ACT spoke with several companies implementing industry apprenticeships.

A skilled workforce is the backbone to our beloved industry. But it’s also becoming increasingly important to recruit the younger generation to keep it strong and steady. Apprenticeship programs in the crane, rigging and transportation sector serve as a solid succession plan for an older workforce and are an incredible alternative to traditional college.

Edwards Moving (3)

An apprenticeship program provides a company with a succession plan for its older workforce.

“As with most companies, we have an aging workforce and the apprenticeship program provides a solid career path to train the next generation of leaders in our industry,” said Danny Cain, director of safety/risk management, Edwards Moving & Rigging “Having the opportunity to ‘shadow and train’ these apprentices, over a three- or four-year period, greatly enhances the company’s work culture as well as provides the apprentice with hands on rigging experience and knowledge from some of the top riggers and transportation specialists in the industry.”

Earn while you learn

Apprenticeships programs often attract younger people who are not planning on attending a traditional four-year college and would rather start working towards a lifetime career in the industry.

“At Edwards, we aggressively market our program towards the vocational programs in our local high schools,” said Cain. “The added benefit for these participants is that they ‘earn while they learn a professional trade.’ Most college graduates end up with some meaningless degree and a whole lot of debt. Apprentices begin earning a paycheck on day one and as they progress through the mandatory curriculum continue to receive monetary increase in their pay in addition to merit increases.”

Cain added that one of the biggest challenges to consider before developing and launching an apprenticeship program is ensuring that a company has 100 percent buy-in from senior management. Everyone must be on board with their commitment to make the program a success. Crew assignments must also be adjusted so participants can be involved in hands on classroom instruction.

“Over the past year and a half of having our apprenticeship program, I have been able to witness firsthand the professional growth with each of our apprentices,” said Cain. “Their skillsets in specialized transportation and rigging have dramatically improved, and they are now on their way to be our next generation of leaders. Along with this professional growth comes their confidences in being able to plan accordingly for heavy and complicated lifts. This knowledge allows them to challenge how we execute our work tasks to ensure that they are carried out in a safe and efficient manner. They take pride in doing the job right the first time and making sure that our customers are completely satisfied with the quality of work. It’s truly been a win-win program for all parties involved and has provided our apprentices with an incredible lifetime career opportunity that will have endless rewards in their future.”

Training and skills

Another key player laying the foundation for apprenticeship programs is Sims Crane. Last spring, the company started the Sims University apprenticeship school at the Sims Crane office in Tampa, FL. The program focuses on preparing and introducing new workers to the crane and rigging trade. The Sims U program helps future apprentices obtain their Class A CDL, basic rigger and signalman certification, in addition to learning the crane operator trade.

Sims Classroom (1)

Classes at Sims U take place in a new classroom facility that can accommodate up to 20 students in a modular arrangement.

“The Sims U program is important for establishing a sustainable future workforce prepared with the necessary training and skills,” said Dean Sims II, vice president of marketing, Sims Crane & Equipment. “We have a 66 percent passing rate for the first class (six out of nine) that are currently working here at Sims Crane. Expectations are high and so are the rewards. Our students receive money for living expenses while they are in school, in addition to a $3,000 contract bonus at the start of the program with a four-year commitment to work for Sims Crane when they complete the training.”

The facility also features two virtual reality simulation stations that allow students to practice the basic functions of crane operations in a controlled, safe and simulated environment. The simulators use Oculus Rift and allow the instructor to design scenarios focused on specific skills and tasks students may encounter in the field.