Paul de Jong: Facilitating Communication and Collaboration

We profile new IRC Management Advisory Committee Chair, Paul de Jong, on his position as president of the Progressive Contractors Association of Canada, in addition to discussing the goals and benefits of partnering with the IRC, as well as the value of a career in the Alberta construction industry.

Cassandra Ommerli - 17 March 2016

Paul de Jong portrait

In November 2015, Paul de Jong was announced as the IRC's newest Management Advisory Committee Chair. Acting as a liaison between NSERC and the participants of the IRC and serving as chairperson of the quarterly meetings of the Management Advisory Committee, Paul plays a major role in facilitating group collaboration. Moreover, his services help to ensure representation of the IRC's wide range of stakeholder perspectives in project planning and discussion. With over 25 years of experience in areas including labour relations, government relations, business development, and strategic management, Paul brings an extensive and diverse background of expertise to his position as Management Advisory Committee Chair.

Outside of the IRC, Paul serves as president of the Progressive Contractors Association of Canada (PCA), an organization that provides advocacy, labour-management advice, networking opportunities, and organizational services to its member companies, which represent more than 25,000 skilled construction workers across Canada. As president, Paul is responsible for the full gamut of the association's national operations; this includes providing oversight on PCA's internal finance and administration as well as ensuring the effective management of its external business areas. Prior to joining PCA, Paul worked with the Christian Labour Association of Canada (CLAC), beginning as a labour relations field representative and eventually moving into roles including regional director of CLAC's Calgary office and provincial director of prairie provinces. In 2010, Paul made the transition from CLAC to PCA, joining Dr. Robinson Fayek's IRC shortly thereafter as PCA's representative on both the Management Advisory Committee and Technical Advisory Committee.

Four years later, Paul has stepped into his new role with the IRC just as planning for the 2017-2021 renewal term commences. He notes that PCA's continued involvement in the IRC has been motivated in part by an understanding that investments in education and in research and development programs are integral to the progression of industry practice and performance. Furthermore, Paul suggests that collaborations such as the IRC are essential in promoting the exchange of knowledge and technologies between industry and academia, which allows for the development products and solutions that move beyond the status quo. For PCA, Dr. Robinson Fayek's unique scholarly work has been particularly compelling: "The fuzzy logic approach provides a fascinating and dynamic means of investigating construction productivity from not only a traditional, quantitative standpoint, but it is also able to capture critical elements that are more subjective in nature."

While Paul expresses confidence in the strong body of research and products developed by the IRC during the current term, he maintains that "the program has only just begun to explore the potency in areas such as innovation and productivity, which are critical to the growth and modernization of the construction industry." For PCA and its members, the value of participation in the IRC is multifaceted. "The program is designed to deliver meaningful results to its partner organizations in the short term," Paul notes, "However, our involvement in the IRC also represents a larger investment in research that will provide industry and government practitioners with the resources necessary to drive further advancement beyond the scope of the program."

Over the years, Paul has devoted his career to working with organizations that aim to establish a progressive and productive industry environment. Ultimately, Paul remains optimistic about the future of the Alberta construction industry and sees the province as being supported by a foundation of highly skilled and passionate stakeholders. He hopes to motivate the next generation of Alberta's workforce to recognize the versatility of a career in construction and the opportunities it offers for professional growth and advancement: "Young professionals should be encouraged that a construction trade is first and foremost a highly valuable commodity in Canada. Exploring a construction trade may only be the first of many steps in the endless opportunities afforded in this rich and diverse sector." In regards to his own career development, Paul identifies the importance of maintaining a "healthy balance" between meeting the daily, practical requirements of his career and staying focused on the broader strategic issues and developments within the industry. For Paul, a commitment to excellence through willingness to learn and adapt is key.

This piece originally appeared in IRC KeyNotes Issue 5 (March 2016).