Footbridges over otherwise impassable rivers give isolated communities access to health care, education and markets

By Barb Feldman

In 2001, Ken Frantz happened to see a photo in National Geographic of men dangling precariously from ropes that they were using to pull each other across a wide, high gap in a bridge across the Blue Nile River in Ethiopia. Frantz, who owned a construction company, knew how to build and believed he could help. He persuaded family, friends and his Rotary club to donate time, money and materials, and within three months the two sides of the centuries-old stone span, which had been deliberately destroyed in World War II to stop the advance of Italian troops, had been reconnected.

The success of this first project inspired Frantz to found Bridges to Prosperity (B2P), a non-profit dedicated to building footbridges over otherwise impassable rivers to give isolated communities safer access to health care, education and markets. Both B2P’s basic cable-suspended bridge design and its community-participation and teaching model were inspired by and adapted from programs begun by the Swiss development agency Helvetas (now HELVETAS Swiss Intercooperation), which began its own community footbridge-building programs in the 1980s. Since 2008, B2P has also been developing its own safe, replicable and locally viable suspension bridge design alternatives.

Growth in construction sector is a good indicator of a strengthening economy

Supplied by CareerBuilder Canada and Economic Modeling Specialists Intl.

Canada’s construction industry has seen steady growth over the last several years, and new data suggests the expansion will continue throughout 2014. According to CareerBuilder Canada and Economic Modeling Specialists Intl. (EMSI), employment in the construction industry has grown by 12 per cent from 2011 to 2014, adding over 102,000 jobs, outpacing four per cent growth for all jobs.

“The construction industry is often a reliable indicator of an economy’s strength, and right now we’re seeing very encouraging growth,” said Mark Bania, director at CareerBuilder Canada. “Not only has the construction industry added a wide variety of occupations over the past few years, but this growth has stretched across the entire country.”

In order to help workers determine where the opportunities lie within this growing industry, CareerBuilder and EMSI put together a list of the fastest-growing construction occupations. Among occupations that are expected to see the greatest percentage increases in 2014 are:

1) Administrative officersOversee and implement administrative procedures, establish work priorities and co-ordinate the acquisition of administrative services such as office space, supplies and security services.
· Change in construction employment (2013-2014) – 5.1 per cent 
· Median hourly earnings – $21.63

2) Contractors and supervisors, heavy construction equipment crewsIncludes excavating, grading, paving, drilling and blasting contractors who own and operate their own business and contractors who supervise crane operators, drillers and blasters, heavy equipment operators, longshore workers, material handlers, public works maintenance equipment operators, railway track maintenance workers and water well drillers.
· Change in construction employment (2013-2014) – 4.4 per cent 
· Median hourly earnings – $29.85

The Canadian Association of Women in Construction (CAWIC) recently launched its Women's Advancement Project in St. John's, Newfoundland. CAWIC is calling on industry employers, unions and educational partners to collaborate with CAWIC to address the shortage of skilled trades in Canada by promoting the entry and advancement of women into leadership roles within the construction industry.

Earlier this year, CAWIC was awarded a grant from the Government of Canada for $249,900 through Status of Women Canada. The grant will fund a three-year project to conduct research and develop, with collaboration from industry employers and female participants, an action plan to open doors for women's entry, retention and advancement into leadership roles within the construction industry.

CAWIC is actively seeking employer partners who share its vision to promote change and break down barriers for women in the industry, to create an action plan that makes economic sense, is realistic and attainable. Industry employers with operations in Alberta, Ontario and Newfoundland/Labrador have the opportunity to get directly involved in this important initiative.

Two weeklong seminars were recently held in Edmonton, Alta. to give operators a unique opportunity to increase their skills using Soilmec hydraulic drill rigs.

Soilmec certified instructors came from Italy’s Foundations Technology Academy to teach the participants state-of-the-art drilling techniques and to help them grow professionally to reach their full potential. Having skilled operators helps the participating contractors get the most from their Soilmec equipment by increasing jobsite productivity, efficiency and safety.

The special training was organized by a collaboration of the Foundation Technology Academy (part of the Trevi Group), Champion Equipment Sales, LLC and the International Union of Operating Engineers Local #955. A total of 40 students participated from three Alberta-based foundation contractors: AGRA Foundations, Keller Canada and Pacer Foundations Corporation. The seminars were held at the union’s facilities.

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Piling Canada is the premier national voice for the Canadian deep foundation construction industry. Each issue is dedicated to providing readers with current and informative editorial, including project updates, company profiles, technological advancements, safety news, environmental information, HR advice, pertinent legal issues and more.