Nelson Commons commitment to hiring local includes women
Men may still hold the lion’s share of industrial jobs, but women are slowly, but surely, making a dent in those numbers.
At the Nelson Commons job site, Selina Drake of Nelson is one of those trendsetters from the female side of the playing field.
“I’m a rare breed,” said Drake, who operates a dump truck for McNally Excavating.
McNally Excavating is one of the many local contractors benefiting from the $26 Million mega-project, that when completed, will have a 54 unit retail/residential complex along with the new location for the Kootenay Co-op Food Store.
Drake, who earned her Class 1 license through Mountain Transport Institute (MTI) in Castlegar in 2013, is one of three women currently employed on the Commons construction site.
“Working with heavy equipment is challenging”, said Drake. “It’s heavy work so you have to be strong.
“As a woman working in a predominantly male environment you have to go the extra mile to build the strength and confidence so you can rise.”
The Co-op bought the site of the former Extra Foods building in 2012 intending to renovate and increase its retail space by some 4,000 square feet.
But along the way, after much research and consumer surveys, it became apparent that the Co-op could triple its retail space, sell the remaining space, provide much needed high density downtown housing and provide Co-op members with food security at competitive prices.
And also provide work for locals through the main contractor ITC Construction Group.
“Employing locals has been key for us since the beginning,” said Russell Precious, Project Manager for the Nelson Commons.
“Our general contractor ITC is based in Vancouver although they’re originally from Nelson, so they were quite willing to go along with our commitment to hiring locals whenever possible.”
Drake, no stranger to manual labour as she operates a firewood delivery company, is one of three females working on the site.
Despite being in a male-dominated workplace, Drake says she doesn’t feel out of place.
“I’m treated very well, as anybody would who goes out of their way to recognize and appreciate the work of others around them,” explained Drake, adding she has worked in the industrial workplace for the past 20 years.
The Commons project has been a bit of a lottery win for local contractors. Not since the Provincial Building at Stanley and Victoria Streets has there been a project this big in Nelson.
“I believe we’re currently employing around 75% local,” said Precious of the Nelson Commons, which in total involves roughly 300 people.
But that doesn’t mean anyone gets a free pass, as plans are to have the facility open before the end of August 2016.
“We’re working on an extremely tight timeline,” said Precious. “We want to have the roof on before the winter, and to deliver the residential units by the end of the summer 2016 or else anybody has the right to walk.”
“Working on such a tight timeline sometimes necessitates bringing in skilled workers from other parts of BC,” continued Precious.
“There aren’t a lot of projects of this scale around here, so it’s been challenging to find a sizeable enough crew, and also workers with the specialized skill set required for such a large scale project.”
And Drake & Company welcome the opportunity to acquire valuable experience presented by such an ambitious project.
“When has Nelson seen a building like this?” asked Drake as she surveyed the half deep pit of excavated land.
“It’s going to make Nelson a bigger and better place,” said Drake of the impact of the Nelson Commons on the local economy and community.
And does Drake anticipate see more females trying to find employment in the male-dominated work place?
“It really depends on individual’s skills and abilities . . . including strength, and fitness,” she said.
Any works of wisdom for high school graduating females or women wanting a career change?
“Start at the bottom and work up.”
For more information on the Nelson Commons, visit: nelsoncommons.ca