Empowering Women in their Construction Careers feat. Nour Hachem-Fawaz

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Our guest this week on the Build Our Future Podcast (Ep. 35) is Nour Hachem-Fawaz, founder and president of the non-profit Build A Dream. She is also the host of the “Perfectly Unfiltered” podcast.

Nour founded Build A Dream in 2014, when she realized something needed to be done to encourage more young females to consider careers in the more predominantly male industries. The goal of Build A Dream was to gather all of the stakeholders – be it industry, education, family, peers, mentors – to contribute to assisting young women to make more informed decisions regarding their careers and their futures.

Nours mission is not only to help young women, but also to guide minorities who may not have access to the opportunities they need, and women who are living by social assistance, towards much more fulfilling and fruitful work lives.

What you will learn:

  • What got Nour started in following this path?
  • How did Nour’s mother inspire her to have high ambitions?
  • Why do young people need to be exposed to more career options than their families or school teach them about?
  • Why is creative marketing so effective?
  • What kind of events does Build A Dream host?
  • How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected Nour’s work, and the Build A Dream live events?
  • How has the COVID-19 pandemic changed the skilled trades?
  • What can companies do to ensure that they have more diverse and inclusive employees?
  • What are the common misconceptions regarding the professional abilities of women?
  • How can industries benefit from acknowledging their mistakes?
  • How does the future look for skilled trade industries?

They said what?

  • “Feeling like you have that power in the decision-making process, that power in moving your life forward can have a significant impact.” – Nour Hachem-Fawaz
  • “Build A Dream started at the thought that, if we started very young and empowering young women and giving them the power of choice, and connecting them with the resources and tools in the network they needed to make those informed decisions, then we could equip them with financial independence, with confidence, and with the career path that can lead them on a really strong and successful journey.” – Nour Hachem-Fawaz
  • “We know that there’s conditioning at a very young age where young women feel that they need to help that, they want to make a difference. “ – Nour Hachem-Fawaz
  • “How do we shift that whole mindset and really speak the language and empower young woman to see beyond their gender and empower the industry to attract more women and not focus on gender?” – Nour Hachem-Fawaz
  • “Making mistakes is really good because it only brings you closer to your goal.” – Nour Hachem-Fawaz
  • “We try to build her confidence – empower her to believe that it’s okay to make mistakes, surround her with role models and mentors. Empower her parents or her guardians to support her, so that if she chooses to go into that tech classroom, and she’s one of two females in that classroom, she’s not intimidated and leaves the class and decides to go into a different career pathway altogether.” – Nour Hachem-Fawaz
  • “One thing that we often hear from every event, the thing that they love most, is hearing stories from female role models that are very honest and transparent about their path. Then they tell us that once they see other women succeed, they feel that there’s a chance for them to succeed.” – Nour Hachem-Fawaz
  • “While COVID has disrupted a lot of industries, the skilled trades are actually thriving and doing really well. It’s actually really busy.” – Nour Hachem-Fawaz
  • The more we normalize the recruitment and awareness piece, and then the more companies are recognizing that we do need to shift the way workplaces are designed so that more people feel a sense of belonging.” – Nour Hachem-Fawaz
  • “When I look my kids in the eye, I want them to know that I made a difference in this world, and then I hopefully left it a little bit better than when I entered. So I always want any career that I pursue to really give me that inner satisfaction.” -Nour Hachem-Fawaz

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Mentioned in this episode:

Perfectly Unfiltered Podcast
Build A Dream
Build A Dream E-mail

Be sure to subscribe to the Build Our Future Podcast! http://ow.ly/5I9550D5iJj

What is Essential… Really?!

Well, there are so many different people that are still working construction which is phenomenal because as a business owner I can only imagine having to put stuff on hold wondering you know whether we can and cannot work. Putting stuff on hold, our cash flow, our payroll to our team and so on and so forth. You know it’s really frustrating as to what actually constitutes as essential. You know from where I sit, it’s easy. It’s easy for me to complain, it might come across as sargeras but it’s not. I’m trying to build a restaurant, trying to build an office space for clients for their team to provide you know as they say in the political sphere to add to build the economy to infuse money in that ever popular cash into a certain economy and we’re supposed to stop our work but on the other hand what is actually deemed essential?

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Is if you or me want to upgrade our bathroom because we don’t like to look at it and we’ve not taken a vacation for a year we can do that job that’s essential that is deemed essential businesses have had to put their planning on hold. They have had to still continue to pay their interest rates on financing on projects and now it’s on hold and they can’t give clear answers to their lenders as to what’s going on. But new homes can be built, new high-rise condos can be built, it’s interesting what is deemed essential in today’s environment. Well, I’m not begrudging for the actual contractors that are doing some of this work, they’re following the rules and that’s all anyone else can ask for but when it comes to us as the commercial contractors trying to work, we have added scrutiny, we got to make sure all our liability documents are on site. Our form you know safety boards so on and so forth. More often than not we get more spot checks on our sites from ministry of labor making sure that we’re following rules, we’re following protocols. There are so many more hurdles for us to jump through not just to build but to maintain a safe work site for our clients, for our trades as they’re working on it and it’s so frustrating that after now almost 10 – 11 days, there’s still no clarity even worse that’s happening right now when we do have direction when we do have that certainty on certain projects. We have municipal inspectors and municipalities determining that what we are building is not essential so they are not coming to inspect they are deeming it as their own sort of entity saying no we are taken upon ourselves the guidance given by the provincial government is ambiguous and I’m quote-unquote.

