From an interview with Andrew Garth of Ravenwood Stairways, September 18, 2020:
Andrew Garth is owner of Ravenwood Stairways in Alberton. He started at the company as a Salesperson and Estimator, and then purchased the company six years ago.
Andrew, who is an Islander, was working in Ontario, came home and was hired by the company to help reinvigorate sales and develop the Maritime market. After four years, the owner Ralph Clark decided to retire, and developed a succession plan to sell the company to Andrew.
Since then, Andrew has brought on two partners, and has expanded the business significantly. “The boom on PEI has helped get our name out to a lot more contractors, and now we can prove the benefits of saving time and money with a subcontracted staircase.”
The company has been a member and has been involved with the Canadian Homebuilders Association-PEI for a number of years.
“It is hard to find qualified labourers that are ready to jump into the business,” says Andrew. “We need a specific set of skills and we pride ourselves in our workmanship. If I lost one of my more experienced workers, it would be very hard to find someone to come into the position and pay him what he is worth, while they are being trained.
“Even though a person may be very knowledgeable in the construction trade, it could take at least three months working with an experienced stair maker to get up to speed.
“Bringing in younger students isn’t always easy either. An entry-level position involves a lot of moving and sanding, and the work can be slow, mundane, and tedious. It takes someone who is interested and motivated to start from the bottom, build their skills, and work their way up.
“Our people started at an entry-level position and built their skills. Some have been with us for more than 20 years, and some have started businesses of their own.
“In 2019, we took on a Holland College Transitions program student who is working out really well. He is a success story. We hired him after the program finished, and he is still learning and working hard.
“We will be moving him into a role where he is more independent as he learns to install stairs himself. It can be a long training process. The last person we hired took five years of training before he was comfortable building and installing a staircase on his own.”
Andrew says he expects his employees to be very self-sufficient and have great attention to detail. “We need staff to be able to work independently and make their own decisions so that the job gets done on time. The work is very much project-based, and if we get the project done on time, we can take off personal time when needed.
“Our work hours are 7 am to 5 pm, with Friday afternoons off, and our employees like that arrangement.”
Women in construction
“A diversified labour force will benefit all sections of the industry,” says Andrew. “One woman was with us for seven years, doing finishing work and drafting work on the computer, and she moved on to become a Drafter. We had an Administrator in the business as well, who has moved on to another administration job. I am seeing more and more women doing labour work on construction sites.”
Andrew believes there will be a big increase in women in the trades in the future, especially in business management. “There are many husband and wife teams where the husband does the traditional hammer and nail role and the wife handles the books, schedules the tradespeople on a job and makes sure things are running on time and on budget.
“I think women could be intimidated working with men, and it is not something business owners always consider. It is a learning curve for everyone. Women bring a different perspective to the workplace, and it is important to include them.”
For more information about Ravenwood Stairways, call 902-853-3037.
For more information, visit www.ravenwoodstairways.com