May 2018 – Article – Celebrating Our 25th Anniversary – Part Three: OCS Annual Events: Learning and Growing


2001 was a significant year in the history of the Ontario Construction Secretariat (OCS). It was a busy year as the OCS introduced two industry events designed to support the management and business side of the organization and the labour side respectively.


When the Ontario Construction Secretariat (OCS) was created in March of 1993, part of its mandate was, as the Honourable Mr. Justice George Adams pointed out at the organization’s Founding Conference, “to collect and disseminate relevant information… on the range of issues central to the health of this industry”. This included bargaining data and economic conditions which were to be shared with stakeholders in the industrial, commercial and institutional (ICI) sector of Ontario’s construction industry.

Since its inception, the OCS held its Annual General Meeting in different regions of the province.  However, at the end of January in 2000, a decision was made to shine the spotlight specifically on key issues and market conditions in the construction industry. As a result, the OCS hosted the 1stAnnual Economic & Labour Market Outlook Conference the following year in Toronto.

The inaugural 2001 conference had a full agenda with presentations from Carl Sonnen, President of Informetrica, David MacKinnon, the CEO of the Ontario Hospital Association, Bob Collins and Bill Empey, Partners with Prism Economics and Analysis, Katherine Jacobs, Research Coordinator for the OCS, and Bill Nakavill from Bregman + Hamann Architects, representing the Toronto 2008 Olympic Bid Committee.

Attendees were also introduced to the OCS’s new data exchange warehouse.  Called Con-Ex, it allowed end users to view industry-related statistics via a user-friendly, icon driven system where information was available at the click of a button.

The following year saw approximately 80 stakeholders attend the 2ndAnnual State of the Industry and Outlook Conference, which featured the theme “Our Future – Lets Nail It!  Again, the agenda was well received with Keynote speaker Linda Nazareth, an economist with Report on Business Television, noting the ICI construction sector was “structurally and cyclically well placed to take advantage of growth, particularly in the GTA and Central Ontario.

The Conference continued to mature and by 2006, the agenda had moved beyond individual presentations to include panel discussions with industry stakeholders.  The topic this year was Sector Opportunities and Challenges: Views from the Field as discussed by representatives of Ontario Power Generation (OPG), the automotive and institutional/infrastructure sectors.

This was the 10thanniversary of the State of the Industry and Outlook Conference.  Attendance at the conference had almost tripled, helped by an agenda which asked questions such as “are we in a recovery, will the recovery hold and what does it mean for construction”.  Invited to answer these questions were noted economist Dr. Lloyd Atkinson, former Executive Vice-President and Chief Economist for the Bank of Montreal and Jason Myers, former President and CEO of the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters Association.

By 2013, the economy was looking up.  By then, the OCS had introduced the OCS Construction Barometer based on a survey of 550 contractors in the province, the construction barometer gauged business confidence in the province.

The conference in 2017 attracted a record 315 stakeholders.

New technology was utilized to better engage with attendees.  Using a mobile phone app, conference participants were able to participate in live polling – questions that were publically posted before and during the various presentations to gauge audience opinion and generate discussion.

The conference generated significant targeted media impressions across radio, print, online and trade publications.  A total of 61 media stories were achieved across the province with a total reach of more than 5-million.



Future Building has also enjoyed success and growth since launching in 2001.  For it to be truly successful, it was important to take the message of careers in the construction trades to students throughout the province – in the east, the north and southwest in addition to the GTA.

Using 67,000 square feet of space at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, Future Building was billed as the industry’s first “construction only”, hands-on career exhibition.  Over the years, more than 120,000 youth and educators have attended Future Building.

The theme this year was “I’ve Got it Made in the Trades”.  For the first time, OCS staff had the ability to control the number of students on the show floor to ensure equal access to all of the exhibits thanks to a new internet registration site.  Four years later however, increasing construction employment and concerns about skilled labour shortages and negative perceptions were top of mind in 2005.

Former Ontario Labour Minister Steve Peters was a special guest at the Opening Ceremonies for Future Building 2007, held in the Aberdeen Pavillion at Lansdown Park in Ottawa.

A construction trivia game was a highlight for attendees with more than 2,615 games played, 18,500 questions answered and over 250 prizes given away.

Future Building returned to Toronto in 2012 and introduced skills competitions to the event. Apprentices from three trades – Carpenters, Electricians and Sheet Metal Workers – participated in the competition.  For the first time ever, Future Building was announced in the Legislative Assembly and former Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities, Glen Murray challenged all members provincial parliament to visit Future Building and learn about careers in construction.

In 2016, impressions for all of the various media stories (electronic and print) totalled in excess of 7.37 million, not including engagement on the Secretariat’s social media channels.  In addition, Fanshawe College media students produced five videos for use by the OCS to help promote Future Building 2017.

For a third consecutive year, the online Trades Challenge app was used by attendees. More than 300 visitors took part answering an estimated 4,000 questions.

While it is clear that Future Building continues to grow and reach more and more students, the OCS continues to identify different ways to maintain the momentum of the event year round.  Whether it is through the increased use of traditional and social media or other events that can be connected to Future Building, the OCS realizes there are opportunities to capitalize on the strength and uniqueness of the Future Building message.

Stay tuned for more!




Fred Lehmann
Communications Coordinator,

Ontario Construction Secretariat (OCS)
180 Attwell Drive, Suite 360, Toronto, ON M9W 6A9
P 416.620.5210 ext. 222
F 416.620.5310