In 2019 SC&RA has positioned itself to take a leadership role in what it considers the top industry issue at the moment. Workforce development is a key component of the Association’s new strategic plan. The Association will continue to address and attack this overall issue in an ongoing effort to cultivate the collective long-term success of its industry partners and member companies both in the USA and around the world.
“Our strategic planning committee certainly addressed workforce development and the labour shortage as the number one strategic objective for 2019 to 2024,” said Joel Dandrea, SC&RA CEO, “and the Association has made a three-year commitment to be the anchor sponsor for Lift & Move USA at US$150,000 per year.”
Dandrea pointed out that SC&RA is leading the charge to separately incorporate the Lift & Move careers event with an independent board of directors – to spearhead growth and improvements after learning a great deal over the last two and a half years. “We can certainly say that after every single event – while we’ve made great progress – the programme is still in its infancy, and there’s much work to be done – the communications, the database between students and employers and bringing together training and apprentice opportunities. The greater co-ordination, communication and integration through potential partnerships with unions and training organisations will only serve to strengthen and evolve the endeavour moving forward, which is our ultimate aim.”
The year 2018 was a productive example of how far that aim has come, noted Tracy Bennett, Lift & Move director. “Last year, Lift & Move USA established a relationship with the Association for Career and Technical Education [ACTE], providing the programme with access to ACTE resources, visibility for Lift & Move to ACTE professionals and opportunities to push the crane, rigging and transportation workforce development agenda to the Department(s) of Labor and Education.”
Bennett said Lift & Move USA was invited to participate in both the ACTE Workforce Development Summit and NCCCO Industry Forum on Personnel Qualifications last year, providing exposure and networking opportunities for the programme beyond what had been done previously. “By leveraging contacts with SkillsUSA and ACTE state directors, attendance at hosted events came from highly qualified student segments, with the majority being students who are already enrolled in welding, metals, manufacturing, mechanics and carpentry programmes. More than five hundred students and teachers attended two events in fall 2018.”
On the worker retention side, Dandrea indicated the importance of providing Association members with more information on best practices. “What we have to do is develop a whole ‘Lift & Move in a can’ – and deliver the strategies, the process, the ideas that will enable individual companies from around the country and the world to establish partnerships with schools and training centres… to essentially replicate the programme in their immediate area.”
Dandrea added that the reality is SC&RA member companies are competing with all types of other industries for the same talent so, if the Association doesn’t make this effort and continue to work with member companies and partner organisations to evolve their own efforts similarly, then other industries will.
“And yes, there are questions on how we quantify the investment into something like Lift & Move USA but it’s really difficult at this early stage,” Dandrea noted. “But if we don’t implement it like we are, we don’t stand a chance at ever attracting and retaining that talent – because they’ll just go elsewhere.
“We’ve been told by career counsellors in schools and technical centres that once these kids go through and attend an event – while it may seem like they’re young and may not have an interest – it might be a few years down the road before they get to a point of sitting back and focusing on what they want to do. They remember these events – it leaves an impression on them. We’ve got to keep developing a database of these people that attend, keep communicating with them, keep promoting. We know the platforms they use, particularly social media, allow them to share that information with others, so that’s part of the battle plan.”
Lift & Move USA is one aspect of a larger push for SC&RA to research and find solutions to the worker shortage industry-wide. According to Jason Bell, SC&RA membership director, “It’s as simple as taking a proactive stance on multiple levels to address the collective lack of skilled labour and individual development on behalf of our members. It’s a multi-tiered approach; Lift & Move USA is the entry-level gateway for skilled crane operators, truck drivers, welders, dispatchers and mechanics to enter our industry.
The Leadership Forum programme then operates on the next level to help those who are growing beyond the controls of a crane or getting out of the cab to move into management and-or the next levels of their company’s leadership growth through the Association.”
Bell explained that both programmes are critical to long-term expansion in the industry and factor heavily into SC&RA’s overall planning objectives over the next five years – for a reason: “Frankly, there are many trade and professional organisations that are simply taking a hands-off approach to developing the next generation which could leave the future of their Association’s membership, let alone their industries, vulnerable collectively both in the short and long term.”
To that end, SC&RA held its first Emerging Leaders Summit in the Washington, D.C., area of the USA. It is a programme designed to piggyback onto the SC&RA Leadership Forum, for young and emerging leaders in the industry. “The summit served as a next step as far as advocacy and leadership is concerned,” Bell continued. “We invited all of our previous fifty-three Leadership Forum graduates to come together for a closed networking event near our offices. Thirteen graduates attended, spending considerable time with SC&RA’s senior staff, Steven Todd and Beth O’Quinn, as well as individuals from NCCCO and FMCSA.”
In addition, Summit attendees took part in a two-hour session with Dr John Hillen, an American business executive and the former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs. “Dr Hillen spoke to the group about reinventing themselves as leaders, and how to operate as a leader when your business is outpacing you,” said Bell. “Overall, the turnout and support were fantastic, with great feedback from participants, which sets a positive tone for further establishing future Association leaders who will help advance both SC&RA and the industry in coming years.”
Dandrea added, “It was very much a positive, back-and-forth experience for all involved. Everyone walked away with an enhanced network and a greater understanding of both advocacy and leadership opportunities by way of SC&RA programmes.”
A future role for one or more of the Summit attendees might one day involve representing SC&RA membership while working with the Association’s international partners – like ESTA (European Association of Abnormal Road Transport and Mobile Cranes). Dandrea highlighted that, within SC&RA’s focus on workforce development, the hope is to also continue to advance communications with its sister organisations around the world. “We want to cultivate and exchange best practices. Moving forward, we certainly want to dig a bit deeper – over the next year or two – and see what has been successful in other countries in regards to workforce development. With the hope of having more sophisticated conversations down the road as the process evolves.”