For Anne-Marie Demers, construction is in her blood. She is the third-generation in the J.M. Demers Excavation company and the current Vice-President and CEO, like her mother and grandfather before her. Growing up, Anne-Marie says she never felt any pressure to take up the family company or follow in their footsteps. “They just wanted me to be happy,” she says.
“I wanted to be a veterinarian forever,” says Anne-Marie. “That was my only focus — that and working with horses.”
So, Anne-Marie went her own way, spending a few years in the United States. “I went there to learn English and work with horses,” Anne-Marie recalls. “One day, my mom called me up and asked if I was interested in coming back to Quebec and working with the company.”
Anne-Marie asked what her mother — and the company — had to offer.
A position was available in the procurement and estimating department, and it was an opportunity that Anne-Marie couldn’t turn down. “It’s concrete work,” she says, pun intended. “You bid on something real, a project that you’re going to do, and I really liked being a part of that decision-making process. So I came back, studied Administration, and the rest is history. Since then, I’ve worked on projects including a major renovation to increase the size of the Quebec Airport, and multi-residential and condominium construction.”
Today, Anne-Marie leads a team of 90 and is continuously on the lookout for new voices and fresh perspectives from people of different backgrounds.
“I was fortunate to have my mother guiding me through these new responsibilities and this new industry that I was becoming a huge part of,” says Anne-Marie. “With her backing me up, I realized the importance of paying that support forward to the next generation thinking of coming into the industry.”
There’s a perception around the industry that can be overcome, and Anne-Marie sees a solution.
There is still this expectation that we should all go to university. Parents especially have strong opinions about this. But we all learn differently — construction is a great option for people who like to move, who like to be physical and see the results of their work right away. There are so many opportunities that fit a variety of skill sets. Sure, they’re making good money, but they’re kind of playing every day” she says.
“We spend time with the ACQ [the Quebec Construction Association] during recruitment fairs to show kids the possibilities in construction — everything from jobs on the ground to the office,” says Anne-Marie. “And as part of the Young Leaders of Construction in Quebec, a few of us went to schools in Quebec to share what we’re doing and share the opportunities available.”
She would love to bring some of her excavation equipment to these events to give kids an opportunity to see the tools we use and how they work Anne-Marie says. It would be a great opportunity for first-hand exposure.
When Anne-Marie is not reaching out to the youth of Quebec, she plays an active role on the board of the ACQ for members under 40. The group is a way for young members to have a voice, find projects, and connect with like-minded people.
The interest is there for young people in the industry; Anne-Marie wants to make sure that it doesn’t go away. “Just open your eyes and try it,” she says. “There are so many opportunities to find something you really love.”