From Carpentry to Mass Timber Management: The Worldwide Success Story of Curtis Hale

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When Curtis Hale started his carpentry apprenticeship in 2001, he never imagined the whirlwind of a journey his training would eventually take him on. But fast forward more than 20 years and Curtis has worked in several different areas of the construction industry in multiple countries.

Hale currently works as the Preconstruction Manager at EllisDon, one of the world’s leading construction services companies, where he’s worked his way up from project manager to design manager to his current role. Among the projects he’s managed are a variety of new residential high-rise buildings and phase 2 of the Royal Inland Hospital renovation in Kamloops. Right now, he’s working on the new PNE amphitheatre, which he’s particularly proud of.

“The PNE amphitheatre redevelopment is super cool. It’s a 10,000-person capacity and it’s going to end up being one of the largest free-span mass timber buildings in the world,” explains Hale.

But none of these career transitions and projects would have been possible for Hale if not for his continued education.

Humble Beginnings

Hale started his career like many other carpenters in the Greater Vancouver area. An apprenticeship at the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT) followed by a Red Seal certificate. At the time, he assumed his career would be rewarding enough going down just one pathway.

“All the people in my family worked in construction other than my sister,” he says. “So I decided to take a carpentry apprenticeship. I didn’t ever realize it would lead to management or moving overseas or, you know, project management and client-side management. I didn’t realize any of that. I just was doing my trade and I was happy doing it and it was something that I enjoyed.”

The Move That Changed Everything

Hale’s first career transition came not long after he decided to go back to school for project management at Langara College. This led to him experiencing a different side of the construction industry, which opened the door to a life-changing trip across the globe to Australia.

“If I wouldn’t have done my apprenticeship and (project management) courses, regardless of where I did it, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to move overseas as a skilled migrant, I wouldn’t have met my partner, and I wouldn’t have the children that I have. So there’s that whole ‘what if’ factor there,” says Hale, who managed construction projects for government spaces, private commercial offices, and grocery store chains during his time in Australia, in addition to starting a family.

Living on the other side of the world also allowed Curtis to take his career down yet another road thanks to his completion of a Post Graduate Diploma in Construction Management & Quantity Surveying from Bond University in Queensland. He says it was indispensable in allowing him to succeed as a construction manager.

“I don’t think I’d have the position I have right now without it.”

Returning To Canada And Mass Timber Studies

Hale’s journey didn’t end in Australia though. After approximately a decade away, he decided to move back home to become an expert in the mass timber side of the construction industry.

This meant a return to BCIT for his next educational experience. Here, he took course offerings that included a micro-credential in Mass Timber Construction, an Associate Certificate in Construction of Mass Timber Structures, and a course in Digital Project Delivery for Mass Timber. This led to Curtis’ current role and his involvement in the construction of a multitude of mass timber buildings, which he says has been extremely rewarding.

“Coming back to BCIT and doing the courses in mass timber helped me take a role within our business to be a leader in the mass timber projects in our area,” he commented while adding that tradespeople today have even more opportunities to upgrade their skills. “I know when I was an apprentice, I didn’t realize there were other little courses to take. You were very focused on just getting through your apprenticeship. And then when you were done your apprenticeship, make sure you get your red seal and then your journeyman and that was kind of it. But I think now, all of these little courses allow people to study something in a smaller manner.”

Some of the little courses that Hale is referring to are the micro-credentials that have become more popular in recent years at post-secondary institutes in BC. They’re also being more heavily promoted and curated on platforms such as the TradeUpBC website. Hale thinks the site is an extremely valuable tool for anyone in the skilled trades because it will give them a centralized spot to view a variety of courses from different institutes throughout the province.

As for Hale’s immediate future, he has more important construction projects coming up with EllisDon, but he’s appreciative of everything he’s been able to accomplish so far thanks to his ongoing pursuit of learning.

If you're a trades worker looking for additional skills training or an alternative career pathway, you can use this website to view courses from several BC post-secondary institutes to help you achieve your goals.
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