PCL’s Cheyanne Hammell is committed to encouraging women to explore careers in construction

Growing up, Cheyanne Hammell, special projects manager with PCL Constructors Canada’s Toronto office, witnessed her mother pursue success as a pilot in a male-dominated industry and become the first female captain in her company to fly a Boeing 757. She says her mother’s passion inspired her to focus on an exciting career in construction without being deterred by stereotypical gender roles.

Hammell began working in construction as a Mohawk College placement student with PCL in 2005 before she was hired as a field coordinator upon graduation. She has continued to progress within the company into her current role where she leads specialized projects in the Greater Toronto Area, overseeing a team of 40 people in undertaking 25 to 30 unique projects at any given time for essential infrastructure such as hospitals, airports, and offices.

One of her career highlights is leading design management of Lakeridge Gardens in Ajax, Ont., the first long-term care home built under Infrastructure Ontario’s accelerated build program that was completed in just 13 months.

This past fall, Hammell was awarded the 2023 Premier’s Award for Technology presented at the Colleges Ontario Higher Education Summit in Toronto, in recognition of her role as a trailblazer for women in construction.

Presented at the Colleges Ontario Higher Education Summit, the Premier’s Awards recognize recent and past college graduates from seven categories who have made outstanding social and economic contributions to their local communities, the province and beyond and who have made important contributions to Ontario’s postsecondary system.

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“Cheyanne’s transformational leadership and dedication to improving inclusion within the industry makes her an incredible role model to emerging students and established professionals alike,” said Marc Pascoli, senior vice president and district manager, PCL Constructors Canada Inc.

The recipients, chosen from nominations submitted by Ontario’s 24 public colleges, must demonstrate outstanding achievement related to their college experience and have made a significant contribution to their communities. A graduate of Mohawk’s architectural technology program in 2007, Hammell was inducted into Mohawk’s Alumni of Distinction this past fall in celebration of her professional achievements and dedication to improved diversity in the construction industry.

“The success of these individuals shows us how Ontario’s colleges are producing talented graduates with the knowledge, skills and experience they need to have rewarding careers and drive the growth of our economy,” said Minister Jill Dunlop, Minister of Colleges and Universities during the presentation. “Their amazing achievements—from developing electric vehicle maintenance curriculum, to managing the design of a long-term care home that was completed in just thirteen months—are strengthening the workforce in key provincial sectors and making a tangible difference in the lives of Ontarians.”

ReNew Canada recently caught up with Hammell to discuss her accomplishments and her commitment to encouraging women to explore careers in the construction industry.

Hammell also worked on PCL’s CN Tower Observation Level Renovation, that included the addition of floor-to-ceiling glass. (PCL Construction)

What inspired you to pursue a career in the construction industry?

I was always interested in architecture, but I ultimately chose construction as my career due to my experience working at PCL during my co-op terms. I loved the teamwork involved in delivering projects and being able to see the tangible results of your hard work. There’s a great sense of pride to be able to show off your accomplishments to family and friends.

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What are some of the highlights of your career to this point?

A couple of projects that stand out for me would be our renovation of the Observation Level at the CN Tower, as well as the accelerated long-term care home, Lakeridge Gardens, in Ajax, Ont. The CN Tower was such a cool project where we completely renovated one of the levels at the top of the CN Tower while keeping the space open to visitors. Not only that, but we replaced half of the exterior windows 1,300 feet in the air with new floor-to-ceiling glass panels, which is something that doesn’t happen on regular projects.

The accelerated long-term care project was completed during the height of COVID-19 when the province desperately needed additional long-term care beds. Being able to deliver a project as critical as that in a record-setting timeframe is something that I will never stop being proud of.

Hammell lead the design management team for Ontario’s first accelerated build long-term care project Lakeridge Gardens—completed in just 13 months. (PCL Construction)

What was your role with the Lakeridge Gardens LTC project  and what did you learn from the experience?

My role on the Lakeridge Gardens project was managing the design to ensure the requirements of the facility were met while also ensuring that the design was able to deliver the necessary information to keep the aggressive construction schedule on track. It was a project that seemed to have impossible goals of delivering a complete 320-bed long-term care facility in just one year, but it was a great example of what a shared vision and collective teamwork can accomplish. After that experience, I’ve learned that what may seem impossible can be accomplished with the right plan.

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Why is it important to you to encourage other women to explore careers in the construction industry?

I think it’s important that more women explore a career in construction because there’s a lot that women must bring to the table. All those skills and diversity of thought can benefit the construction industry and make an impact to the change of the construction environment. It’s an industry where no day is the same, so it continually challenges you to think of new ways to approach situations. You also can contribute directly to the communities where we live and work. I think that’s something special that you get to participate in when you choose construction as a career.

John Tenpenny is the Editor of ReNew Canada.

[This article originally appeared in the March/April 2024 edition of ReNew Canada]

Featured image: Cheyanne Hammell, special projects manager with PCL Constructors Canada’s Toronto office, is a recipient of the 2023 Premier’s Award for Technology in recognition of her outstanding contributions to Ontario’s postsecondary educational system. (PCL Construction)

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