Recognized as one of Canada's Top 100 Employers (2023) and Alberta's Top Employers (2023):
Mediacorp Canada Inc. staff editors (Nov 17, 2022)
Here are some of the reasons why PCL Construction was selected as one of Canada's Top 100 Employers (2023) and Alberta's Top Employers (2023):
- PCL Construction provides a variety of learning opportunities for employees at various stages of development, including the PCL College of Construction (with over 2,000 courses and custom training), in-house apprenticeships, and the "Learn2Go" micro-learning initiative which employees can access anytime and from anywhere
- PCL Construction helps employees plan for life after work with retirement planning assistance along with a defined contribution pension plan -- and varying by position, employees may be able to take advantage of phased-in work options when nearing retirement
- PCL Construction's head office employees are encouraged to keep fit with free memberships to a 4,500 square foot onsite fitness centre that's open to family members and retirees
Employee ownership drives engagement at PCL
Madison Blom fondly recalls her first days working at Parliament’s Centre Block. Her PCL Construction team was about to begin the most complex heritage rehabilitation project ever undertaken in Canada. The assistant superintendent says one of her favourite moments was when the PCL team went inside and she could see what interested her the most: exactly what’s holding up this country’s most iconic structure.
“It’s amazing to see the trusses and structural members behind the century-old craftsmanship we walk past every day,” she says. “We spend multiple hours reviewing how we’re going to dismantle some of the stonework, figuring out how it was put together, and wondering how they ever manoeuvred some of the heritage assets – there are heritage elements 20 feet long!” It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, Blom agrees, and one that PCL was uniquely positioned to offer.
“Not very many construction employers in this country can build projects to the scale we can,” says Harmony Carter, PCL’s vice president, people and culture. When it comes to “the stadiums and the arenas, power plants, roadways, even hospitals in all their complexity,” not to mention Centre Block Rehabilitation, “we’re there for the big iconic projects that impact our communities.” Building communities, legacies and people are PCL’s three purpose pillars.
For Carter, the size and success of the 116-year-old Edmonton-based company ultimately stem from the same reason PCL has landed on the list of Canada’s Top 100 Employers for 14 consecutive years. “We are 100 per cent owned by our employees. Our ownership model means that everyone is an owner and has responsibility for our success.”
Through PCL’s strong mobility program, employees who relocate can take advantage of opportunities to develop their careers quickly. In 2021, more than five per cent of the company’s workforce transferred to different locations to take on new roles and projects.
“We like to put people with the best expertise at our projects and surround them with people who can learn from them,” says Carter. That can be on the job or in one of the many courses where the company’s veterans pass on what they know to their newer fellow employee-owners.
Then there are the leadership courses like the one in which Blom is enrolled. “There is no other company that invests in leadership programs like PCL does,” Carter says. “Not just for high-potential individuals, but also programs that allow any employee to come in and make leadership part of their role and part of their journey.”
Such programs cement PCL’s community ethos and facilitate career advancement, resulting in over 600 promotions company-wide last year. These programs are crucial tools in Carter’s job, which the VP sums up as recruiting top talent and keeping them engaged.
Carter herself, like Blom after her, arrived at PCL through its extensive educational outreach, moving from a post-secondary co-op term to full-time employment. Retention isn’t an issue, with a healthy number of employees in the company’s quarter-century club and even a few in the half-century club.
It’s all directly connected, Carter says, to the ownership model and the long-term thinking and commitment it fosters. It’s no wonder Blom, 28, takes joy in looking years ahead to a time where, “one day my kids will walk through Centre Block and I can say, ‘I was there.’”
Building a tech powerhouse at PCL Construction
With a title like team lead, technology architecture, you might expect to find PCL Construction employee Terence Yung at a Silicon Valley conglomerate. Instead, he’s spent the last 10 years in Alberta helping his industry evolve.
“The construction business has typically been viewed as an older industry where we’re just building buildings and not as an advanced industry that leverages technologies,” says Yung.
But advanced is exactly what PCL is, he points out – a construction industry giant supported by a burgeoning business technology workforce. Yung and his team are based in Edmonton, North American headquarters for the 116-year-old company since 1932, and home to most of its technology, accounting, human resources, marketing and other teams.
“I lead a combined team of technology analysts and solution architects who are responsible for overseeing the back-end IT infrastructure services, and for designing new technology solutions,” he says.
