Skills Training | O H & S

March 4, 2005

Challenges lie ahead

Walker led association for seven years

Peter Walker, who started with the Kingston Construction Association (KCA) on Oct. 1, 1997, put in his last day as its executive director on Feb. 28.

While Walker was at the helm, the KCA made progress on several fronts and increased its membership from 271 to 342 firms.

Peter Walker

But as with all organizations, it’s the challenges for the future that are critical and Walker has identified several.

“At this stage we don’t have our specification books in digital format, we do not maintain the plans that are out for tender on a Web site,” he said.

“That is on the slate for whoever follows me. When the Ottawa Construction Association receives a set of plans or specifications to display in their plans room, they scan them all and upload them onto a Web site.”

He also pointed out that the KCA is in the process of adopting the 10th edition of the Construction Bid Depository of Ontario Rules and Procedures.

Of extreme importance to Walker is the promotion of the construction and skilled trades sectors as viable careers for young people.

“That is very important for the long-term health of the industry,” he said. “I spent approximately 10 to 15 per cent of my time involved in promoting the industry to young people.”

Just three days before leaving the KCA, Walker participated in a panel discussion with representatives from universities and colleges regarding work and employment and training options after high school.

Since 2001, the KCA has organized the annual Skilled Trades Fair held in Kingston. The fifth edition of the fair begins April 9.

“We have organized the fair even though it was much more than construction,” said Walker, who noted that recent fairs have attracted nearly 25,000 visitors to visit the various booths and lectures. “We’re starting to see the fruits of our labours. At St. Lawrence College, their apprenticeship courses are now constantly full and they are constantly adding new sections to them. Their carpentry, plumbing and electronic courses are now all over-subscribed.”

The KCA has actively participated in projects to benefit the community. This was displayed during the construction of Almost Home and is currently being seen with the city’s plan to renovate Market Square.

M. Sullivan and Son, a well-respected general contractor, is donating project management services at no-charge for the $5-million project.

“We have a very active committee within the KCA that is working on that project,” said Walker. “A strong and healthy community generates a lot of growth and construction work, so we’re doing what we can to make our city strong and prosperous.”

Eight out of 10 of Kingston’s largest employers are in the public sector. This includes the military, prisons, hospitals, education and the municipality, which is one of the oldest in Ontario and has many aging infrastructures. These sectors have long required the services of KCA members.

“Kingston has always had a slow, stable growth rate,” said Walker. “We have never been a boom or bust market. I suspect that the future will be very steady and stable.”

Walker explained that the KCA was already strong when he came on board and that a key to ensuring its strength was to increase the involvement of the association in municipal advocacy.

This has led the association to work with the city to help attract businesses to locate in Kingston, such as the recent decision of Lyreco Office Products to build a distribution centre in the St. Lawrence Business Park.

“We’ve been very active in files like development charges and import fees,” said Walker. “Shortly after I arrived, we established the municipal liaison committee that has had semi-annual meetings with the senior staff of the city at which we have discussed site plan approval protocols and various infrastructure projects.

“We’re now at the stage where the municipality doesn’t hesitate to contact us when they are contemplating an infrastructure job,” he added.

A replacement for Walker is expected to be selected in a couple of weeks.

Walker expects to travel with his wife for a year, beginning in the fall.

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