Allan Tierney, Co-owner of Blue Heron Construction, says 2017 had a slow start but ended up being one of their best years in a long time.
“Last year, we kept up with the work but we could have hired more staff,” says Allan. “This year, with five homes already booked for construction in the spring, we need to hire more staff to keep up with the demand. 2018 is off to a great start, and we have time to make sure the labour force is in place.”
The company was started in the 1980s by Wayne and Lise Buote. It is now owned by Allan Tierney, Chris Buote, Kelsey Morrow, and Ryan Buote.
They offer the full package of building services from start to finish, and have a home warranty. “Our clientele is right across the board,” says Allan. “We have people who want renovations, new homes, or second homes. Many are downsizing retirees or newcomers.”
About the staff and hiring needs
About 35 staff work year-round and up to 45 work in the summer in four different divisions. The company has had year-round employment for 20 years. Allan says in the spring they are always looking for journeyman, carpenters, and labourers.
“Staff range in age from 20 to over 60, and some have been with the company almost 40 years. More retirement is on the horizon.”
Onsite division – Heavy equipment operators, truck drivers, and a foreman do onsite work building septic and water systems.
Plumbing division – “Kelsey is the foreman of our plumbing division,” says Allan. “About three full-time plumbers are employed year-round, and we will be looking for more this spring.”
HVAC division – “Ryan is the foreman of that division.
We do all our own air exchange and heat pump work.”
Carpentry division – Two foremen and 20 carpenters work in this division year-round, and five more work seasonally. “We will be looking for more in the spring,” says Allan.
“When it comes to recruiting, we have not advertised positions because we usually hire through word of mouth. We contact Holland College instructors to recruit students, and a good number of youth have started with us over the past few years. We are always looking to bring in younger staff but we don’t feel that we are lacking youth at this point.”
Wages and benefits
“We need to be competitive with our wages in order to maintain our staff,” says Allan. “Almost every year we lose employees to work in the west or they become self-employed.
“Wages here range from $15 to $25 an hour and many of the staff drive company vehicles.”
The hiring process
Hiring is an informal process. “We give those we are interested in working a chance on the worksites. For those with experience, it does not take long to see how well they can perform. For youth starting out, we like to give them an opportunity to try out the trades with us and see how they get along.
“We talk with the potential candidate in person and ask a few questions about their background, their expectations, and their plan over the next five years. When we hire, we give them six months and then reevaluate.
“For those coming into our business without formal training who have potential, we encourage them to register with the Apprenticeship program.
“We have all the components in place to take someone all the way through the apprenticeship process right up to earning their Red Seal.”
Allan says learning doesn’t stop when you become a licensed carpenter. “We learn something new in our trade every day.”
About the future of the industry
“Hopefully the building code system will be adopted across the province in the near future,” says Allan. “We look forward to the system on PEI because it will really establish a fully standardized industry across the board.”
He says with wages and material costs continually increasing, construction costs go up each year by about three percent. “Even with these increases the construction industry is growing at a good rate and there are well-paying jobs to be had.”
The Blue Heron Construction office is located at the North Rustico Home Hardware Building Centre. Interested applicants may drop off a resumè on location.
For more information, call 902-963-2266 or email [email protected].