SYDNEY – Trent Soholt grew up in Fort McMurray and saw more than his fair share of building in the oil industry service town so familiar to generations of Cape Breton workers.
But Soholt doesn’t work in the oil field. In fact, he doesn’t even live in Alberta. For the past 14 years, he has served as the Executive Director of the Nova Scotia Construction Sector Council (NSCSC), a non-profit organization dedicated to developing human resources and competencies in the industry’s industrial trade institutions (ICI).
“We’re interested in building something bigger than a house, but it’s not a street,” he said during an interview with the Cape Breton Post in the NSCSC’s recently opened office in downtown Sydney.
According to Trent Soholt, executive director of the Nova Scotia Construction Sector Council, there has never been a better time to build in the Cape Breton regional parish. DAVID JALA / KAP BRETON POST – David Jala
Soholt is currently more than a little interested in major construction projects in the Cape Breton regional municipality. In fact, his enthusiasm and assertiveness shows when he talks about $ 1 billion worth of publicly funded capital works in the CBRM.
“This is the most exciting prediction I’ve made for this industry in the last 16 years. I’m looking forward to Cape Breton,” said Soholt, whose Viking-like appearance is a perfect reflection of his Scandinavian surname.
“These are generational projects that will offer Cape Breton opportunities that we haven’t seen here forever and that will leave a legacy for the region that will evolve.”
The five main construction projects he was referring to are the expansion of the Cape Breton Regional Hospital Care Center ($ 500 million), the rehabilitation of the health care system in North Sydney ($ 170 million), the relocation of the Marconi campus Nova Scotia Community College ($ 170 million), New Waterford Healthcare, and Community Hub redevelopment ($ 159 million) and Glace Bay Hospital expansion ($ 56 million).
“It will bring stable work to this area for the next five to seven years, and that will build trust in the community for other investments,” Soholt said.
“And this is where it gets exciting because not only is the construction industry flourishing, but the entire local economy is beginning to flourish.
“The private sector spin-off is just beginning. We have some apartment buildings in downtown Sydney and we will be adding some commercial space in the near future. But we won’t know their breadth until they are tackled, as the private sector is more difficult to follow as most private investors have their plans under control until they are ready to make bids. “
The NSCSC forecast estimates that there will be around 700 full-time positions on the projects during the peak of construction in 2022. That is around 580 skilled trades and more than 125 management and administrative positions.
Excavators and earthmoving machines are underway at Cape Breton Regional Hospital in Sydney as part of a $ 500 million expansion project. DAVID JALA / KAP BRETON POST – David Jala
According to Soholt, who calls his organization a kind of “help desk” for contractors, unions, workers and government officials, the work available covers nearly every trade in the market.
“In our industry alone, we have over 50 different trades – we are not only talking about electricians and carpenters, but also about drywall builders and painters, glaziers and cement manufacturers and even elevator people, to name a few.”
Soholt also said that the fact that the construction boom in Cape Breton coincides with universal social change provides an immediate opportunity to further promote diversity within the industry. He said the latest statistics show that women make up just six percent of all travelers.
“We need to diversify – we want to be a far more welcoming and inclusive place to work that, quite frankly, resembles our communities,” said Soholt, who recently welcomed an initiative by the Nova Scotia government to introduce the language into tendering contracts that is mandatory Contractors to meet certain levels of diversity.
“In order to receive an advance payment, the contractor must prove that he has had various people who were not only employed, but who actually did the meaningful work on these projects as registered trainees or travelers. The contractors are now telling us that it is their mission to exceed these minimum requirements and that this new language is raising the bar to a new level. “
THE RIGHT SKILLS
Soholt said one of the biggest challenges in the years to come will be correcting skill misalignment by encouraging established artisans to improve their lateral skills through training.
“You need the right skills for the right opportunities,” he said.
“All the metrics and metrics say there are enough people to do the job on the island, but it does get them to familiarize themselves with the skills for the jobs that will be needed as the projects progress.
“Over the years we have developed models that can track and forecast where the work will take place and how many people will be needed, which trades are likely to be needed, how much management capacity is needed, and then we have access to see whether we already have the resources in our community or whether we need to make extensive settings to meet this requirement. “
INITIAL AND CONTINUING EDUCATION
Ironically, the Nova Scotia Community College’s Marconi campus is one of the primary sources of education and skills development, which is expected to move to its new waterfront home in Sydney in time for the 2024-2025 academic year.
The institution’s academic chairman or principal, Fred Tilley, said that while the post-secondary school has been challenged by COVID-19, the staff have continued to work hard to ensure students get the education they need.
Fred Tilley, director of Nova Scotia Community College’s Marconi campus, said staff and students at the post-secondary facility are using creativity and collaboration to make the most of a bad time as the school’s campus is during ongoing COVID-related time state of emergency remains closed. DAVID JALA / KAP BRETON POST – David Jala
“Our professional training is in high demand even during this pandemic,” said Tilley, who addressed the Women Unlimited Group’s Career Exploration Program (CEP), a partnership initiative between the nonprofit and the NSCC.
“It’s a fantastic program. We are proud to work closely with this organization to get women interested in non-traditional crafts. “