Just because you start out in an entry-level position doesn’t mean you can’t ascend to great heights.
For proof, look no further than Red River College grad Richard Graumann, who over the decades has worked his way from a job as a construction industry estimator to a senior management position at one of Canada’s leading construction management companies.
“Who would think you could go from being an estimator to being vice-president of a national organization?” says Graumann, a Civil Engineering Technology (CET) grad who’s now the Vice-President (Manitoba and Northwestern Ontario) for Canadian construction firm Stuart Olson Dominion.
“But in fact, at our company, we’ve got 12 VPs that represent different divisions, and of those 12 VPs, five of them came out of estimating.”
Graumann got his industry start working for his father — a local contractor — but enrolled in RRC’s CET program as a means of furthering his career in the field. He says the two-year program provided him with the skills required to make a quick transition to industry, and like many, he found work in Alberta’s building boom soon after graduation.
“Within days of sending out resumes I had three requests for interviews, so it was a good indication there was demand for my background and training,” he says. “Also, as it turned out, the employer I ended up working for had hired other students from Red River College, so they recognized the value of the program at that time.”
The position gave Graumann exposure in not only construction, but also design. When the market in Alberta began to flag, he moved back home to Manitoba, landing a job with a large, local construction firm, where he soon moved up the ranks to a position as Chief Estimator.
He took a job at Dominion Construction in 1998, gradually progressing into a Project Director role. When Dominion amalgamated with Stuart Olson in 2010, Graumann was offered the job as Vice-President for Manitoba and Northwest Ontario.
“Having moved from more of a technical aspect to the management side of things, I’d say what I enjoy most is dealing with people,” says Graumann, noting at least half of his duties involve dealing with daily staffing concerns and issues.
“The other important aspect is business development — getting out into the marketplace and looking for the next project for the company. Over the years, I’ve developed a lot of positive relationships — I know a lot of people in the industry, and that’s had a lot to do with the success of this division … We’re able to find a lot of work just through relationships and negotiations, and based on our reputation and past performance.”
At present, Graumann heads up a complement of 65 full-time employees and 300-plus crew members, and oversees a number of high-profile construction projects, including the new football stadium at the University of Manitoba, the new polar bear habitat and research centre at Assiniboine Zoo, and the Tache Hall renewal at the U of M’s Fort Garry campus.
“The construction industry in Manitoba is a booming field,” says Graumann. “I would certainly encourage students to look at construction, construction management or civil engineering technology, because there are numerous opportunities to move up through organizations.”
Graumann says the programs at RRC are well-respected throughout the industry — not only in Manitoba, but across the country — and notes graduates from the College are in similarly high demand.
“You recognize that the people who get through that program, they are quality,” he says. “Certainly we look to Red River College for our staffing needs, as do many contractors in the city and across Western Canada.”
And while graduates may have to start at the bottom, the construction industry is rife with opportunities for advancement.
“Often, things like estimating are considered entry-level, and there’s a perception that you’ll always be an estimator,” says Graumann. “But I think what is important is to get that first job, become an expert in your field, and then put every effort into being the best you can.”