A group of St. Clair graduates is building upon their College educations and literally taking their careers to new heights while working on a once-in-a-lifetime infrastructure project.
Allison Kidd, Hilda Dao, and Sarah Jaques are contributing to the construction of the $5.7 billion-dollar Gordie Howe International Bridge Project with the unique individual skillsets they crafted during their time at St. Clair.
After raising three children into adulthood and then being laid off from her retail job, Kidd decided it was time to go back to school at age 45. Starting in January 2018, Kidd enrolled in the Civil Engineering Technology program at St. Clair and quickly whipped through six semesters of coursework while tutoring her fellow students before graduating with a 3.975 GPA.
“If I hadn’t been able to go to St. Clair, I’m not sure if I would have had the opportunity to go back to school at all. It was local and it had the program that I wanted to take,” Kidd said. “It wasn’t easy. It took a lot of creativity and a lot of determination and late nights and early mornings – but it was worth it.”
After receiving an Award of Excellence from the Civil Engineering program, Kidd made a social media post about her success at St. Clair and within a few weeks was contacted by the Canadian Port of Entry’s General Superintendent, Peter Lindsay for an interview. In the first week of March 2020 - two months prior to graduating from St. Clair - Kidd started working for Bridging North America as a Field Coordinator and has since been promoted to Assistant Superintendent with a much larger portfolio of projects and responsibilities.
Kidd credits the College for giving her the foundational knowledge she needed to succeed on the job. "If you start to understand the base concepts behind things, everything else you need to know or learn is going to be in the field," she said.
Dao, 29, grew up in Windsor and graduated from St. Clair’s Civil Engineering Technology program in 2015. Dao continued her education and soon graduated with an Honours Degree in Civil Engineering Co-Op in 2019 and was hired by Bridging North America two weeks prior to her convocation. After one year of working in cost control, Dao was promoted to a Junior Coordinator position for BNA and believes her time studying at St. Clair College prepared her for this job. As a Junior Coordinator, Dao reviews and processes working drawings and various submittals in order to get work completed on-site – from tender to sub-contractor execution.
“The Gordie Howe International Bridge project is a monumental undertaking, but it has been an incredibly valuable experience in my career so far. I’ve been able to get involved with a lot of things that I would not have been able to until much later in my career,” Dao said. “For someone who wants to explore the practical side of their education, I think there is a lot of value in going to St. Clair College. I found that St. Clair helped prepare me for what I am doing now, and I still attribute a lot of the basis of my knowledge from there.”
Jaques, 35, was a student-athlete who played on the 2008 OCAA gold-medal-winning Saints women’s Softball team before graduating from St. Clair’s Architectural Technology program in 2009. With an Advanced Diploma from the College, Jaques utilized a transfer option to complete her bachelor’s degree in Architecture at Lawrence Tech University but credits the various project management and theory classes she took at St. Clair with teaching her practical application of construction skills she uses daily.
“I have always said that my experience at St. Clair College has benefited me more in my career than my university degree - I wouldn’t trade it for the world,” Jaques said. “The project management and construction theory classes that we took gave us a huge background of knowledge. I’m currently on site every day, so understanding theory and identifying issues was a huge benefit to me.”
From 2011 until 2018, Jaques worked in a variety of management positions in the region before accepting the Construction Coordinator position at the Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority in 2019. Based out of the Canadian Port of Entry, Jaques oversees the day-to-day operations of 11 separate simultaneously constructed buildings while also leading the rehabilitation project of key roads in Sandwich Towne.
“It’s pretty exciting that we get to experience this once-in-a-lifetime project in our own backyards,” Jaques said. “Coming from a border city, I feel like we are always forgotten about because we are overshadowed by Detroit so it's nice that this is a Canadian government federal project that is also very local to Windsor.”
- Brett Hedges