Alberta’s construction industry is opening up about mental health

Christmas used to be the hardest time of year for Don Rowan.

It was the late 1990s, and he was making good money as a consultant in the oil and gas industry. But before the ink on the paycheque could even dry the money left his bank account, swallowed up by a horde of unpaid bills that seemed to grow more voracious each month. With his wife handling the finances, he was blindsided by the size of his by the size of his debt, which ballooned every holiday season as the couple strove to top the previous year. He imposed an allowance in an effort to stop their out-of-control Christmas spending, but with no success. “It just blew up,” he says, “and then we blew up.”

Marital strife only compounded Rowan’s financial stress. Credit card bills and mortgage payments weighed on his mind. He was deep in an economic hole, unhappy and hopeless. Only a sudden windfall, like a large payout from his life insurance, could wipe out his debt, he figured. And the only way he could see himself earning that payout was by taking his own life.

So that’s what he tried to do.

Lafarge preps for future boom times with major Exshaw expansion

The Lafarge cement plant in Exshaw has been serving Alberta’s construction industry since it began operations in 1906. In fact, the plant is the reason Exshaw exists. The hamlet was born when 300 men, some with families, came to build the facility. More than 100 years later, the Lafarge plant is now bigger and more environmentally friendly than ever as its expansion and upgrade wrap up.

Heavy equipment sharing apps are helping ease Alberta builders through slower economic times

Digital technology has given rise to the sharing economy with examples such as Uber, TaskRabbit and Getaround, but business-to-business (B2B) sharing has been commonplace in industries such as agriculture and forestry for years. It certainly wasn’t unheard of in the construction industry during booms. However, in the current economic environment, the B2B sharing economy has become increasingly attractive to both owners and renters.

Could Alberta Infrastructure’s adoption of prompt pay spark an industry-wide shift?

For the Alberta construction industry, the world is looking a little greener than usual this spring—and not just because of the unseasonably warm weather and early start to the building season. Cash is expected to start flowing more quickly—and in a more transparent, easily track- able manner—from government to contractors after Alberta Infrastructure made prompt pay part of its contracts at the beginning of April. 

Red Deer-area program aims to teach teachers about trades

Traditionally, the education system has focused on encouraging students to attend degree-oriented post-secondary programs—an option only about one-quarter of students in Alberta have been choosing.

“When you think about it, what were we doing for the other 75 per cent?” asks David Khatib, division principal, Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools. “We were having more and more students entering the trades areas directly from schools, and we needed to make sure we were preparing them for life after high school. It’s what society is demanding from education, and we’re responding.”

Modular industry strives to keep costs down and productivity up

Anyone looking for signs of the oilsand industry’s financial woes will be disappointed when setting foot on ENGIE Fabricom’s modular yard in Fort Saskatchewan, Alta. Opened last year, the 35-acre location is a hive of activity as it works through its first contract: 80 modules for Suncor Energy’s Fort Hills oilsands mine. Crews are busy guiding steel girders into place and insulating pipe before its journey north. Off in one corner of the yard, completed modules are waiting to hit the road and skids of material from South Korea are sitting in rows, ready to be assembled.

But a closer look reveals a company very concerned with doing everything it can to boost productivity and save money. ENGIE—and other modular fabricators servicing the oilsands, for that matter—is dealing with a clientele that needs to keep spending down in order to survive lower-for-longer oil prices. Modularization has always been the choice for cost-conscious companies, but now the sector will need to get leaner and even more efficient if it is to thrive in the current economic climate.

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