Former employees at local firm Highbridge Construction are once again on the job search after the sudden shuttering of the business just over a week ago.
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Former employees at local firm Highbridge Construction are once again on the job search after the sudden shuttering of the business just over a week ago. The Orléans-based company ceased operations unexpectedly, leaving contractors and employees scrambling. In April 2021, Highbridge reported that it had 51 employees. “We heard the news on (Feb. 3) via an email from the owner saying that the business is closing its doors and that we all won't have a job to come back to,” former employee Alec Tucker told OBJ. “It was a very strange feeling getting phone calls from all of our co-workers asking if that just really happened and the state of shock that everyone was in.” Tucker, 25, started at Highbridge in an administrative role four years ago and worked his way up to a management position. His partner also worked at Highbridge as a junior project manager. “It felt very dramatic and was honestly very stressful and anxiety-inducing anytime we would get a phone call or hear more rumours of what was going on,” said Tucker of his emotions over the past seven days. Before recent events, Tucker and his partner, feeling secure in their jobs, had plans to move in together in Orléans. But since Highbridge’s closure, they had to get out of their lease before moving in. Thankfully, Tucker said, they were able to get their deposit back, but their futures are now uncertain. Tucker said he was planning to grow with the company and move through the ranks. He said he is worried about a job search because he is not bilingual and does not have a university degree. “I’m concerned about not finding a good company or not being able to make anywhere near what I was making at Highbridge, and I’m just worried I will have to go back to school or completely switch career paths into a different field,” he said. Despite recent events, Tucker said he is grateful for the experience he had at Highbridge, but is looking forward to new and different opportunities. At Highbridge, Tucker said he was “wearing lots of different hats,” from IT and marketing to business strategy. “I really want to be able to specialize in one area of expertise and be a part of a company who invests in their employees and wants them to grow with them through training and mentorship.” For now, Tucker and his partner are focused on getting back on their feet. “We both have been applying for jobs each day, doing between eight and 10 (applications) a day, and trying to update our resumes and LinkedIn accounts to be more hire-able. We have submitted our (employment insurance) reports and (my partner) just had a promising interview,” Tucker said. “We are both doing our best to stay productive, working out, applying for jobs and reaching out to potential job opportunities.” On the other side of the career spectrum, Todd Malloy is an industry veteran of 37 years who was working as an electrical branch manager for Highbridge until last week. He took the job at Highbridge a year ago after looking for a position “more localized” and “less corporate.” “I was only there for a year, so it’s like getting back on my feet in a quick mode, going back to my connections to see who’s looking for people of my level,” Malloy explained. “I have a few opportunities as a project manager in some capacity. “Ottawa is a small big town,” he added. “But there are a lot of people willing to step up and make a difference.” In Canada and locally, skilled tradespeople are in high demand. The federal government anticipates that 700,000 tradespeople will retire between 2019 and 2028. Last month, Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion Carla Qualtrough launched a campaign promoting the skilled trades as a first-choice career path for youth, addressing the “ever-growing need to recruit and train thousands more.” In Ontario, there are estimated to be 370,000 jobs in the skilled trades available across the province. Karen Brownrigg, founder and CEO of iHR Advisory Services and a human resources expert, said former Highbridge employees need to “be really transparent” during their job search about their experience at Highbridge. “It’s important they state their intentions and what happened,” said Brownrigg. “Oftentimes, someone who’s new to the workforce is going to take ownership for that and it’s not something you should take ownership for. It’s not a black check mark against them and their career – it's business, it happens, and employees shouldn’t feel that they need to be embarrassed.” This is the time for job-searchers to draw on their resources and networks, said Brownrigg. They should also seek out financial, career and legal advisers, she suggested. “Especially for people who may be newer in the workforce, it’s important for them to feel like they can comfortably reach out to those networks and ask for help and not be embarrassed.” By keeping in contact with other former Highbridge employees, workers can “share resources and support” and keep “strength in numbers,” she said. “Then they’re not alone and they’re doing all they can so not every one of them has to reinvent the wheel,” Brownrigg added. “This is a major life transition and they’ve landed without a parachute here.” OBJ reached out several times to the owners of Highbridge but has received no response.