New course launched to ‘reorientate’ plant operators back into the sector

Fraser Dykes

THE Scottish Plant Owners Association (SPOA) and the CITB have teamed up to help address operator shortages in the construction industry.

A short reorientation course has been launched with the aim of attracting former construction site plant operators, who left the industry during the recession, back into the sector in a quick and cost-effective manner. A number of skilled operators left during the economic downturn due to a shortage of work. Many of these individuals found employment in sectors such as mining or oil and gas.

But with the construction industry now picking up again, and employment opportunities dwindling in some of these other areas, the SPOA says firms are finding it difficult to find experienced staff – partly because these operators have allowed their accreditation to work on sites lapse.

Fraser Dykes, president of the SPOA, told Project Plant, “There are experienced operators out there needing jobs but they can’t get back in without spending a lot of money to get the accreditation.

“The SPOA approached the CITB and, in a joint venture, we’ve brought together the Partnership Action Plan to address the shortages. The idea came out of surface mines closing down. They had their in-house training certification, which is not suitable for construction sites.

“The aim is to certificate, to reorientate, into the CITB system operators who have had cards in the past and had let them lapse because they were working in other industries.

“The operators must have proof of experience. You’re not going to get training to be an operator. It’s about reorientating people who have the experience and/or lost their cards.

“It’s to be run through the SPOA membership. Members can bring the candidates forward, prove their experience and then they do a one or two-day course with an assessment. They’ll do their touch screen test and be tested on the machine. If they pass, they get their CPCS trained operator card.

“The CITB is funding the reorientation course, which is Year One of the Partnership Action Plan.

“People don’t need to be out of work to apply for the course. It could also be used to upskill exisiting operators. The three categories of machines we’re focusing on are dozers, 360 excavators and dump trucks.

“It’s bound to be a success, I’m 100 per cent confident about that.”

Fraser is now hoping the CITB will look further into his Year Two action plan proposal, which is the setting up of foundation courses to attract new operators into the industry. He explained, “This idea has come from me personally and we have a meeting in the New Year with the working group. I’ll be there with Steven Mulholland and Jim Houstoun, who is the SPOA’s training adviser.

“The idea is that, like bricklayers, joiners, plumbers, electricians, etc, new entrants will go to college for a year and do all the different applications gaining the certification required. At the end of that year, they will also have gained the experience to go straight onto a construction site. The biggest problem we have at the moment is lack of experience. It’s easy to get someone trained and pass a test but the experience is the issue.

“There are currently agricultural colleges all over the country which have the land, classrooms and facilities to host these foundation courses.

“I don’t know if anything will come of this proposal but, for me, it’s not rocket science. The industry has a shortage of operators, the Government have the facilities to run such courses and we need to do something about it.”

Vanessa Gallant, federation support coordinator at the CITB, said, “In June/July, we met with the SPOA who had a few suggestions on how to solve the operator shortage problem. This is something that is also high on the agenda for CPCS (Construction Plant Competence Scheme).

“We decided to bid for funding from CITB’s Joint Investment Strategy with Scottish Government and aligned to Skills Development Scotland’s Construction Skills Investment Plan to deliver the first reorientation pilot course to attract people who have at least one years experience in the last five years on the three types of machines.”

For more information, contact the SPOA.