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Alumni Engagement

Building relationships: Construction Management grad ensures project runs smoothly

August 25, 2014

Ever look at a major construction project and think, ‘I wonder who’s running the show?’ In the case of the new Health Sciences Centre Diagnostic Imaging complex, it’s Red River College grad Jorge Laba.

Laba is the HSC project’s Assistant Site Superintendent. He’s the guy that makes sure things are running smoothly, whether overseeing subcontractors, coordinating logistics, maintaining safety, recording payroll, documenting progress, or more. He enjoys being able to see a project’s many sides.

“My favourite part is having the freedom and flexibility to learn all the paperwork involved in a complex construction project, as well as the practical side by seeing what is on paper [being] built in real life,” he says. “It gives me the chance to leave the desk to walk around the job site and observe the subcontractors perform their associated works.”

Laba, 29, works for Bockstael Construction, the contractor for the $39-million Diagnostic Imaging project. When completed, the seven-storey building will house a full range of state-of-the-art imaging technology and include a rooftop helicopter landing pad.

He accepted the position with Bockstael even before graduating from RRC’s new Construction Management degree program earlier this year. The training ensured he was prepared for the job’s multifaceted nature.

“Training at RRC prepared me on a technical level – hard skills – and personal level – soft skills – both equally as important in a leadership role. I mastered blueprint reading and some of the complexity that comes with specific work of the trades on site.”

Close to 90 people are regularly on the HSC construction site and interacting with them requires tact; RRC trained Laba to see the value in different personalities.

“In addition to technical skills of construction, one also needs the right attitude and personality to coordinate with everyone on the job to prevent issues, resolve conflicts, and keep on schedule.”

Although Laba long knew he was interested in buildings and construction, it took him awhile to find the right career; he spent a few years studying architecture in university and worked as a Realtor before deciding neither was right.

It was while checking out programs at RRC that Laba “stumbled upon” the brand new Construction Management program.

“The program description perfectly suited what I was looking for,” he says. “Although money is attractive, especially when we are young, the best possible advice I could give to anyone would be to follow your passion. Even if it’s a career that may pay less than another; the most important thing is to do what you love and love what you do.”

Jorge LabaThe Construction Management program’s co-op placements gave Laba a variety of on-the-job experiences. He worked as a carpenter/labourer for Hyde Park Construction, where he built residential concrete foundations including piles, grade beams and foundation walls, and as an estimator for PCL Construction.

“These placements allowed me to build something with my own hands, see how buildings are put together, taught me team-building skills, communication, and professionalism. It was where I was able to acquire real world, hands-on skills.”

The four-year Construction Management degree program is extremely demanding and Laba, who has a young son and was very involved in extra-curricular activities, found it at times tough to maintain a work-life balance.

“Advice I have for other Construction Management students is to learn how to manage your time. Most people, myself included, have a tendency to procrastinate but this is a very demanding program that requires students to always be on their toes and ready for any surprise challenges, akin to the real world of construction.”

Nonetheless, Laba excelled in his studies. Among many accolades, he was the 2014 winner of the Lieutenant-Governor’s Medal for Proficiency, the 2013 winner of the ACI Manitoba Chapter Red River College Scholarship, the 2011 winner of the College’s Paul Charette Award, and a four-time winner of the Winnipeg Construction Association Award from 2010 to 2013.

While attending RRC, Laba also served as a tutor for civil engineering and trades students, as a student ambassador for Open House events, and as a Construction Management representative for at the Rotary Career Symposium.

“Extra-curricular activities were important to me while I was studying at RRC because I wanted to be selfless and help out where I could by doing things for others.”

Outside of class, he’s been designated a Canada Green Building Council LEED Green Associate, and a member of the Project Management Institute, the Canadian Institute of Quantity Surveyors, the Certified Technicians and Technologists Association of Manitoba, the Chartered Institute of Building, and the ACI Manitoba Chapter.

“Being a member of several different professional groups gave me exposure and networking opportunities to meet with other professionals in the construction sector and learn of new technologies, products, and emerging innovations. Something truly valuable in an industry that is constantly evolving.”

Laba also served as a member of the board of directors for RRC’s Day Care program, and is currently a board director for the Manitoba Brain Injury Association (MBIA).

“My best friend was involved in an accident and he’s a victim of an acquired brain injury so it is good to get involved with MBIA and help out a worthy cause,” he says.

“It’s important to give back to the community, that’s just part of what we do that makes us human. We’re all connected in some way. We all depend on one another and can’t do everything alone. If you can better someone else’s life, not only do you help them but it makes you feel happy doing it too. It’s a win-win situation.”

Click here to learn more about RRC’s four-year Construction Management degree program.

Profile by Stacy Cardigan Smith (Creative Communications, 2006)