Construction Engineering Officer

Job description

Construction Engineers provide engineering support, such as facilities management, fire engineering, contract and project management, and construction and environmental engineering.

As members of the Military Engineer Branch, Construction Engineers plan, develop and implement projects involving a wide range of military engineering tasks. Their primary responsibilities are to:

  • Prepare or approve construction drawings, designs and cost estimates
  • Advise superiors on military engineering matters
  • Exercise leadership and technical control over organizations involved in engineering services
  • Provide mapping, charting and geodesic support to sea, land and air operations
  • Lead and manage a team of skilled personnel
Transcript

Construction Engineering Officer

I’m Captain Marc Comeau from Sainte-Foy, Québec. I’m a Construction Engineering Officer currently posted to 3 Wing Bagotville.

And I’m Laura Locklin from Peterborough, Ontario. I’m a Construction Engineering Officer and I’m currently posted in Comox, British Columbia.

COMEAU: Wherever the Canadian Forces are based or deployed, providing our soldiers, air crews and sailors with well-built, well-functioning infrastructure is a vital part of the mission.

On base in Canada, we fill the role of a town engineer, setting up and taking care of residential and office buildings, runways and hangars, fire stations, communications facilities, the power grid and sewage systems. We make sure everyone has clean running water, air conditioning and heat, and our team includes a wide range of expert technicians who work in Construction; Water, Fuels and Environment; Electrical Distribution and Electrical Generation Systems; Plumbing and Heating, and Refrigeration and Mechanical Systems.

I’ve got 180 employees including 50 fire fighters, so we’ve got a wide range of personalities and skills that we have to manage and organize, I guess, into a cohesive team.

LOCKLIN: Whether the job calls for setting up humanitarian assistance camps in Haiti, weatherproofing a radar installation in the High Arctic, or flood control in Manitoba, we’re always ready to travel anywhere in the country… and the world.

COMEAU: When we deploy, we’re the first in; we’re the last ones out. We build the camps for the rest of the Canadian Forces as they come through and do their missions. When it comes to domestic operations back in Canada, we’re involved in everything.

Construction and reconstruction; disaster relief and humanitarian operations; working with the Air Force, Navy and Army: add it all up, and that’s a range of skills and responsibilities that very few young engineers in the civilian world can hope to match.

When I worked before I joined the military, as a civil engineer, my boss had been there for twenty-five years and he was in charge of 8 people. I’ve been in the military now for not even ten years yet, and I’m in charge of 180, dealing with projects that are much bigger than what I had worked with in the civilian world.

COMEAU: The idea you can be deployed halfway around the world on a moment’s notice and basically plot out and build an entire combat base or airfield from scratch in the middle of nowhere, that’s just an incredible challenge for any engineer.

I’ve been to Afghanistan three times. The challenges over there, the interesting part is the interaction with the local people. Whether it’s in the Sudan or Haiti or we’re in Afghanistan, we’re working hand in hand with the local people and helping them build their skills.

LOCKLIN: I think the coolest part of the job is getting to work in and with people that have such a wealth of knowledge in different trades.

COMEAU: The coolest part of the job for me is realizing the projects, is actually seeing the people getting what it is they need. They’re our clients, I guess we call them, from the different units on the base, getting new office spaces or getting new buildings. We have a great sense of pride in the work that we’ve done.

LOCKLIN: Here's how a career as a Construction Engineering Officer begins. After your Basic Officer Training, you’ll head to the Canadian Forces School of Military Engineering at Gagetown, New Brunswick, where you’ll learn how to adapt your engineering expertise to the unique demands of the military environment.

COMEAU: You’ll spend about 11 months in Gagetown in three intensive phases of training: combat leadership, airfield engineering, and team leadership in an airfield or deployment setting.

COMEAU: Your first posting will be to a Construction unit at one of Canada’s Air Force or Navy bases, where you’ll lead teams of construction engineering technicians in the planning, budgeting, and execution of airfield and other infrastructure projects.

LOCKLIN: I’m not a trades person but I manage six different very important trades. So, it’s utilizing the knowledge and gathering what I can about it to make an excellent plan.

COMEAU: You’re thrown right in, right away into leadership opportunities. You’ve got to use your leadership skills and dig down deep, I guess, to find a way to make things happen.

LOCKLIN: You get familiar with operations on a base and how construction engineering units really work; get your hands into some project management, and then hopefully you can go on exercises like this one and ideally in the first few years you have the opportunity to deploy.

Even during your first posting, you can expect to be deployed on an operational tour that could be a humanitarian mission overseas, disaster mitigation and relief at the scene of a flood, hurricane or earthquake, or reconstruction of schools, homes and roads in a post-conflict location.

As a Construction Engineering Officer, you’ll face more challenges every day than many civilian engineers face in a lifetime. The rewards you’ll get are amazing: serving your country, fulfilling the mission, and leading a great team.

COMEAU: My proudest moment, I have to say it’s back in Afghanistan. When we opened one of the bridges that we did over there, we had a direct impact on 35 000 people, on a little project that costs about $ 40 000 to lay a bridge. And just the children that were running around and the families that were there that wanted to come and thank me directly. It was very rewarding. I was very proud.

LOCKLIN: This is my first greatest adventure. I only finished training a few months ago, and I like the high tempo and the challenges that we have in the construction engineering trade.

