The IUOE’s new International Training and Conference Center in Houston serves as a mecca for construction and engineering training. It opened last year as the largest and most comprehensive training facility for union Operating and Stationary Engineers in North America. The 265-acre campus includes 17 classrooms, 227 dorm rooms and engineered pads for a variety of cranes and heavy equipment. Born out of the growing need for trained workers in the industry, IUOE and other major industry players have joined together to create a one-stop shop for a workforce needing to master new technologies.
Several years ago, IUOE General President James T. Callahan attended a symposium in Houston that was hosted by the American Petroleum Institute. Former Exxon executive and former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was a guest speaker. In his presentation, Tillerson made it clear that over the next 10 to 15 years the industry would spend in excess of $190 billion converting over to new technologies in oil and gas refineries in the Gulf Coast region. The industry was challenged with the possibility of not having enough trained workers to perform these projects. Coupled with a growing labor shortage and the need for more training industry wide, IUOE set out to meet this ominous challenge. That was the start of the vision for the state-of-the-art training and conference center.
“What we see in construction is no different than what we see in our general lives every day,” said IUOE Chief of Staff Joe Giacin. “People that are between the ages of 40 to 60 are being forced to learn new technology that they’ve never seen before. That’s a huge chunk of our workforce. It’s a very large amount of the skillset in our organization. You’ve got people out there that have been crane operators for 25 to 30 years, that are excellent. However the technology and the computer-based systems and operational controls in these machines are bypassing the skillset of the people who are already 25-year veteran crane operators.”
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IUOE created a “Blue Ribbon Commission” of training experts and opened up the conversation about what it takes to run a world-class training program to meet all the needs. The initiative was met with tremendous success, and IUOE had buy-in and participation from every corner of the United States and Canada, Giacin said.
The Center encompasses four main divisions that specialize in training for hoisting, portable and construction, mechanics, welders and surveyors, and stationary engineers. Giacin said it’s important to note that IUOE wasn’t building a facility strictly for cranes.
“We’ve built a school that encompasses all of the disciplines that our people work in,” he said.
Training people on the latest, greatest and most technologically advanced equipment is an important mission at the Center. To accomplish this, partnerships were formed with crane manufacturers and owners including Tadano America, Link-Belt Cranes, Terex Cranes, Manitowoc Cranes (including Grove and Potain), Liebherr and Morrow Equipment.
“We want it to be a true partnership, where it benefits our members, the industry, our partners and everyone else,” said Giacin. “It’s the place to be.”
These partnerships have resulted in an entire fleet of brand new cranes for workers to learn and train on. Cranes onsite include a Tadano GR1000 XL, Tadano GTC 800, Link-Belt 75-RT, Link-Belt 218 HSL, Manitowoc MLC 165, Grove TMS 9000-2, Grove GRT 8100, Potain MDT 219, Potain MDT Igo T70 A, Terex HC120, Liebherr LRT 1100-1 and a Jekko SPK 60 mini crane. Several more cranes will be delivered to the Center in the coming months including a Terex RT100, a Liebherr 172 EC-B 8, a Liebherr 357 HC-L 12/24, a Liebherr 81 K.1, a Liebherr LR1130, a Terex CTL 260-18 and a Jekko SPX 1040 and a SPX 312 C.
The Center recently purchased an additional 30 acres for its growing fleet. This initiative continues to grow as the positive effects are already visible.