Arsenault Bros. Construction Ltd., located in all Atlantic Provinces
Arsenault Bros. Construction Ltd. was established in 1983 by Carl and Anne Marie Arsenault. They ran the company from their home office in St. Nicholas, PEI for 27 years. Then they moved the office to their new home in Summerside. In 2016, they built a new office building and warehouse in a compound in the Cornwall Industrial Park. They also have offices and staff in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Newfoundland and Labrador.
Carl’s brothers have worked with the company from the very beginning: Bert is the Large Project Supervisor and Clarence is the Small Projects Foreman.
“We can take on any job, no matter the size,” says Lucas Arsenault, Vice President, Estimator, and Project Manager. “We have a wide range of workers skilled in everything from hanging and taping drywall, seam filling, carpentry, millwork, T-Bar tiled ceilings, and much more. We have worked with private industry and local and regional government projects and work regularly doing new tenant fit-ups.”
Products and services
- Acoustic panels
- Exterior building envelopes
- Complete interior fit-ups
- Steel studs, drywall, seam filling, sound insulation, beads, trims, etc…
- Stucco finish – Exterior Insulation Finish System (EIFS)
- Fire stopping/acoustics
- Doors, frame doors & hardware
- Suspended metal linear ceilings
- Bulkheads, floating clouds, acoustic tile & grid
- Movable partitions complete with PC-350 frames
Over the years, the company has been involved in many large-scale projects across PEI such as Queen Elizabeth Hospital expansion projects, the Holland College CAST Building, and the new PEI Convention Centre. “We have also done UPEI expansion projects, PEI schools, and many retail and commercial jobs, as well as hotels, condos and residential projects,” says Lucas.
They supply products and services for commercial buildings and up to 75 residential homes a year. “Ten to 15 percent of the total work that we do on PEI is residential. Elsewhere, most of our jobs are for commercial customers.”
About the staff on PEI
“There are 125 employees in total in all locations in the Atlantic provinces,” says Lucas. “On PEI there are 50 to 60 staff. During the busiest times that number can peak to about 85. Most staff have a background in carpentry or working with concrete. Staff ages range from 19 to 60 years of age. They are very well skilled and have a high level of experience.
“Right now, we are looking at the age of our workforce. Since we have very few younger staff hired on each year, we have to start looking at bringing on more for future replacement of our long-term staff looking at retirement. We need our experienced staff to train the younger generation to keep the labour force well prepared.”
- Interior Systems Mechanics (ISM)
- Office Comptroller, Accounting and Administration
- Large Project Superintendent
- Small Commercial Project Foreman
- Other Commercial Foreman
Arsenault Bros. Construction Ltd. is unionized under the Atlantic Canada Regional Council of Carpenters, Millwrights and Allied Workers (ACRC).
ACRC is the result of the consolidation of the Newfoundland and Labrador Regional Council of Carpenters, Millwrights and Allied Workers; the Nova Scotia and PEI Regional Council of Carpenters, Millwrights and Allied Workers; the New Brunswick Regional Council of Carpenters, Millwrights and Allied Workers; and Cape Breton Carpenters’ Local 1588.
Wages and benefits
ACRC ensures top-of-the-scale wages, and has partnered with Belmont Health & Wealth to provide members with comprehensive health coverage.
“We pay 40 percent more than non-unionized companies on PEI,” says Lucas. “Our pay scale is about $25 per hour for a journeyman plus benefits. A health and wellness plan is available that is as good as the public sector plan. We also contribute $3.50 per hour into a pension plan.”
Lucas says they never go looking for workers because people seem to know about this company. “The name dad and mom built over the years and the way we treat our staff seems to have helped greatly in maintaining our reputation of a good company to work for.
“We have been fortunate to have good people come our way. But when it gets busy, it is tough because everyone is working and it is hard to get the extra staff we need.
“When we hire, it is often people from other companies looking for a change or people from out west looking for work on PEI.”
He says when a good young candidate comes in with a resumè that seems to be well suited for the company and the attitude is right, they will try to hire that person. “Young people graduating from trade schools such as carpentry or construction technology would be suited for this company. We welcome people to drop in with those qualifications. If I see great potential, I am definitely interested in taking things further.
“We want people who work here to be happy with the work they are doing. We pay well and we want people to be fully committed to their work and be where they want to be.”
When people apply for work on PEI, they tend to go directly to the company but also some go to the Union office. Lucas meets with them and in some cases tries them out for a few weeks. If all seems to be a fit, they get signed up to the Union.
The interviews are done by Lucas, Daniel or Carl Arsenault.
Training available and potential for more training on PEI
“The union does all the safety training, so staff are able to get all their certificates. There is also a six-week Interior Systems Mechanics (ISM) course out of Halifax. If you are EI eligible, the government could pay a percentage of the tuition and the union pays the rest. There is no cost to the worker.
“I could offer an ISM course here on PEI, if I had enough workers who wanted the training. I need at least six people. I am presently working with ACRC to make that happen right here in our building. This course is for new people coming on and people who already work for us but need more training. I am working with the union to get a course here for our specific trade. If we held it here, it would be cheaper and more convenient than traveling to Halifax for six weeks.”
What they look for in potential staff
“I look for people who can talk with you and are self-sufficient, and who have their own vehicle and driver’s license. If the person has a great attitude, everything else can fall into place. I look for people who want to be in this trade and go to work every day, be there on time, listen, and want to learn.
“If someone who is not experienced in the trade but has the right attitude and work ethic, this is a great career for them. They must be willing to put effort into the work and put the time into getting the experience needed to advance on the job site. It takes five to 10 years to gain that experience, depending on the person.”
How technology has changed over the years
“Technology has certainly changed the way we do business,” says Lucas. “It is very different than when Dad started. The software and programs that are out there now are what is needed to stay competitive.
“We purchased a new computer system about three years ago, and that is one of the main things that has helped us to grow. It helps with estimating, invoicing, payroll, remittances, and much more, and we have not used it to its full capacity yet. You have to spend the money to get these systems but they pay for themselves in the long run. The key to growing a business these days is having the proper computer systems and the people to run them. It is also peace of mind to minimize mistakes in calculations. Tools have also changed over the years. Most of our tools are now cordless.
“People who apply to the company who have updated knowledge and ability with computer systems, tools, materials, and supplies certainly stand out.”
Positions difficult to fill
Lucas says Estimators and good Foreman are hard to find, and both are key to the business. “Labourers and Carpenters can be hard to find when we are in our peak busy season. PEI is a small place, and when it is busy, everyone is working.”
Lucas first worked for his family’s company when he was 14. After high school, he went to university, and then went out west, where he worked for his uncle in the same type of business. For a year or two, he and his brother Daniel also ran their own drywall installation company out west. He came back in 2008 and starting helping his mother, father, and brother with the business.
“There is a lot to be said for getting experience of all aspects of the business. Site experience is important. No matter what the job in this trade it is important to have the field experience first and foremost. You have to have the hands-on experience before being able to advance into other positions.
“Job site experience is the best way to do well in this trade. For people who are being trained as estimators and project leaders but have never done the field work, I would recommend that they get a year or two of experience before going to higher positions. This way, the people on the site and the people in the office can communicate better with less chance of error.”
For more information and to connect with Carl, Daniel or Lucas Arsenault, visit www.arsenaultbros.com.