In the past decade, he notes, PCL has migrated 95 per cent of its formerly on-premise IT infrastructure into the cloud as part of a bold decision to stand out as a construction company with a high-tech edge. “The migration allowed us to align our IT directions with tech giants like Microsoft, and build scalable solutions for our business,” Yung says.
Those solutions include software that collects data through sensors around job sites. They bridge the gap between technology and construction, and they give employees on site and in offices the information needed to work more efficiently and deliver results to clients.
“Now we know in real time what is happening on site, which frees people to do more meaningful work than just collecting information,” says Yung.
The construction company’s pioneering embrace of cloud technologies has created a host of tech career opportunities at PCL, says Harmony Carter, vice president of people and culture. “It’s the buildings that bring us attention,” Carter says, “which is understandable since we’ve built many of the arenas and stadiums in this country, several large-scale civil infrastructure and industrial projects and the tallest high-rise in Western Canada in Edmonton. What people don’t realize is we are actually one of the biggest IT employers you’ll find in Alberta.”
This means PCL is in a position, according to Carter, to shape the future direction of large-scale construction. “We have the ideas and the problems to solve,” she says, “so we’ve taken an innovative and forward-thinking approach, where we don’t have to find someone in the market to provide solutions.”
It means that new tech graduates looking for work should look at PCL, which is only going to expand further in that direction, says Carter. “Everyone thinks of PCL and construction together, but they’re not thinking of us as tech right away. We want to change that – we’re both.”
Innovative thinking is just one way PCL is attracting top talent across the company. Entirely employee-owned for almost half a century, PCL invests deeply in its employee-owners, with a strong mobility program through which employees can relocate to one of the locations across North America or Australia. They can take advantage of opportunities to develop their careers quickly, and numerous open-to-all leadership courses.
The community-minded ethos extends even to its tech investment. “We think we can enhance our entire industry,” Carter says, “by choosing to build technology with the idea we can pass it to other construction companies, so that they can also improve how construction is built in this country.”
Recognized as one of Canada's Top Employers for Young People (2023):
Mediacorp Canada Inc. staff editors (Jan 23, 2023)
Here are some of the reasons why PCL Construction was selected as one of Canada's Top Employers for Young People (2023):
- As part of the PCL Student Program, students receive ongoing support and feedback from their immediate supervisor as well as an assigned buddy, and have various opportunities to engage in meaningful work throughout their four to 16-month term
- PCL Construction manages an accelerated superintendent development program and an accelerated estimating and construction risk management program for early-career leaders -- the intensive programs focus on identifying personal leadership strengths, building technical knowledge, and developing mentoring relationships
- PCL Construction maintains a culture of mobility with construction projects across North America and Australia, and helps students gain more diverse experiences through the junior mobility program -- the organization offers support for the moving process and helps connect participants with housing
PCL finds tomorrow’s leaders in today’s students
Simon Lamy, a PCL Construction project coordinator, never had any real doubt about what he’d do when he grew up. He was one of those toddlers, the ones with eyes fixed on big machines digging big holes in the earth and tall buildings rising into the sky.
But where he would work was an open question right into his civil engineering studies at the University of Ottawa, until he learned of a possible co-op stint with PCL in 2014 on the site of Montréal’s Deloitte Tower, the first commercial office tower built in that city in more than 20 years.
But if that’s why Lamy began with the Edmonton-based construction industry giant, it’s not why he has stayed on ever since. “I started my co-op work with PCL because their projects were famous across the country and socially important,” says Lamy. “But I went on to do five more co-op terms there – and knew right from the get-go that I wanted to work for PCL after graduation – because of the people I met. That's what PCL is about: people who are passionate about construction.”
That’s the kind of outcome PCL – which is marking its fourth year in a row on the list of Canada’s Top Employers for Young People – has worked hard to create, says Harmony Carter, vice president of people and culture. “We have connections with more than 75 schools across Canada, and more than 600 student placements this academic year,” she says.
The company’s goal, Carter adds, is for its entry-level hires to emerge from among its former student workers. Nearly 100 full-time offers went to former PCL students this year. “We encourage them to consider careers with us, and that starts with their first work terms,” she says. “We give students an opportunity to work all their co-op terms with us, and we provide an incredible experience so they don’t feel compelled to go elsewhere.”
Except to other PCL sites, that is. The company’s student mobility program subsidizes student movement around the country. “We place them in areas across Canada,” says Carter, “and into other projects and jobs to really give them well-rounded experience.”
