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Channelling Canada’s construction talent

Newcomers to Toronto are matched with employers (Image: Dreamstime.com)
A Toronto careers service has helped new arrivals in Canada develop construction careers and achieve professional qualifications, including CIOB membership. Rod Sweet explains.

CIOB representatives in the greater Toronto area have joined a Canadian government scheme called ACCES (Accessible Community Counselling and Employment Service) 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.

The organiser, Hamza Momade MCIOB, told CM more about the details.

What is the ACCES Engineering Connections programme?

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 CIOB is now a part of, which allows course graduates to meet industry leaders. CIOB helps potential members embark on the journey to chartered status.

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.

How many potential candidates are there?

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.

Hamza Momade is the organiser of CIOB’s involvement with ACCES

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

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 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.

How have you promoted the programme?

CIOB’s partnership with ACCES was set up last year by myself and the CIOB hub team at Toronto. I completed the engineering programme as a newcomer in Toronto two years ago and saw a great opportunity for 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, CIOB’s representative, who explained the value of CIOB chartered designations and the steps to them. We’ll hold two of these a year.

Are construction companies getting involved?

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.

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

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. 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.

How ACCES has helped construction professionals

Hajar Elidrissi

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

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, he 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

Ojeiu ‘Ojay’ Ohiosimuan, 40, from Nigeria, is a certified project manager with a master’s in 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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