As certainly many others would describe SNC-Lavalin, Perry says what differentiates the firm is its full-service capabilities, providing a turnkey solution for clients and in a manner that remains flexible in the way it delivers and executes those services. In Sarnia, the business is focused (not surprisingly) on the oil and gas business that forms the nucleus of so much of the area’s industry, but as Stoesser points out, the depth and breadth of the firm’s operations that stretch out to every aspect of engineering and in almost every area of the world count for quite a bit when firms like NOVA Chemicals look for both expertise and capability.
Further to that, as Perry points out, the firm is in the problem solving business.
Naturally, any discussion around growth will include how people— engineering being very much a people business at its heart—are brought into the organization.
It’s about change management, collaboration and innovation. It’s about driving people to that different approach that will provide a different value to the construction side of the business.
For the NOVA Chemicals expansion, for example, SNC-Lavalin created a consortium that includes TechnipFMC. Under an agreement announced in March 2018, TechnipFMC will have primary responsibility for the detailed engineering and procurement aspects of the work, while SNC-Lavalin will be responsible for the modular fabrication, erection, construction and pre-commissioning of the work to deliver two gas cracking furnaces. The consortium is evidence of a long history of SNCLavalin collaborating with other partners, the key motivation being whatever drives the most value to the client.
“It’s about change management, collaboration and innovation,” he says. “It’s about driving people to that different approach that will provide a different value to the construction side of the business.”
But what may be even better, Perry would say, is to attract someone who is graduating from university and who wants to enter the space that SNC-Lavalin occupies. “With a co-op, sometimes you only have a limited time of interacting with the individual,” notes Perry. “But when we engage with someone who has finished their studies, you’ve got a sense of continuity and you have that much more time to help them develop.” As popular as the co-op experience may be, at least a few current engineers in the firm have never been in a co-op, at least in part due to SNCLavalin’s emphasis on hiring directly from schools in addition to its interest in the co-op route.
With a co-op, sometimes you only have a limited time of interacting with the individual. But when we engage with someone who has finished their studies, you’ve got a sense of continuity and you have that much more time to help them develop.
“What’s enticing about this industry, and part of what makes recruitment to SNC-Lavalin, is the welldocumented challenges that the construction industry faces and the fact that it lags behind manufacturing,” said Perry. “We’re now starting to see solutions being proposed, some involving technology, training and different people skills, and the question is how do we change the engineering that we do to get improvements in productivity. And how do we increase collaboration. The skill sets of a designer might be quite a bit different in the coming years than they are today.”
What that means is that people like Perry are finding themselves remaining focused on the technical side of the business but also putting an even stronger focus than exists today on the people side.
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While Perry says SNC-Lavalin sees the co-op model as being a great one and the firm has been able to leverage that to its benefit, he sees that being an introduction to the business, which is in itself, a good thing.
Stoesser, a native of Sarnia who joined the firm after just a couple of years working elsewhere in Toronto and Boston, says SNC-Lavalin offers the opportunity of staying in one place (which he has for nearly three decades) or going abroad.
Both say Sarnia is somewhat uniquely positioned when it comes to the engineering community, with its close proximity to the owner base, especially compared with locations such as Montreal or Calgary. “They don’t have the opportunity of walking out the door and seeing what they’ve designed being in the construction process,” notes Stoesser. The NOVA Chemicals expansion aside, a sustaining part of SNCLavalin’s business locally is the kind of sustaining capital project work that are part of what keeps companies throughout the Chemical Valley in operation, year after year.