That experience includes significant responsibility and support, adds Lamy. After co-op terms in Montréal and Ottawa, he asked PCL about opportunities in Western Canada. “I was told about a very exciting project in Vancouver and kind of fell in love with it, and stayed there for three co-op terms.” Lamy took on more and more responsibilities, and felt the whole Vancouver team was behind him after he was nominated for, and won, PCL’s $3,000 Canadian Buildings National Student Scholarship.
The support doesn’t end after a student becomes an employee. There are numerous technical and leadership programs for younger workers, and even an assigned buddy for each one – a more experienced PCL employee who can advise and inform.
Mentoring, in fact, is a core company value, Carter says, rooted in PCL’s 100 per cent employee ownership. “We’re all owners and we all want everyone else to succeed too.” It’s a culture where mentees quickly transition to mentors. Lamy is proud to say that, after he was hired at PCL, one of the co-op students he supervised and advised won the same national scholarship he did.
“We want to separate ourselves from the pack, as the best builders, not just the best technical builders,” Carter says. “This is a people business, and that’s why we’ve invested a lot in training and career development. We want employees to build a fulfilling career with PCL.”
Recognized as one of Canada's Greenest Employers (2023):
Mediacorp Canada Inc. staff editors (Apr 17, 2023)
Here are some of the reasons why PCL Construction was selected as one of Canada's Greenest Employers (2023):
- PCL Construction manages a dedicated network of advisors who provide in-house expertise on sustainable construction practices as well as leading in-office sustainability initiatives
- PCL Construction encourages employees to reach out to one another and share their ideas on how to best incorporate sustainability into all aspects of the company's operations, including contributing their ideas through short videos ("My Sustainability Story") that discuss how to make projects and office spaces more sustainable
- PCL Construction employees are encouraged to volunteer with office sustainability committees to develop and execute environmental plans -- employees can also volunteer to join the company's Solar Centre of Excellence, which provides opportunities to work on some of Canada's largest solar facilities
PCL’s size encourages sustainable industry
When he joined PCL Construction 26 years ago, says Mike Wieninger, chief operating officer, Canadian operations, the push for a greener industry was already culturally ingrained in his company. “But that has accelerated markedly in the last four or five years as we’ve put more rigour, more emphasis on sustainability,” he says.
“That really matters a lot to PCL people, of whatever generation. A question we hear a lot from young professionals, who all have a green mindset, coming into our industry is, ‘What are you doing about sustainability?’ So we walk through those things,” says Wieninger.
And there’s a lot to go through, adds the COO, including the $2.8 billion in solar projects PCL has recently built. “We started producing those in Ontario, then moved it across Canada into the United States, and now in Australia,” Wieninger says. “We just finished a solar farm here in Alberta, at Travers, that will power 100,000 homes annually. At five kilometres by six kilometres, it’s huge, the largest ever in Canada.“
Even that pales in comparison to PCL’s part in a massive project to transition existing, federally owned infrastructure to help Ottawa achieve its 2030 climate goals. “That is going to be very impactful,” says Wieninger – who, like PCL’s three other COOs, works closely with the company’s Denver-based director of sustainability – “given the expectations, the timeline and the extensive number of buildings involved. So I think that’s where PCL’s leadership role will really be quite impactful.”
That’s because construction giant PCL is, in ecological terms, a keystone species – large enough and influential enough to alter the way an industry functions. “We have lots of conversations upstream in our supply chain,” says Scott Sharun, senior manager, procurement and equipment, with PCL’s Edmonton industrial office. “If companies like PCL aren’t pushing for sustainability, then our vendors don’t feel pressure because the small and mid-size folks aren’t going to get much traction in that regard.
“Having the biggest construction company in Canada say to a large multinational, ‘I can't use your products because they cost too much to ship or we have to throw away all the packaging they come wrapped in,’ that has an effect,” Sharun says. “We are aware of it, and where we see opportunity, we’ve definitely pushed for it 100 per cent.”
But it’s a two-way street, Sharun emphasizes. “A lot of the manufacturing companies are already getting there,” he says. “That’s what makes the supply chain a doorway for innovations for a company like PCL. For example, on project sites, exhaust is a real concern, and we've been doing what we can to mitigate it.
“A strategic partner and supplier asked, ‘Do you really believe there are going to be gas engines or even electrical cords on your site in the next five to 10 years? What are you waiting for?’” continues Sharun. “PCL is always thinking about what’s ahead for our industry. It was clear to both of us that the future of construction will be electric and battery powered. When you find the right suppliers with the right people, the push comes from them and the pull comes from us.”