Building access: Canadian construction giant backs Dal engineering pathways program

- January 26, 2024

Dalhousie Engineering, Pomerleau Construction and the Ulnooweg Education Centre join together on a new program that will remove barriers to an engineering education beginning with Indigenous youth. (Provided photos)
Dalhousie Engineering, Pomerleau Construction and the Ulnooweg Education Centre join together on a new program that will remove barriers to an engineering education beginning with Indigenous youth. (Provided photos)

Pomerleau, a Canadian leader in the construction industry, has made a $50,000 gift to support the Faculty of Engineering’s new Inclusive Pathways to Engineering Careers Program (Pathways Program).

The program aims to remove barriers and increase access to an engineering education for individuals from equity-deserving communities.

In partnership with the Ulnooweg Education Centre (UEC), an Indigenous-led charitable organization, Dalhousie Engineering is working to launch the Indigenous stream of the Pathways Program.

The Indigenous Stream of the Program, announced in July, will offer tailored supports, resources, and opportunities to Indigenous youth — services in line with Ulnooweg’s own mission to empower Indigenous communities through the advancement of education, collaborative research and the delivery of educational programs and initiatives.

Although in the “building” phase, the Pathways Program has garnered support from local donors and partners eager to build a more diverse and dynamic engineering profession, including CBCL Limited, EverWind Fuels and Dalhousie Engineering donor and alumnus Dr. Bernard MacIsaac and his wife, Ann MacIsaac.

Power in partnership

Interest in the Pathways Program continues to grow. Pomerleau’s recent partnership is the latest example of an industry eager to contribute to fostering equity, diversity, inclusion, and accessibility within the profession.

“Becoming a partner in the Inclusive Pathways to Engineering Careers Program is an exciting and concrete way for Pomerleau to demonstrate its commitment to offer everyone an equal chance to progress,” says Lorin Robar, Pomerleau’s regional vice president, atlantic. “We are particularly supportive of the growth opportunities the program will provide to equity deserving communities starting with Indigenous youth.  This program will build a more inclusive and dynamic engineering profession.”

Lorin Robar, Pomerleau’s Regional Vice President, Atlantic.

Strengthening relations

For more than a decade, Pomerleau has carried out roughly 30 construction projects located in Indigenous communities. This year the company solidified its progress by publishing its first Integrated Report and highlighting some of the initiatives they have implemented to strengthen Indigenous relations in construction.

Their key goal: to create an engagement policy and a concrete roadmap to maximize Indigenous participation in the projects the company builds.

“The development of intentional, respectful, and responsive business relations with Indigenous peoples on our projects aligns with the goals outlined in the Federal Government’s 94 Calls to Action for Truth and Reconciliation. We want to foster a collaborative and open environment, one which embodies our five values of authenticity, adaptability, innovation, excellence, and love.”

Ulnooweg’s Chief Operating Officer, Chris Googoo, says with the support of partners such as Pomerleau and Dalhousie Engineering, the impact of the Pathways Program will extend beyond the 34 Indigenous communities in Atlantic Canada.

"Our efforts will yield substantial benefits for the engineering sector and the Indigenous communities in the spirit of Etuaptmumk and Netukulimk,” he says.“It will provide students with a safe environment, value Indigenous perspectives, take into account cultural practices and allow Indigenous students to express themselves openly. A path forward that is inclusive and symbiotic."

Progress and growth

With Pomerleau’s support, Dalhousie Engineering and the Ulnooweg Education Centre can continue to build on the progress they’ve made since announcing the Indigenous Stream of the Pathways Program.

Over the past six months, they’ve begun laying the groundwork for the Indigenous stream of the program to ensure it meets the needs of current and future students. Last summer, Dal Engineering hired their new assistant dean of equity, diversity, inclusion and accessibility, Sherida Hassanali. The role will help support the Pathways program.

“This never-been-done-before-in-Dal Engineering program is still in the early stages of development, so things are evolving and changing rapidly,” says Hassanali. “We have made a great deal of progress, including the on-boarding processes, becoming familiar with the Dalhousie community, relationship-building with Faculty, staff, students, and numerous communities. I have spent a great deal of time listening to people, getting to know them, their needs, and visions for this program.”

A 'home' on Sexton Campus

In the new year, Hassanali says an Indigenous Program Coordinator will be hired to act as a consistent liaison between the faculty, Indigenous students, and the assistant dean of EDIA office and the UEC. An advisory council will also be assembled to guide and to provide vision and direction to the program’s growth and development

A dedicated space will be created on Dalhousie’s Sexton Campus where Indigenous students can access supports and resources specific to their needs and find a place they can call “home.” Hassanali says they are now also working to develop admission guidelines for the first cohort of students.

“We want the admissions process to be very straightforward and a welcoming first step to the university community,” she says.

She adds that, she is happy with the direction in which the program is moving.

“We can honestly say we’ve moved the needle. But we also have a great deal of work still yet to do. I’m delighted to have such support. This will take a village.”

A village that now includes its first construction company. Hassanali hopes 2024 will bring further partners who share the same goals and vision as this most recent supporter, Pomerleau.

“Pomerleau, the Ulnooweg Education Centre and Dalhousie Engineering are focused on building meaningful relationships that will create more opportunities for Indigenous communities,” she says. “The generous gift from Pomerleau to the Pathways Program will help to enable opportunity, growth, and inclusion by removing barriers and increasing access for students, and in turn, helping to create a safe platform for students to dive into a welcoming profession.”


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