The Future is Bright

18 Jan 2023

This article appears in the fourth edition of Steel Plus Network Connections magazine, released in January 2023.

Francis Benjamin, Management & Development, Acier Sélect

Acier Sélect began its operations in St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Québec in 1997 by Jean-Paul Roy. Mr. Roy then retired and passed the torch to the current president, Sylvain Benjamin in 2011. Sylvain’s son, Francis, started working in the plant when he was 15 years old and spent two summers there. He studied Civil Engineering at the Université de Sherbrooke in 2012 and interned for four months in 2014 at Sept-Iles and officially began at Acier Sélect in 2015.

Technology is a big deal, according to Francis, as is the idea of ensuring that organizations are both forward-looking, and forward-thinking. The structural steel industry is one that falls into the category of continually staying on trend with new technologies and ways of doing business. After all, it is 2022, and not only has the industry evolved, but the workers have evolved as well.

“One struggle facing the industry is fighting the stereotype that working in a factory or plant is rough and the conditions are not good. Nothing could be further from the truth. This is how work was perceived in the past and that perception hasn’t changed, and that is unfortunate. The work is good, respectable, and you’re producing something that people need,” Francis explained. Positions for warehouse workers are more plentiful than ever before because of that stereotype. “At the same time,” Francis says, “integrating technology in factories with workers who are long-term employees is also a challenge because they may not be comfortable with new technologies and/or change.”

Francis goes on to say, “In a perfect world, workers who have completed their education are motivated and excited. Today, that’s not the case.” According to Francis, it’s not the worker that needs to change, it’s the industry. The industry needs to look itself in the mirror and ask why it has become scary to a new generation of workers.

In 2019, the SPN annual conference was held in Nashville, Tennessee and during our education day, our guest speaker, Ravi Tangri, CEO of Chrysalis Strategies in Halifax, Nova Scotia, explained how the technology you have today will be obsolete in five years. That struck a chord with Francis because he recognizes that we need new technologies; it’s inevitable. It’s just a question of when we get there.

“The more we wait, the more we lose”, Francis cautioned.

“Change is coming; acknowledge it, embrace it, move forward. Stop living in the past with the old technologies you have. Keep moving forward.”

Francis Benjamin

One of the great things about the structural steel industry is its ability to maintain the people who are in it. Creating, building, designing, and seeing those talents come to fruition with a project gives those who work in the industry a great sense of accomplishment. According to Francis, once you’re in the industry, you’re in, and it can be a great place to be if you want.

Thinking toward the future, Francis believes that finding people who are reliable and competent is another important factor in progress. Those who can be relied upon to grow the business, inspire workers, and provide for the communities will be the ones who launch organizations into increased profitability and succession.

“We have the ability to improve rapidly,” Francis added. “The future is bright with new technologies. Each person finds satisfaction but has a different experience in the industry and that’s what makes it a great industry to be in.”