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Glad you see the ambiguity but we as a collective decided that your type of project does not deem as essential but ministry of labor has the construction associations have they feel it’s valid? So now I can get to a certain point of work and stop completely. I wonder what’s going to become of a lot of the companies a lot of the people behind these companies that have tried to make it work over this last year. Now obviously going more than a year talk about the impact on small businesses to me where I said I’m a small business it feels like the cards are stacked against us as small businesses not just to succeed but just to maintain a status quo to be around. When all of this lifts into whatever new normal we’re in. I guess we’ve always known that you know our society is all about the haves and the almost haves. I won’t say have nots but it feels like the big guys keep getting bigger and they kept keep getting busier and busier and busier for the small guys well I would say what we’re just 80  – 85 percent of our industry and I’m talking about contractors subcontractors suppliers they’re struggling man. They’re struggling to collect they’re struggling to pay their suppliers their bills it’s no wonder all of our materials are going up and it’s just going to flow downhill so the question we have to ask ourselves what is essential? what is really essential?

What Clarity?! Frustrations everywhere right now

You know I really didn’t want to have to talk about this yet again but in light of the restrictions that came in last week on Friday, we seem to be repeating a lot of the same mistakes as we have in the past. And normally I’m pretty balanced in what I’m talking about but you know after a year of lockdown, after lockdown, after restrictions, after lifting up, you would think that there would be some semblance of clear direction that we receive as to how we go about doing things. Especially and more importantly on a business level. I don’t want to get into some of the other restrictions that they imposed that have since been pulled back but as it pertains to construction it is so frustrating right now. Just trying to get answers as to whether we can or cannot work. We and by we I’m talking about the company that I work with mono construction.

We primarily build restaurants and while the previous lockdowns I got approvals from the ministry of labor from construction associations and the like that we could work since quote-unquote we fall under the production and distribution of food and restaurants are essential, so, therefore, we are essential because we’re supporting them but last time around two we had inspectors that made a decision that we were not essential. Fair, I understand it didn’t like it this time, around the exact same lingo has been put out the exact same verbiage but they’ve added a twist, if you work in hotels, if you work in shopping malls, you can’t work. That’s it, that’s all they say. I’ve got work at shopping malls building restaurants as its own entrance, what do you do? What do you do, my clients have no answers, landlords have no answers, consultants have no answers, heck ministry of labor doesn’t have answers. Apparently they’ve dispatched hundreds of inspectors to make sure we’re working safe and we’re not. We’re not circumventing the rules but if the inspectors themselves don’t know if we can work or not what are we supposed to do? Do I tell the client, we keep working but they got to sign a waiver that they pay all the bills, they pay all the fines? How does that impact them?

You know one of my biggest frustrations with what’s been going on here is that well everyone talk about leadership involving rather leadership involves making the tough decisions and I agree with that but making those tough decisions you also have to provide clarity. You also have to provide direction, clear direction as to what people can and cannot do. Be your team members, be it us in society as businesses, as individuals, what can and we cannot do? Without that direction, leadership means nothing, the hypocrisy of the situation is absolutely ludicrous, doesn’t affect me but I know of other contractors that build office spaces. What do they do? They got to shut down but yet if you have a government contract you can work how does that make sense? I work predominantly with businesses they have a bottom line, they have projections, they’ve got profit and losses they’ve got lease costs, they’ve got financing costs, they’ve got everything, they’ve got more than likely their livelihood on the line. They got to stop their work, they got to stop expanding but a government entity that doesn’t have such ramifications to their livelihood, they can keep, they can have their office built, not providing clarity breeds discontent. I hate to say it but the more you try to appease everybody and give 10 to everybody almost everyone’s upset almost everyone’s frustrated. How do we go about planning our lives?

I know it’s easy to say either lock it all down or open it all back up at least we know at least we know you would think after a year clear direction for businesses on how to operate would have been put forward. You would think that these questions and these concerns from a lot of contractors that want to follow the rules, that want to be safe, when we build, can actually do that. How are we supposed to provide confidence to our clients, clarity to our clients, when we can’t even get answers from the people enforcing the rules my hope and it’s a hail mary pass, whatever you want to call it in the next few days. We get some clarity as to what we actually can and cannot do but given the track history I don’t think that’s going to happen. My hope is we get clarity long before may 20th but you know as they say, as a business owner, as an entrepreneur, plan for the worst, hope for the best and that’s all we can do. Make sure we’ve got four or five different plans in order and we hope that the best is actually implemented.

