While recognizing that there is much more that we can—and will—do, ECAO is proud of the commitment we’ve made towards a more inclusive and equitable construction industry here in Ontario. In 2021, we established a Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Committee with a mandate to educate and provide resources on the topic of DEI to member contractors. Committee representation comprises a broad range of industry professionals who bring DEI experience, enthusiasm and expertise to the table—including Ticha themself.
A significant initiative of the Advisory Committee in 2022 was the launch of diversity and inclusion leadership training led by speaker, author, educator and former NFL player Alex Willis. Over the ensuing 12 months, local union and management leadership and staff completed six training modules focused on DEI, and participants expressed the significant impact of Alex’s teaching on their approach to DEI in the workplace.
We spoke with Ticha to gather their insights into the current state of DEI in the Ontario construction industry, particularly as it relates to their participation as advisor for ECAO’s DEI Committee. Ticha believes that we are starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel when it comes to DEI—that the new generation of apprentices have less tolerance for bias of any kind and expectations of a safe, accepting and engaging workplace; that leadership buy-in is occurring on both the contractor and union sides; and that awareness and understanding of equity and inclusion are finally beginning to take a toehold across employee groups.
At the same time, Ticha, whose personal experiences and jobsite observations of bias inform their perspectives on the criticality of this cultural change, knows that the light is still a distance away.
Ticha sees ECAO’s DEI Committee as a strong beginning in the long-term efforts to enable and support sustainable cultural change among our member contractors. “The DEI Committee has been—and continues to be—important [in] getting our entire industry and community on board with culture change that is beneficial to all. Bringing in Alex Willis and making his impactful DEI education available to members was huge. When you help people’s mental health, you help productivity, efficiency, morale and, ultimately, the financial health of employers.”
With the recently announced change in chairmanship to ECAO’s Anthony Tofano and the addition of representation from the IBEW CCO in James Barry, the DEI Committee is poised for an energetic new start, and Ticha has ideas. “I’d like to see a collaboration of contractors and union on programs like ‘Be More Than a Bystander,’ a training program course that has been transformational inside organizations in Western Canada where it got its start,” Ticha said. “Additionally, policies among construction employers and trade unions must evolve, and there must be repercussions for behaviours not in keeping with DEI practices. The Occupational Health and Safety Act already lays out the structure for identifying, investigating and addressing infractions, but we need more buy-in and oversight. As a Committee, we can help with that.”