Mentoring: A Pillar of the Construction Industry

In Québec,''journeyperson'' and ''apprentice'' are terms associated above all with the construction trades, as mentoring is truly an integral part of the industry. However, this concept of transmission of knowledge of and training for a profession is hardly exclusive to this province or to the construction field. 

A Bit of History

Everywhere in the world, apprentices follow different paths and must go through various stages before they receive the designation of journeyperson, which indicates that they have achieved the level of competency required to practise their trade to an accepted standard. Although the word “mentor” appeared in the English language only in mid-eighteenth century, according to the Online Etymology Dictionary, the movement itself was conceived much earlier in the history of humanity – it can be traced as far back as High Antiquity. In fact, it is very likely that workers’ guilds were organized as trades began to appear. On the other hand, it is impossible to set an exact date for the birth of mentoring, which has never been unanimously defined; its origins come both from legends – such as the rituals of Freemasonry – and real archives1

Mentoring in Québec

In the construction industry in Québec, Act R-20 has governed labour relations, vocational training, and workforce management since 1968. Therefore, anyone wishing to work in one of the 25 regulated trades in the sector must have obtained the appropriate work permit. The concept of mentoring in construction, which has probably existed since the beginning of the colonization period, became more structured when the general parameters of the apprenticeship model were established in the early 1970s. The model then shifted from a restrictive system of classification certificates to a more flexible mechanism of competency certificates when the Commission de la construction du Québec (CCQ) was created, in 19872.  

The Québec mentoring system within the construction industry is based on a privileged professional relationship between apprentice and journeyperson. This relationship of trust allows apprentices to accumulate valuable hours of supervised experience on construction sites, which, along with training hours, are compiled in their apprenticeship record book. At the end of their apprenticeship, apprentices who pass the qualification examination become, in their turn, journeypersons who can provide support to new apprentices.

The Importance of Journeypersons in the Construction Industry 

Being a journeyperson enables the worker to be valued as a mentor, to contribute actively to making things run smoothly on construction sites, and to be recognized by his or her peers. 

As for apprentices, being matched with a journeyperson in the same trade enables them to confirm what they have learned, upgrade their techniques, and discover new aspects of the profession. It is therefore a question of “immediate” supervision, which is much more related to mentoring than to close surveillance. 

Measures to Enhance Mentoring and Training

In the current context of a labour shortage, we should recall that eight new regulatory measures came into force in April 2021. 

Some of these measures specifically highlight training and education, such as the issuing of a six-month student apprentice competency certificate to people registered in a recognized study program for the trades of the construction industry (with the exception of the trade of crane operator). The vocational study programs allow students to develop basic skills in their trade. Apprenticeship in the trade then continues on construction sites under the supervision of a journeyperson. The new measure gives students an opportunity to work on sites during their studies, under the supervision of journeypersons; from the very start, this enhances their educational path with practical experience, fosters better integration, and validates their choice of career. In their turn, journeypersons take advantage of this relationship to, among other things, stay updated on approaches taught to students and the use of new technologies.

Both the recent measures and the hiring of many workers through labour pools on construction sites have made mentoring even more important. Through its functions of knowledge transmission, support to less-experienced colleagues, and maintaining the quality of work, mentoring remains truly a pillar of the industry.

François Icher, La France des compagnons, Paris, Éditions La Martinière, 1994, 200 pages.
Louis Delagrave, Histoire des relations du travail dans la construction au Québec, Les Presses de l’Université Laval, 2009, p. 196 et 204-205.


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