Aspire GTA 2022: Virtual Construction Networking and Career Exploration Event

First Work’s Aspire initiative hosts Career Exploration events across Ontario to provide youth with the ability to learn about different career opportunities and network with employers.

In summer 2022, Aspire partnered with construction sector partners to put on a virtual career exploration event!
On August 25, 2022, First Work’s Aspire initiative – with the OGCA and RESCON – hosted a virtual Networking and Career Exploration Event for nearly 50 youth (ages 15-30) in the GTA interested in the construction industry. Industry professionals shared experiences from their career journeys and promoted a variety of careers in the construction industry. Panelists and focused networking conversations in breakout rooms took apart the myth of traditional construction careers and instead built for youth a map for many pathways in the construction industry.

The Ontario General Contractors Association (OGCA) is the pro-active voice for all general contracting issues across the Province of Ontario, representing over 190 general contractor organizations. RESCON is Ontario’s leading association of residential builders committed to providing leadership and fostering innovation in the industry.

Youth participants were advised to come prepared with their resume for networking and were encouraged to send First Work their resume to connect any of the panelists.

Panelists Included:

Alexandra Wells
Tile Setter by trade & owner of A Female’s Touch Renovations Inc
A Female’s Touch Renovations Inc.
I have worked as a tile setter for 10 years, I have been the first female in a lot of roles on my journey. I am now the owner of A Female’s Touch Renovations Inc.

Bernard Whelan
General Superintendent
Pomerleau Construction
I have been in the industry for over 35 years starting as a laborer and working my way successively through Foreman, asst. Super, Super, senior super and finally to my current position. I have had the pleasure of working with many incredible people over the years on some iconic projects such as : Pan-Am Athletes Village, Michael Lee-Chin Crystal ( ROM) as well as many other less notable but every bit as fun to build. My current roll is focused on some new initiatives here in the GTA is on rolling out new initiatives here in the GTA with a eye towards mentoring and learning as the key points.

Raly Chakarova
Executive Director
BOLT Charitable Foundation
Raly Chakarova is the Executive Director of the BOLT Charitable Foundation. BOLT was started by Tridel with a mandate to assist under-resourced youth connect to careers in construction through raising awareness, career exploration, and financial support for skilled training and post-secondary education. Prior to this role, Raly was the Director of Policy at the Toronto Region Board of Trade, leading its work on talent, trade and transportation. As a former senior advisor to provincial cabinet ministers, including Ontario’s Minister of Economic Development and Growth, Raly has an in-depth and practical understanding of government policy. Raly is a Board Member of ACCES Employment, a member of RESCON’s Anti-Racism Roundtable, and member of the Women in Construction Committee at George Brown College. She holds a Master of Public Administration from Queen’s University and a Specialist in International Development and Political Science from University of Toronto.

Giovanni Cautillo
Ontario General Contractors Association (OGCA)
Giovanni Cautillo is the President and Chief Operating Officer of the Ontario General Contractors Association (OGCA). His passion for the construction industry has driven his 20-year career in the construction industry. Construction has shaped Giovanni’s career trajectory from an early age. He was taught building fundamentals and the importance and interdependence of communication within the construction team from his father, a proud stonemason that immigrated from Italy. The simple values of trust, respect and pride are the foundation of his construction education. After working in the aerospace and hospitality sectors, Giovanni transitioned back to the construction industry as a small general contractor where he gained a profound understanding of the issues contractors face daily. In 2006, he brought this experience to the Executive Managing Director for the Residential Framing Contractors Association (RFCA), where he focused on building strong partnerships in the industry. After eight years in the residential sector, he transitioned to heavy civil and infrastructure at the Ontario Sewer and Watermain Construction Association (OSWCA). The OGCA has a proud reputation for advocacy on behalf of members and being the general contracting industry’s voice. With significant personal and professional experience, Giovanni is well suited to be the spokesperson for the association. His straightforward delivery style has already advanced multiple issues affecting general contractors during the COVID-19 pandemic. As the OGCA continues to grow, Giovanni is focused on long-term initiatives facing the general contractors in Ontario. These efforts include ensuring members’ health and safety, equitable contract language provisions, the expansion of innovation and technology in construction, and investment in ICI infrastructure projects of all sizes in Ontario.

Mohammed Al-Salem
Community Benefits and Relations Specialist
Over 10 years experience within municipal government and community organizations to oversee Community Relations, Community Development, and Communications. I have a reputation as a natural relationship builder and stakeholder advocate, and I’ve played an instrumental role in securing the approvals, public support, and stakeholder buy-in that’s necessary to advance critical projects that improve community well. My current role at EllisDon is Community Benefits Lead on multiple projects including the Bayers Lake Community Outpatient Centre and West Park Health Care Centre. Additionally, my practical experience is complemented by a Bachelor of Arts in Social Science (Health and Society) and leadership of a not-for-profit organization Play Forever, dedicated to improving the accessibility of sports for youth in subsidized housing.