By: Mike Timmermans

HGTV’s Mike Holmes addressed students at the Connecting to Ottawa Construction Careers job fair.

Mike Holmes, known as Canada’s most trusted contractor, claims Algonquin as one of the best schools he has visited.

He was the keynote speaker on February 26, 2013 at the Connecting to Ottawa Construction Careers job fair held in the Algonquin Centre for Construction Excellence at the Woodroffe campus.

Holmes – star of the HGTV network’s Holmes on Homes, Holmes Inspection and Holmes Makes It Right and Forbes’ third most trusted celebrity in the world – gave students at the job fair a frank, passionate and inspiring talk on the construction industry in Canada, his work on television, in construction and for charity.

“I’ve got to say, it (Algonquin) is one of the finest colleges I’ve been to,” he said in an interview after his speech. “I really like it.

“I like where the teachers are going, I like where the president is going, I like where they’re moving with this. The government involvement (with the construction of the ACCE complex) was a wonderful thing and I think they put their money in the right place.

“Are there any negatives? No. This is only going to grow into something better.”

The event, emceed by Ottawa city councillor Mathieu Fleury, was the first-ever event for Ottawa Integrated Local Labour Market Planning.

According to Ingrid Argyle, project manager with OILLMP, the organization meets with local labour market representatives to address their labour needs.

Open to the public, this inaugural event was targeted to construction trades and had 310 registered participants, mostly college and high school students. 12 employers and eight other service providers, including partners in Ottawa’s light rail project, had displays at the event. 95 Ottawa-area employers also attended a morning education event which kicked off with an address by Ottawa mayor Jim Watson.

Holmes began his visit to Algonquin with a guided tour of the ACCE facility led by Chris Hahn, academic chair of construction trades and building systems. Holmes warmly greeted surprised students and instructors when he appeared in various classrooms and workshops, introduced himself and posed for photos with fans.

Later, after an introduction by Algonquin President Kent MacDonald, Holmes spoke for over an hour to a crowd of hundreds gathered in the main lobby of the ACCE building and answered questions from audience members.

His passion for – and concern over – the state of the construction industry in Canada was clear.

“There is a massive opportunity for students in trades,” he said. “The problem is we’re still at a stalemate of how we’re building.

“There are builders out there who say they’re environmentally friendly,” Holmes continued. “As long as you just do a couple of little things you can say it’s environmentally friendly.” For example, installing low-flush toilets or air recovery ventilation units could be considered green construction practices. “These are not good enough. This is not even close to good enough, to even say we are building environmentally friendly, because we are not.”

The solution, according to Holmes:

“We need to be building better; it’s that simple. And we need to be the ones who stand up and show everyone else in the world that we can do this.”

Addressing his new show, Holmes Makes It Right, Holmes said: “I didn’t expect it to be such a massive hit. It’s been ridiculous.”

However, he revealed a truth, one that may perhaps be surprising to his fans.

“I don’t want to keep doing TV, to be honest with you, but I’m not done yet. I’ll know when I’m done when the industry has changed, it’s as simple as that.”

TV is “not who I am”, said a candid Holmes. “but right now I’m smart enough to know how to use the angle for it to try and get where I need to be, which is changing the industry – with the government, with education, with the next generation and the communities and houses that we’re building.”

Changing the industry for the better appears to be Holmes’ true calling.

When asked what advice he had for students in construction trades, he said communication is “absolutely a necessity because if we don’t do this, we’re not going to make change. It’s people who actually stand up with voice and talk – properly – that will make change.”

Holmes concluded his speech to the captive audience.

“Keep making it right,” his trademark expression.