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Whistler's RDC Fine Homes wins Small Business BC award for apprentice training

Company one of three local-area finalists for prestigious award
TAKING THE WIN Tyler Martin, a carpentry apprentice at RDC Fine Homes, accepts a Small Business BC Best Apprentice Training Award at the Vancouver Convention Centre.

Bob Deeks, head of RDC Fine Homes, was sitting down to dinner in Las Vegas on Feb. 21, where he was attending the International Builders' Show, when he received some welcome news.

"It was an exciting moment-Jennie (Small, RDC's safety manager) texted me with a (message), 'we won,' with an exclamation mark!" recalled Deeks.

While RDC has won numerous business awards over the years, this is its first Small Business BC award, with the firm winning in the Best Apprentice Training category.

Two other Sea to Sky companies-Pemberton's Murphy Construction Corp. and Whistler Cooks-joined RDC as top-five finalists in the category.

Finalists are required to present a pitch to a panel of judges.

"We highlighted our commitment to apprenticeship training: The fact that we have 12 apprentices, that we are getting financial support for, that we include staffing strategies within our long-term strategic plan, and how we have manage safety," explained Deeks.

RDC was a top-five finalist in Small Business BC Best Employer Award in 2016 and 2017. The judging process helped the company grow, explained Deeks.

"It allows you to take a close look at what you're doing," explained Deeks. "It's like an evaluation: what are you doing, how are you doing it?"

Deeks said that since 2017, RDC has improved how it tracks information. To do this, it has adopted a digital tracking system, known as DATS; it manages vast quantities of information, including vital information on safety issues and incidents.

RDC has also worked on its strategic planning around staffing-a perennial issue for many Whistler businesses. (Like other businesses, RDC has lost workers because of it.)

"Local staffing is hard to find, and it's expensive," noted Deeks. "We see a high rate of turnover as a result of people not being able to find a comfortable place to live."

In order to retain apprentices, RDC has raised wages for apprentices. "It ranges from the low $20s to the low $30s," and is tied to their level of training, explained Deeks.

RDC has also "aggressively" gone after provincial job grants, which are used to cover the cost of tuition for the company's dozen apprentices.

Deeks said that the win is an honour, and it reflects well on Whistler and the surrounding area that three of the top five finalists were local.

"Shout out to Whistler Cooks and Murphy for joining us in the finals," said Deeks. "I think it says a lot about Whistler employers that three of the top five were all from Whistler and Pemberton."

As a category winner, RDC receives a cash prize of $1,500 and a one-year all-access pass to Small Business BC education resources and experts.