Trying to get younger people involved in the lifting industry is an increasingly difficult task. It has never been more important. The problem is that not enough young people are entering the industry and if this trend continues there will also be an acute shortage of crane operators and engineers.
The main concerns for young people taking up an apprenticeship is wages, what their salary will be once they have completed the apprenticeship and if there will be work once the course is complete. To overcome this companies and governments need to generate awareness of what the industry offers to the younger generation. A spokesperson from Terex explains, “In Germany apprenticeship schemes are deeply rooted and well established. Young people have options from going to university, taking on dual studies, or applying for an apprenticeship. With dual studies, students spend half their time at university and half the time working in their chosen area where they get paid; apprenticeships such as these last three years.”
Birmingham City University, based in the UK, is one example of an institution that is finding ways to engage with the younger generation. The university has held master classes to highlight career options in high performance automotive engineering to the younger generation. Professor Adrian Cole, faculty director of innovation and enterprise at Birmingham City University’s faculty of technology, engineering and the environment, was quoted saying, “Engaging with the younger generation and letting them know about the excitement of careers in this sector will mean we can sooner address the shortfall of youngsters taking up engineering training in the UK.”
Studies are also helping highlight the possibilities that apprenticeships offer. A study from the Institute of the Motor Industry (IMI), for example, which was co-funded by the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES), looked at a cross-section of businesses from independents to franchises and involved 30 apprentices. Commenting on the results, Steve Nash IMI CEO, said, “Businesses must overcome their doubts about employing young people and invest in the future if our industry is to succeed as a whole. By giving a young person opportunities to apply their skills they will ultimately become better and more productive technicians much earlier than commonly perceived.”
Attracting a generation
UK-based engineering company Nylacast has already started this process of engaging with the local community and is providing apprenticeships. “We’re helping to highlight to young students that you don't have to be a crane driver or operator to make an outstanding impact to the crane industry as a whole,” Junaid Makda, Nylacast marketing manager, says.
One way that the company is achieving this is by working with local engineering students through a sponsorship programme with DMU Racing, a local racing team from De Montfort University, UK. The team are designing a racing car and plan to compete in the international iMechE Formula Student competition which takes place annually at Silverstone racetrack in the UK.
“Nylacast support the team with monetary sponsorship vital for race entry and mandatory safety equipment along with engineering advice, knowledge and experience as well as our engineering polymers for use on the car itself,” Makda explains.
Nylacast’s engineering apprenticeships last three years and once complete students gain a BTec diploma. The company also offers placements, ranging from two-weeks to a year, for students looking to gain experience and knowledge. In addition, there are also leadership and management courses to team leaders and supervisors. “We are currently in the second cycle of this two year course in which students receive an advanced apprenticeship qualification in leadership and management upon completion,” Makda explains, “Not all staff at Nylacast took the higher education route when young, some went straight into work and, therefore, this training programme allows them to receive qualifications they previously didn't have the chance to gain. This particular programme also works as a platform for gaining a degree, with the option to complete a one year top up course which results in a HND Business degree which can then be furthered to a Bachelor of Arts (BA) Honours Degree.”
“Many of the original apprentices are now in full time employment across the business, from quality control through to maintenance and engineering,” a company spokesperson adds.
Manufacturer Terex Cranes offers apprenticeships in welding, mechanics, megatronics (electrics, hydraulics and mechanics), industrial mechanics (manufacturing processes) and building mechanics. The apprenticeships are based in Germany and last three years. The programmes include mastering basic skills to improving skills. “For example, an apprentice will start out filing a piece of metal by hand with a file and then, once this is mastered, they will move on to using a computer numerically controlled (CNC) machine to increase complexity and develop their skills,” a company spokesperson explains.
Liebherr-Werk Nenzing, headquartered in Austria, has also gained a good reputation for offering and encouraging apprentice training at its subsidiary factories in Sunderland and Killarney, UK and Ireland respectively. In addition, Liebherr-Werk Biberach, in Germany, also offers training. Two years ago it opened a new training centre for tower cranes. “About 150 trainees receive trade training here every year in a wide range of areas,” a Liebherr-Werk Biberach spokesperson said. “These range from sales training to mechanical training and dual study courses.”
“At Liebherr, occupational training is held in high regard and opens up many opportunities for young people,” a spokesperson went on to explain. “At the Biberach site alone, Liebherr offers training and study courses for 17 different occupational profiles. In all, 142 young people are currently receiving trade training in industrial, technical or commercial areas and 23 students are attending study courses. Right from an early stage, future employees take part in various projects and become involved in the company processes.”