Thoughts That Build​ – Rising Costs of Construction….

I want to share with you today some of the things and trends that have been happening within the construction industry now. In the past, I have spoken about the need for accurate pricing to make sure the drawings are covered, make sure you get pricing from your suppliers and subcontractors, but what’s been happening now during the pandemic has been what’s the right word it has been strange and uncertain. Costs of materials have been rising exponentially. The same costs as last year at this time compared to this year has gone up 20%, 30%, 40% up. Just in a supply price we’re talking about global supply chain shortages. That’s the first thing because of the pandemic factor in some of the issues that have happened down south in Texas. With their power outages, a lot of suppliers that we’ve had are based in Texas and we’ve had increases from two weeks to eight weeks to supply materials, just due to backlogs of orders. How do we overcome these hurdles? How do we make sure that all parties are aware? I feel like every day I’m having to explain to my clients to architects about delays in supplies of materials. Projects are stagnating as a result but we have to understand that prices that we held two months ago three months ago are not valid today. There was a time pre-pandemic where construction prices we could say we’re going up five to ten percent at least per year but it’s actually gone exponentially. I started doing some work but the prices even from you know a project I got awarded in November until when I received the actual building permit in march had gone up about 22% up in a span of four months.

Understanding this ensuring your clients are aware, trying to find local products as an example because there’s one thing to do with price, the second thing has to do with the lead time they both factor into the success of a project right you don’t want to make sure that your costs go overboard more stress on your clients, more stress on yourself. But you also want to make sure that you’re getting products in at a good time at a good rate. So that you can keep work going, you can keep seeing that progress as you go down.

So understanding the climate in which we’re in right now and understanding that cost today might not be the same as costs in two weeks is really important. Not just for clients but for contractors, subcontractors, homeowners, architects. In vetting, bill costs for us as GCS have gone up in terms of maintaining a safe workplace. We don’t just have to worry about here in Ontario anyway. You know the ministry guidelines, you know working at heights training but now we have to take into account you know safe work distances, contact tracing we have to keep in mind hand sanitizers that have disappeared from my sites actually.

So there’s a lot of things nowadays that we have to be extra diligent about in our communication, in our delivery to our clients because at the end of the day we’re all in this together. We all want to make sure that the clients are getting the best price and we’re making a little bit of money so understanding the whole size and scope of this is imperative to a successful project.

Thoughts That Build​ – Site Supervision…

So another career in construction that you can choose to go down is being a site superintendent. Now some people call them construction site managers, I generally call them that but really what it is. It’s an experienced person on a project site that’s looking after the day-to-day operations of it. Some of the key factors and key roles duties that a site superintendent plays are health and safety. He got to make sure everyone’s safe. Especially in today’s environment, you’ve got to make sure the mask is being worn, you’ve got to make sure a hard hat, safety boots, you got to make sure all those things are in play. Yes, you have a lot of government requirements too and certifications that you need, but a site superintendent needs to make sure that you have a safe and clean project site.

The second one is coordination, you have to be able to schedule at least one to two weeks in advance you going to let trades know, your team knows. If you have in-house personnel when they need to show up on a site to continue a project, you can’t call somebody a day before. I mean you can but chances are they’re busy on other jobs, so scheduling ahead is so vital and so pivotal to being a construction site superintendent. You need to make sure that once the demo is done that you already have your plumber lined up to mark out the floor, so you can do coring trenching concrete removal, you got to have drywallers ready for you know framing layouts, partition layout, so on and so forth and the third one that I find is really vital is quality control measures. You’ve got to make sure that the trades aren’t cutting corners. You’ve got to make sure that what they’re installing is actually asked for the drawings. Now I’m not saying that they always cut corners, I’m saying sometimes it’s really easy to miss. Sometimes a superintendent will pick something up that your estimator or your project coordinator hasn’t picked up on the drawings and how they interface with each other so having that person on-site to report back as things come up. Because things that come up all the time on a project like that, are generally not shown on the drives. How do you know if a site supervision role is for you? You got to see what you’re like as a person and I’m talking about a long-term career in the short term. I’m a big believer that anyone who wants to grow in the construction industry should go into all the aspects of construction. So they have a full understanding of how a project works? How does the industry work? But in terms of supervision, if you’re looking at long-term growth, you want to make sure that you have that attention to detail that you have that you’re able, I should say to communicate with trades on a project site there will be dispute resolutions, you’re not always going to get along with people we have to be able to work with them. You have to be able to put them to task when you need to and then you know still hang out afterward right? You got to have again attention to detail. You got to make sure your schedule’s met the quality control measures are there and if you like just being out and interacting with people and not going to an office once in a while, the site supervision role just might be for you long term but I highly recommend at least experiencing it be it as in a site coordinator role an assistant side superintendent role, you will learn so much just going on a job site for a week two weeks, a month, two months. You will see how these 2d drawings actually are built up and how it tangibly fits together. I couldn’t recommend it enough if you’re looking to grow within the construction industry.