COMEAU: My entire career has been a great adventure actually, and I look forward to the rest of the adventure. I’m open to anything and willing to go everywhere, I guess, with where my trade needs to take me, wherever the CF needs me. The adventure is just the career. There’s so many things out there that we’re involved in and we’re able to experience. It’s just phenomenal.

Overview

Working environment

Construction Engineers work as part of a Construction Engineering Flight or Unit. Although the primary role of Construction Engineering Officers is to support the operations of the Royal Canadian Air Force, Construction Engineering Officers may also support Canadian Army operations and missions. After a period of time gaining practical experience, Construction Engineers may be posted to a Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) base or headquarters. Over the course of their careers, Construction Engineers will likely be deployed on a domestic or international mission, including operations in support of UN, NATO or Coalition missions.

Pay and career development

The starting salary for a fully trained Construction Engineer is $51,000 per year; however, depending on previous experience and training the starting salary may be higher. Regular promotions through the junior officer ranks take place based on the completion of required training and on the length of service as an officer. Once promoted to the rank of Captain their salary is approximately $74,000 per year.

Initially, a Construction Engineer is posted to a Construction Engineering Flight or to a Construction Engineering organization within the Air Force to reinforce training with practical experience. As they gain more experience and knowledge, they may be employed in a variety of staff positions in operational, personnel or technical fields, and may serve in an international headquarters, on a multinational staff or mission, or in an exchange or liaison capacity.  Construction Engineers who demonstrate the required ability, dedication and potential are selected for opportunities for career progression, promotion and advanced training.

Related civilian occupations

  • Construction Engineer
  • Civil Engineer
  • Realty Asset Manager
  • Director of Public Works
  • Facilities Manager

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Training

Basic military officer qualification

After enrolment, you start basic officer training at the Canadian Forces Leadership and Recruit School in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec, for 15 weeks. Topics covered include general military knowledge, the principles of leadership, regulations and customs of the CAF, basic weapons handling, and first aid. Opportunities will also be provided to apply such newly acquired military skills in training exercises involving force protection, field training, navigation and leadership. A rigorous physical fitness program is also a vital part of basic training. Basic officer training is provided in English or French and successful completion is a prerequisite for further training.

Following basic officer training, official second language training may be offered to you. Training could take from two to nine months to complete depending on your ability in your second language.

Common army phase

After basic training, you will go to the Infantry School at the Combat Training Centre in Gagetown, New Brunswick. You will build upon the leadership training you received in basic officer training in addition to learning the skills required of all Soldiers, including more advanced weapons-handling, field-craft, and section-level tactics.

Professional training

Construction Engineers attend the Canadian Forces School of Military Engineering in Gagetown, New Brunswick. You will learn to lead your team in the execution of basic engineering tasks in both garrison and on deployment. You will also be introduced to Construction Engineering operations such as conducting engineer reconnaissance, preparing reports for military decision makers and planning the installation of facilities and structures to support such operations. You will have the opportunity to become familiar with the various Construction Engineering roles, in different settings and scenarios, and further develop your leadership skills. Upon completion of your training as a Construction Engineering Officer, you will be able to manage infrastructures at main operating bases and to plan and direct infrastructure projects for both domestic and deployed operations.

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Entry plans

Direct entry

If you already have a university degree, the CAF will decide if your academic program matches the criteria for this job and may place you directly into the required on-the-job training program following basic training. Basic training and military officer qualification training are required before being assigned.

Paid education

Regular Officer Training Plan

Because this position requires a university degree, the CAF will pay successful recruits to complete a Bachelor degree program at a Canadian university. They receive full-time salary including medical and dental care, as well as vacation time with full pay in exchange for working with the Forces for a period of time.

Typically, candidates enter the Canadian Military College System as an Officer Cadet where they study subjects relevant to both their military and academic career. In some instances, the CAF is able to pay for Officer Cadets to attend other Canadian universities in a relevant degree program. Officer Cadets who attend other Canadian universities typically attend university during the regular academic year and participate in additional military training during the summer months. If you choose to apply to this program, you must apply both to the CAF and the Canadian university of your choice. For more information, see Paid education.

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Part-time option

This occupation is available part-time within the following environment: Air Force

Serve with the reserve force

This position is available for part-time employment with the Primary Reserve at certain locations across Canada. Reserve Force members usually serve part time at an Air Force Wing in their community, and may serve while going to school or working at a civilian job. They are paid during their training. They are not posted or required to do a military move. However, they can volunteer to move to another base. They may also volunteer for deployment on a military mission within or outside Canada.

Part-time employment

Construction Engineering Officers serve with the Royal Canadian Air Force. When they are employed on a part-time or casual full-time basis they usually serve at CAF bases and tactical units at locations within Canada.

Reserve force training

Reserve Force members usually begin training with their home unit to ensure that they meet the required basic professional military standards. Following basic officer training, the home unit will arrange for additional training for specialized skills. Training for the Construction Engineering Officer qualification requires about 11 months and is conducted at the Canadian Forces School of Military Engineering at Gagetown, New Brunswick.

Working environment

Air Reserve members are trained to the same level as their Regular Force counterparts and are employed in the same unit and perform the same job. Air Reserve members usually serve up to 12 days per month in a regular work day, with opportunities to serve full-time for short durations as needed. Reserve Force members are paid 85 percent of Regular Force rates of pay, receive a reasonable benefits package and may qualify to contribute to a pension plan.

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