The Canadian Construction Association's (CCA) Gold Seal manager certification program is expanding for 2017, adding the Construction Foreman designation amidst an overall modernization of the program.
The addition of the foreman designation, effective this spring, will broaden the program's application, with more job site supervisors at smaller firms and subcontractors becoming eligible, explained Gold Seal committee chair Kees Cusveller.
Until now, only project managers, estimators and superintendents involved in construction and heavy civil management could qualify.
A recent CCA newsletter announcing the foreman designation indicated to its members, "Numerous trade contractors, heavy civil contractors and smaller general contractors, among others, do not employ any of these disciplines on the project site, yet their staff is as dedicated, committed and experienced as many others."
Often smaller firms and subcontractors working on a project will have a foreman but not a superintendent, explained Stephanie Wallace, manager of the Gold Seal program. A foreman for a drywall firm, for example, who is not involved in the overall direction of the project but who still has ample responsibilities, has until now been excluded as a potential Gold Seal candidate.
Cusveller said he is thrilled with the industry reaction to the new foreman designation.
"There's been huge feedback," he said. "One initial concern was, a bit of a concern, was that we watered down the program. I said, we have not. A foreman is very much a key aspect of a construction project, so let's make qualifying a little bit easier."
The Gold Seal certification program was founded in 1991. The program website indicates, "All Gold Seal certified management professionals have been assessed and meet the Gold Seal standard requirements of industry knowledge, experience, education and training."
Beyond individual certification, the program also offers Gold Seal Employer certification and Gold Seal Project designation, among other programs.
More than 10,000 construction managers across Canada have been certified since its inception but, said Cusveller, the program had become somewhat "stale." Addressing that is an essential part of his mandate, he said.
He has been working on revamping the program since he unofficially took over in September 2015 and with full authority since being officially approved last May.
"It was doing its thing and churning along, it was getting traction, but not enough traction," said Cusveller. "We looked at it a little over a year ago, looked at what we could do with it. Part of that was the foreman designation."
Other initiatives include modernizing procedures, upgrading the program's website and social media presence and taking steps to make it more inclusive.
It was decided that interns, for example, should not have to pay the full cost of the program.
"If I am only an intern, $500 bucks is a lot of money, so we have listened," said Cusveller. "The right thing to do, as an intern, you pay a smaller fee, and when you're ready to go, you pay a bigger fee."
Some decisions could be implemented quickly, while others required technical development. Cusveller said he was surprised to learn certification exams were still taken manually.
"I said, 'Really guys!' " the chair recalled. Online exams will start this spring.
There will also be a student designation introduced as the program aims to attract budding construction professionals.
"When students are in post-secondary, that is when we will be encouraging them to start earlier," he said.
"One of the things that flabbergasted me, I always assumed Gold Seal was for a younger professional, out of school five or 10 years, late 20s early 30s. But our average age of an exam challenger last year was 44."
To ensure an influx of new talent and ideas on the board, board membership will be limited to six years in the future. Cusveller said there had already been at least 75-per-cent turnover since he started.
There will also be tweaking done to course requirements as some courses will be mandatory and others optional. A new ethics course is one that will be mandatory for all applicants.