At Liebherr-Werk Biberach the training programme for tower cranes includes several courses, from equipment training, technical training, driver training, electrical and electronic systems to mechanical systems. “Course contents include assembling and dismantling cranes, SPS, sensor technology, accident prevention regulations, climbing, personal protective equipment and fault finding (troubleshooting),” a company spokesperson says. “We have a large training centre in Biberach and at dealers and sales branches around the world so our customers, fitters and crane operators can be trained locally.”
The Liebherr-Werk Ehingen branch, also in Germany, offers training for electronic technicians for production engineering, vehicle painting, industrial mechanic, construction mechanic and megatronics technician. We offer basic training for new employees and fitters, including crane technology and vehicle and crane superstructure. Further training is for engines, gearboxes, steering, braking system, hydraulic and electronic crane controls and software. Practical welder training is carried out over several months. In Ehingen, we have a trainee workshop with conventional and CNC-controlled machine tools as well as training courses in hydraulics and electrical systems. We also have a training centre for staff, fitter and customer training. This is also the site of our welding centre which was opened in July 2012. It has eleven welding booths, each equipped with an electric and an inert gas welding unit, a span table and modern exhaust technology. Apprentices, welders, steel fabricators, service technicians, suppliers and customers can receive initial and advanced training and certification here.
Engine manufacturer Deutz, also in Germany, also provides apprenticeship training for technical and business skills in four programmes. To engage with the younger community, the company participates in action days such as Girls' Day, where girls are encouraged to choose technical and business-related education. Deutz also conducts complete job training or individual specialist courses for outside companies.
Apprenticeship placements are also being encouraged by associations such as the Construction Plant-hire Association (CPA). During 2013 the association undertook a pilot scheme to support CPA members to take on apprentice mechanics. Crawler crane specialist sales and rental company NRC Plant and Aerial Platforms, both based in the UK, are receiving support from the CPA to take on three apprentice mechanics, some of whom are also attending college for NVQs.
Raising the profile for the engineering trade is helped by awards and national recognition. The results of the Deutz exam candidates have regularly been above the IHK (Chambers of Commerce and Industry) average and in 2013, a Deutz apprentice was named the best production mechanic of Cologne, Germany. In recognition of its performance and its commitment to the dual training system, the Deutz training centre was distinguished with a certificate by the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Lippe in Detmold, Germany. Frank Opitz, head of apprenticeship, said, “We are delighted about this distinction by the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Lippe in Detmold and are proud that with it our training performance at Deutz is being recognised.”
In the UK, a special honour was given to Liebherr Sunderland Works, winning a top award at the regional final of the National Apprenticeship Awards 2013. The firm won in the category Medium Employer of the Year. At the national finals the company was one of the three shortlisted companies in its category, receiving the National Highly Commended Medium Employer of the Year 2013 award. Ralph Sälzer, managing director of Liebherr Sunderland Works, said, “This award is a fantastic achievement and testament to the 27 local apprentices we employ across a variety of engineering disciplines.”
In Germany, welders from Terex won competitions at the Schweißen und Schneiden (Welding and Cutting) exhibition, which took place in September 2013 in Essen, Germany. The programme included categories such as the Jugend schweißt (Young People Weld) competition and the international WeldCup. During the competitions contestants were required to take part in activities such as metal active gas (MAG) welding, tungsten inert gas (TIG) welding, stick welding, and gas welding. In total, six members of Terex Cranes took part in the competition.
Julia Cremer, a steel construction mechanic at Terex and one of only two women who took part, was awarded second place in the MAG welding discipline. Hans-Peter Lutz, also from Terex, was awarded second place in the WeldCup for the MAG welding discipline. Following his win, Hans-Peter Lutz has been entered into the international 2014 ARC Cup competition in Beijing, China.
Nylacast has opened a training academy at its Thurmaston manufacturing facility near Leicester, UK. As well as being a base for current programmes, it will also allow Nylacast to offer refresher courses and internal training to new and current members of staff. Courses include a general introduction to engineering course, which will also be offered to younger students who are considering embarking on a career in engineering. The Nylacast Engineering Training Academy opened in February 2014. It has training rooms in which to provide both theory and practical knowledge through the use of real machines and specifically sourced interactive virtual reality simulators and software, a company spokesperson said.