SPOA and CITB launch first ever Scottish crane operator apprenticeship

THE Scottish Plant Owners Association (SPOA) and the CITB have announced that the first ever Scottish crane operator apprenticeship will begin in January.

This two-year programme is described as offering an ‘unmatched curriculum’ that delivers essential crane operation skills.

Callum Mackintosh, immediate past president of the SPOA, hailed the move as a ‘strategic investment in the future of our industry’.

“It is a key objective of the SPOA’s lifting group to ensure Scottish lifting businesses have a comprehensive and accessible path to obtaining skilled and competent crane operators,” he added. “This initiative will help to reduce the average age of a crane operator and will contribute to the development of a highly qualified and safety-conscious workforce.

“There is a lot of support available for companies seeking to upskill their workforce through this apprenticeship, not least the fact that these Scottish lifting employers have a unique opportunity to claim 50% grant funding training for HGV training to get these apprentice operators their heavy goods licence – a critical requirement for mobile crane operators.”

One of the first employers to sign up apprentices is Orkney-based Heddle Construction, which is putting two employees through the programme. The first apprentice is 19 and has recently completed his plant operator apprenticeship, whilst the second employee, aged 29, came to Heddle looking for a career change following a spell in the transport industry.

Derek Heddle, MD at Heddle Construction, which runs a fleet of Liebherr cranes from 40 to 220-tonnes, said, “Being the sole crane operator in Orkney means we have a restricted pool of potential candidates when seeking crane operators who already possess the relevant qualifications. This new apprenticeship will allow us to upskill existing employees to broaden their skills. It’s beneficial for our operators to be trained in multiple plant categories, so the fact that the course includes categories such as slinger signaller and MEWPs is a huge plus. The course also provides a chance to complete all the training in one block.”

The apprenticeship includes a 13-week block release training programme at the National Construction College (NCC) in Bircham Newton. Apprentices will undergo training in categories such as slinger signaller, telehandler, plant and vehicle marshaller, and the essential mobile crane (with options for crawler crane and tower crane in future cohorts as required). Apprentices will also gain the International Powered Access Federation (IPAF) accreditation for mobile elevated work platforms.

Equipment from leading brands such as Liebherr, Tadano, Kobelco, Wolffkran, JCB, Genie and Conquip will be used for the training.

Following the initial training phase, apprentices transition into on-the-job learning, gaining practical experience.

The programme concludes with assessments on mobile cranes, leading to the attainment of both a Scottish Vocational Qualification (SVQ) and Construction Plant Competence Scheme (CPCS) blue card.

Chris Blake, plant curriculum manager at the CITB, added, “Our earthmoving apprentice success has been proven over many years of continuous delivery and provision to companies the true length and breadth of Scotland, including all the islands. This has helped to fill the operator shortage and encourage new entrants into the industry.

“Now is a golden opportunity for the crane sector to incorporate new blood into our industry by grasping the mantle. Should companies take the plunge just once and see the benefits to their workforce then I am sure this apprenticeship will be as successful as the earthmoving provision.”

Employers in Scotland wishing to enrol staff on to this crane operator apprenticeship will receive financial support which includes:

  • Grant to cover the full cost of the course.
  • Fully subsidised travel and accommodation on site at the National Construction College.
  • Opportunity to claim an additional grant upon successful completion of the apprenticeship.
  • Further grant opportunities to support qualified apprentices looking to progress into other CPCS categories such as Heavy Goods Vehicle (HGV) training – a critical requirement for mobile crane operators – where Scottish employers have a unique opportunity to claim 50% grant funding.

There is still an opportunity to sign up for the crane operator apprenticeship, which can be done by emailing Callum Mackintosh at callum.mackintosh@spoa.org.uk before Friday 8th December.