May 23, 2017
For the last several years, Construction Canada has conducted an annual salary survey, publishing the results in the issue coinciding with Construction Specifications Canada’s (CSC) national conference.
CSC always prides itself on being an interdisciplinary association—one that brings together professionals from across the building industry. Its membership includes architects, specifiers, engineers, project managers, product manufacturers’ representatives, contractors, and other experts across the spectrum of those designing, creating, and maintaining the built environment. At the same time, the magazine is read by many who are not part of CSC—71 per cent of survey respondents are not currently members. Having such a wide cross-section of participants offers a bigger perspective on the current state of the industry. We asked questions about everything from income and social media to job satisfaction and future predictions. From coast to coast to coast, more than 700 of you answered, sharing your insight into where we are now… and where we might be headed.
Revealing the respondents
This year, we had responses from every province, as well as the territories. (Ontario led the way, followed by British Columbia and Alberta.) A gender gap remains, with men representing 79 per cent of participants. There is also an age gap—more than half of those surveyed are over 50, while only 13 per cent are under 35. Occupational longevity was also reflected in the fact almost 40 per cent of respondents have been in the business for more than 30 years. However, long careers do not necessarily mean staying at one place—55 per cent have been with their current employer for less than a decade.
Who makes what?
In previous years, we’ve included one big graph to showcase all industry salaries. You asked for separate tallies for different types of careers, and we’ve listened.
Finding the balance
While the average Canadian works between 35 and 37.5 hours weekly, 53 per cent of our survey participants are on the job more than 40 hours. Fortunately, a full three-quarters say they are still able to ensure their work and life balance in a way that keeps them happy.
When it came to discussing job satisfaction, respondents mentioned it wasn’t always about money. They also cited evenings free of checking e-mail, later mornings to take the kids to school, and even occasional days off to play hockey as being important. Indeed, quite a few mentioned career changes that meant lower salaries, but higher levels of happiness thanks to less stress, more free time, new challenges, or just a new set of coworkers. Some were thrilled to move to becoming their own boss, while others expressed joy at making the opposite move, finding more security in becoming an employee rather than a business owner.
When it comes to separating work from home, though, digital devices like smartphones and tablets have made it tougher.
“About 20 years ago, once you left the office, you were done work,” lamented one Ontario project manager. “Computers and phones have made my job more demanding—there are more tasks on my shoulders, and I’m expected to work around the clock.”
Aside from work/life balance, there were quite a few recurring themes when we asked what frustrated you at the office. There were specifiers complaining about architects failing to appreciate construction documentation, consultants criticizing penny-pinching owners, engineers exasperated with installers, and a technical services manager decrying “anal-retentive building officials too procedurally bound by the code to see a path to flexibility on approval.”
Millennials and baby boomers alike were targeted, most often for being “argumentative” and “poor leaders,” respectively.
“It has been difficult to gain senior mentorship in order to grow my career and knowledge,” wrote an Albertan architect. “Five years ago, I had more active mentors compared to now. Many senior positions are retiring and companies are working them hard until the very end. This does not allow for proper time to pass down knowledge. I don’t feel like there are succession plans in place as baby boomers retire.”
Other frequent complaints involved working far more for less or a lack of respect.
“We are treated as commodities rather than as professionals—we ‘bid’ for work, rather than provide quality-based proposals,” said one Ontario architect.
A B.C. counterpart agreed—“The longer I stay in this business, the more I realize how undervalued we are as architects. It bothers me immensely that other professionals such as real estate agents—who bear none of the professional liabilities that we do—are more highly rewarded for selling a product we design.”
A consultant offered another concern:
“The ongoing mess with the financial sectors turns managers into nervous mice who sit and dither while all around them all the support and subcontractor companies wither,” he wrote. “It is a disease of indecision, and comes from politicians downward. Few are forward-looking—they are all too busy looking at the short term and share values.”
When it comes harnessing social media for professional uses like networking or research, readers were largely split. Many want increased connectivity with consultants and trust experts, but remain concerned about this method’s quality—too many useless contacts. (“I want manufacturers to give me better websites, not befriend me on social media!” one wrote.) Some readers called for a specialized social media platform for the design/construction realm, citing concerns about the one-size-fits-all nature of LinkedIn, the family-and-friends focus of Facebook, or the sheer randomness of Twitter.
One Québec architect warned, “The over-compressed format makes for oversimplification of subject matters and fosters oversimplistic notions. The medium is inherently flawed by the fact a knowledge-based profession would rely on disjointed bits and pieces where it becomes difficult to distinguish what is valuable and relevant from what simply is not.”
Common complaints included jeopardized security, spreading of misinformation, and even a fostering of design professionals afraid of face-to-face meetings. However, not everyone agreed.
“My job is so demanding,” explained a B.C. contract administrator, “and social media helps me have quick access to most recent events and news; it keeps me updated without consuming my time.”
Social media can be a powerful tool, but it comes down to who is using it and how. When it comes to sharing industry-related articles or seeking information from peers online, a 50-something general contractor wrote, “I don’t use this technology—I was born in the wrong era.” However, a project manager in the same age group had a different take: “I may be an old dog, but I can learn new tricks—I opened my Twitter account a week ago.”
BIM starting to boom, while green remains the same
Building information modelling (BIM) approaches are continuing to grow in popularity—the number rises steadily each year. This time, a total of 42 per cent say their firm uses it on more than a quarter of all projects. Last year, that number was 36; in 2015, it was only 29 per cent.
In terms of sustainability, only 21 per cent of respondents said they work on projects directly related to green design targets more than half the time—the exact number cited last year, and basically consistent with surveys past.
In some cases, being green is actually feared as a liability and hidden away from building owners who are focused on another kind of green— first costs.
“Clients are not willing to pay for green design; they want everything as cheap as possible,” said one Saskatchewan architect. “It’s the same old for every job, no matter how hard we try. I’m LEED-accredited and that can chase clients away so I don’t usually advertise my credentials.”
Predicting the future
Judging by the survey, many in the design/construction industry have a right to be optimistic—only eight per cent see the next five years as particularly troubling. After all, 81 per cent say the last half-decade meant either increased or steady profitability.
“I’m predicting greater construction activity as the economy recovers from the financial crash,” suggested a B.C. engineer.
That’s not to suggest there aren’t any concerns, of course. Examples ranged from provincial budgets and stricter energy codes to market fluctuations and, in the words of a Québec architect, “my stupid boss.”
“For the first time in 20 years of working, times are slow,” wrote an interior designer from Manitoba. “Fees offered by other businesses and competitors are too low and not in line with the type of work—I’m not sure how they are making money.”
“Less dollars are being spent on construction in Western Canada, especially related to oil and gas projects,” said an installer from Alberta. “Plus, outside competition from eastern provinces are now bidding here, which is eroding margins.”
We also asked what could be the single biggest factor impacting design/construction firms over the next few years. The top five mentioned were:
However, many other respondents looked inward and decided they and their partners would have the biggest influence on their career.
“There will always be roofs to build and rebuild,” said a product representative from Québec. “I believe that our growth is linked to the constant quality of our products and the efficiency of our employees.”
Source URL: https://www.constructioncanada.net/survey-results-for-2017/
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