Jack Davidson, who started at the B.C. Road Builders and Heavy Construction Association 18 years ago, has learned how to do a lot with a little.
During his time with the association he helped oversee sweeping safety changes and developed fruitful relationships with powerful stakeholders.
Davidson got his start in the forestry industry and was a mill owner.
However, his career changed after getting involved with the BC Shake and Shingle Association and later the Cedar Shake and Shingle Bureau.
“In the end I decided I liked the association work more than running a mill,” he said.
After seven years dealing with the cedar association, he answered an ad for the B.C. Road Builders Association.
“I think working for an association is terrific work. You are not doing the same thing over and over and it is really about building relationships,” he added.
Davidson said when he started at the association it was small and without much influence. He arrived at the end of an NDP government and quickly started building a productive relationship with the new Gordon Campbell Liberal government. Today, they have a position of trust with the current Christy Clark government, Davidson described.
“It is a small association with a lot of influence,” Davidson said. “We have worked hard at building relationships with our stakeholders, with our association partners and with government. We have got them to listen to and consider our problems when they are working on new legislation and new projects.”
Davidson said one of his proudest accomplishments was when the association worked to construct and build up a safety association for the B.C. construction industry. Originally known as the Construction Safety Network, the project grew into the B.C. Construction Safety Alliance.
Today, the not-for-profit alliance serves more than 40,000 companies and more than 180,000 workers in the province’s construction industry. Under Davidson, the B.C. Road Builders also brought Certificate of Recognition (COR) certification to the province.
COR is a voluntary incentive program that recognizes companies who develop and implement health and safety and injury management systems that meet an industry standard. The program rewards employers who take a strategic approach to workplace safety and are committed to reducing both the human and financial costs of workplace injuries. COR certification is offered by WorkSafeBC and delivered through certifying partners.
All employers that are registered through WorkSafeBC are eligible to become COR certified and participate in safety management training initiatives.
“Safety has always been a prime concern of ours,” said Davidson. “We saw it as changing the safety culture. Where WorkSafeBC used to be the policemen all the time and the only one people dealt with, we thought that was wrong and that we should be able to put in safety programs on our own.”
Davidson said the safety association was able to change the culture of the roadbuilding industry.
“Our members do believe now that management is responsible for safety and that safety will save them money in the long run and build better relationships with their employees,” he said.
Davidson added that the B.C. Road Builders Association has also done a great deal to attract new talent to the industry and establish a clear career path.
He explained that back in 1999 with the Ministry of Transportation’s (MOT) budget of just over $300 million there were no worker shortages. As budgets grew to four times as much, now around $1.2 billion, it became clear that the workforce needed to grow. The B.C. Road Builders Association built a career path for new entries with apprenticeships and other training programs. While in the 1990s the roadbuilders and MOT rarely spoke, the two now have a productive partnership to deliver projects.
“I think when we started it was seen as a pick and shovel industry,” Davidson said. “Today it is pretty high-tech. Lots of good, well-paying jobs, and we have figured out a career path so people can figure out how to get into the industry, what training they need and where they can go, up to owning their own shop.”
While Davidson says he is proud of the association’s accomplishments, he added he will miss the people the most.
“The other industries I have seen don’t have the quality or honesty that the people in this industry have. Our members were honest and straightforward,” he said. “And although they are very competitive, they would look out for each other’s back if needed and work together for the good of the industry. That doesn’t happen in too many industries.”
Davidson said although he is moving on from the B.C. Road Builders Association, he isn’t done yet and is considering being involved with another association. He is also chair of the board at the British Columbia Institute of Technology, a position he said he is enjoying greatly.
The association is now headed by Kelly Scott, its former vice-president. Scott’s experience includes being vice-president at Commercial Truck Equipment Co and president of Coneco Komatsu.