On-Site Magazine
Feature Article

Wanted: Next-generation leaders

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October 1, 2012 by Corinne Lynds

It seemed like an unlikely source, but when 75-year-old Michael Butt looked out at a full room of snowy-haired Baby Boomers and said, “We need more young people in this room,” he was absolutely right!

As one of three guest speakers on a panel entitled, “The New Direction of Leadership,” at the Canadian Construction Association’s (CCA) annual Industry Leaders Forum in Toronto, the founder of Butt Construction and past CCA chair emphasized the importance of discovering, developing and fostering young construction leaders.

Although Butt’s presentation was meant to address the traits that define a great leader, he made the point that with the looming skills shortage, not only will there be too few workers to operate equipment and manage projects, there will also be a desperate need for young leaders to take over for him, as well as many other senior executives nearing retirement.

But where will they come from and how do we engage them?

Thirty-something Jim Harrison, a project manager with Comstock Canada and arguably one of the industry’s few young leaders, emphasized next generation leaders are looking for a better work/life balance, improved communication and better ways to do the same jobs.

Harrison was even kind enough to suggest where this crop of young leaders might be found. He pointed to a network of young leaders groups that are popping up across the country, such as the Hamilton/Halton Construction Association’s (HHCA) Young Leaders Group he belongs to.

Google “Young Construction Leaders Canada,” and you’ll find groups in Ottawa, Toronto, Vancouver and many other smaller cities. Their goal is “to provide a forum where the emerging generation of business leaders in the construction industry can get together and foster connections for the future,” according to the HHCA.

These groups are not the cure-all for the skills dilemma, but they are a big step in the right direction. For one, they are communicating with young people in a way that engages them—social media such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. And they’re even hosting pub nights as well as social networking events.

Cultivating the construction industry’s future leaders will be a challenege. We need to do a better job of including them in our conversations. Let’s invite them to our meetings, conferences and maybe even out for a beer.

Corinne Lynds / Editor

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