owners and contractors."
Scott succeeds Jack Davidson, who retired Jan. 15, 2017 after 18 years of service with the association. Scott, who is well known in the road building industry in Western Canada, had been BCRB vice-president since 2016.
Heavy equipment runs in Scott's family. His father, Tom, was equipment and purchasing manager for the Dillingham Corporation, which later became part of Vancouver Pile Driving. After graduating from Delbrook High School in North Vancouver, Scott attended Simon Fraser University, where he earned a Bachelor's degree in economics and commerce.
After graduation, he immediately joined Vancouver Caterpillar dealer Finning Tractor in sales.
"I sold all of the company's product lines to a wide variety of customers — contractors, mining and forestry companies," said Scott.
As he moved up from sales into management and then senior management, Scott and his family (wife Nancy, daughters Brooke and Katie) made stops in many parts of the Finning Tractor world: Edmonton, Prince George, Houston (B.C.), Cranbrook (B.C.), Whitehorse, Scotland, England and, finally, Vancouver again.
"It was quite an education," Scott said. "I really enjoyed working and living in Whitehorse. I gained an understanding and appreciation of the harsh conditions in which contractors in the north work."
In Scotland and England Scott learned how people in other parts of the world see Canada and Canadians.
"The people we met over there really appreciated Canada's contribution to winning the Second World War," he said. "That's something too many Canadians take for granted."
After 25 years with Finning, Scott decided a change was in order. Following stints with John Deere and Komatsu, he went to work for Commercial Truck Equipment Company in Vancouver. When he left Commercial Truck, he took some time off before joining the BCRB in April 2016.
"Road building and heavy equipment is actually a pretty simple business," said Scott. "It's a people business, and people are people whether they're in the boardroom or the garage. And customers want service they can count on. Those are the main things to understand about the industry."
Scott says the main challenge facing the road building and heavy equipment industry today is changing workforce demographics.
"Many older workers are retiring now and more will retire in the future," he said. "To replace them, new workers will have to be hired. How do you attract and retain young workers and keep them motivated?"
Scott says the industry needs basic, certifiable training for young people in such positions as heavy equipment operator, asphalt lay-down technician and plant operator.
"Fortunately, the ITA (Industry Training Authority BC) is very focused on attracting young people in the schools to our industry," Scott said.
The ITA recently launched "refreshed" Youth Trades Training Programs in secondary schools across the province.
According to the ITA, the updated programs provide students with a clear pathway from early learning to apprenticeship and into the workforce. Students in Grades 10 and 11 can earn credit towards their post-secondary trades training while they earn credit towards their Dogwood Diploma with the programs.
In addition to the ITA programs, the Abbotsford (B.C.) School District has a unique program for high school seniors who want to earn certification to use heavy equipment.
"We have had a heavy equipment and operator training program for Grade 12 students in the district for seven years," said Patti Tebbutt, Abbotsford's District Principal – Career Program. "We receive about 50 applications per year for admission to the program, of which we select 15 students."
Students receive six weeks of classroom training and two weeks of equipment training. After their training has been completed, they take an ITA Level 1 exam. An added bonus for the students is that the program is free.
"If they had to pay for the instruction themselves from a private trainer, it would cost between $11,000 and $16,000," Tebbutt said.
More high school youth should be offered the opportunity for training in heavy equipment, she added.
"There are lots of different applications of the skills they learn, including landscaping, which is not something many people associate with heavy equipment," Tebbutt said.