ACE Mentor Program bringing people into architecture, construction and engineering


Special to Ontario Construction Report

The ACE Mentor Program began in 1994 in New York City. It is a free after school program for high school students designed to attract and inform those who are interested in pursuing a career in the Architecture, Construction and Engineering industry, including the skilled trades.

In 2020, the first ACE Chapter outside of the United States debuted virtually in partnership with the Toronto District School Board. The program was brought to Canada with funding from Allen S. Berg’s family, who with CMiC, have annually committed $500,000 for the past six years to the US program.

The Toronto ACE Committee, comprised of volunteers from Turner & Townshend, HH Angus, Arup, Stantec, Entuititve and CMiC, helped facilitate the program. This year marks the first time the Canadian program has been held in-person. Over 16 weeks (December 2022 – April 2023), 29 GTA high school students attended weekly presentations and activities at Arup Toronto. Sessions were led by a diverse team of professionals from Arup, Entuitive, Walsh Group, Stantec, Chandos, Dialog, Ellis Don and MCW.

Each week a different industry mentor shared their career pathway; provided examples of projects; and guided students through a hands-on activity. Topics ranged from:

  • the role of a general contractor,
  • architectural design,
  • structural design,
  • construction management,
  • site logistics,
  • building envelope, and
  • estimating and takeoff techniques.

A field trip to the North Toronto Memorial Community Center partnered students with mentors. They explored and discussed elements of the different spaces. Students applied this site knowledge with what they had learned in presentations to prepare their group capstone project: designing a hypothetical community centre in Grange Park.

Angela Glidden, whose son participated in the program noted, “we live in York Region, so getting to the program every week was a commitment in and of itself, but absolutely worth it.  Every week the students came home with so much to talk about. Jobs you didn’t know existed. Different ways of thinking.  The presenters must have been incredibly engaging. I can’t thank them enough for volunteering their time.”

At the end of April, students presented their project to fellow classmates, parents, teachers, and mentors at Stantec’s Toronto office. Each group explained their design process complete with scale drawings and a 3D computer model. Students did an exceptional job of explaining:

  • who would use the facility and at what times,
  • how to incorporate their structure into the existing park,
  • their site plan, budget, and timeline,
  • aesthetic design components, elevations and accessibility,
  • materials selection and suitability, and
  • environmental sustainability.

The program ended with four grade 12 students each receiving a $5000 scholarship, two of which were sponsored by CMiC and two from Stantec.

Edith Chow, who co-ordinated and hosted the weekly sessions at Arup said, “we came back to the topic of sustainable and innovative design quite often. It was an ongoing theme in the program. This was driven both by the program material and the students’ interest. We gave a lot of focus towards exposing students to a diverse set of career pathways.

“Student feedback supported that this was very helpful in giving them insight and perspective into making post-secondary decisions. I think this program is a great opportunity for students to be exposed to the AEC industries and for mentors to help shape the future of those pursuing a career in the built environment.”

Grade 11 student Isabelle Heisler shared, “in high school the only course we take to learn about career paths is in grade 10 and it is vague. It was great to learn precisely what each path leads to from people who have done the schooling and career” as well as, “what to expect from university, how to stand out, and finding what path spoke to us”.

Her group partner, Patrick Glidden added, “my greatest takeaway from the ACE Mentor Program was to never stop learning. The mentors showed again and again that gaining knowledge does not end with schooling but, is an attitude you must carry with you. I feel like I have a much clearer direction on what program I want to apply for next year. I’m really looking forward to coming back to the program in grade 12 for the contacts I’m making and the opportunities it has created for me.”

Pat Shah, chair of the ACE Mentor Program of Canada, Pat Shah, said “we are excited to be a part of a historic time for the program’s expansion outside of the United States and we are geared to expand the scope and breadth of this program to see its full potential.  Our end-goal, however, is to develop a framework that can be applied when establishing other chapters across Canada.”

To find out more visit:

To volunteer as a mentor contact: Pat Shah or Ian Trudeau at Entuitive.


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