The reconstruction of crane training and certification
By Alexandra Bomersbach12 January 2023
It has been nearly three years since the world shut down during the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic. During this time, our industry had to develop a “new normal.” Social distancing was implemented, remote work was encouraged when possible and video calls were the preferred method of communication.
Each industry was impacted in its own light, and the lifting industry was no exception. CICB and other crane and rigging training and certification companies had to become creative with continuing their training while following Center for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines. Some of the procedures they implemented during the early days of the pandemic remain in effect today.
CICB’s Houston Operations Manager/Career School Director and Senior Instructor and Inspector John O’Connor recalls the challenges they faced from March 2020 to March 2021.
“When the CDC first announced their guidelines and restrictions, we made sure to follow each one, as safety is our top priority,” O’Connor said. “We had to shrink our class sizes to make sure our clients were six feet apart from one another. This was one of the most challenging elements, as we encourage collaboration and open discussion in our courses.”
In addition to rearranging the layout of in-person courses, CICB tried online training for the first time. Although online programs existed prior to the pandemic, CICB did not want to make the switch to virtual, as they firmly believe hands-on training is the best way to learn. Simulation and virtual reality programs are great tools for beginners, but the trainees should make the shift to in-person equipment shortly after, O’Connor said.
CICB decided to offer courses via video conferencing to those who needed refresher training. Certificates and certifications need to be renewed every two to three years, and CICB did not want any of their clients to lose their credentials. Since those in the online courses had previous hands-on experience, there was much success with this trial. These courses still allowed CICB Instructors to interact with their students while also allowing them to use the audio and visual aids that are used in face-to-face classes.
To have the same reference materials as in-person training, CICB’s administrative staff would ship the training materials to the clients ahead of time. The training kits included everything one would receive in person, including pens, highlighters, hand signal cards and rigging cards.
CICB also advised that any hands-on portions of the courses were to be proctored by an employee that wasn’t in the course, making certain the proctor was unbiased. When the instructional portion of the class was complete, students were given a code to complete a final exam that could be taken through an online portal. The instructor accessed the scores, which were then relayed to the students and their employers. This process ensured that the exams remained regulated, even without an instructor in the room.
“Nothing is comparable to the face-to-face classroom interaction and hands-on experience.”
-JOHN O’CONNOR, Houston Operations Manager/ CICB Career School Director and Senior Instructor and Inspector
In addition to online learning, CICB’s team leaned toward YouTube. Although CICB had a YouTube channel prior to the pandemic, it was not heavily utilized. Team members converted an office space into a studio, purchased lighting and film equipment and began regularly filming for the Crane Training Channel.
These videos were utilized as an aid to online learning, especially for situations that were difficult to demonstrate over a video conference call. Hundreds of videos were uploaded, ranging from crane hand signals to preparation strategies for online training.
Like most businesses during this time, CICB experienced last-minute cancellations. Some were from individual clients, which meant an even smaller class. Others were from companies, which meant an entire classroom was empty. During situations like these, instructors used their downtime to focus on enhancing the classroom experience. Presentations and manuals were regularly reviewed and revised with changes to standards or regulations applicable to the programs.
“We did what we could to remain positive during these unprecedented times,” O’Connor explained. “Our instructors used this time for self-growth. We are all trained through CICB and certified through the CCO. Those that were due for a recertification took the necessary examinations, and those who wanted to add a certification to their belt utilized that time to study. Many stepped out of their comfort zone and tackled certifications outside of their wheelhouse. This ultimately created a stronger, more diverse instructional team.”
A few months after the worst of the Covid-19 pandemic was over and airlines began operating more frequently, CICB instructors began traveling to jobsites again. This meant additional research prior to booking travel and ensuring they were fully prepared to enter their client’s site.
O’Connor looked back on the process for on-site training.
“Certain states had travel restrictions, such as needing to quarantine or provide a negative Covid test 48 hours before traveling,” he recalled. “Airlines also had their own restrictions, so we had to research any possible restriction or requirement before booking travel. Sometimes, we would go through this lengthy process and have a last-minute cancellation due to a client testing positive or coming into close contact, which meant rearranging travel.”
Although this was a major learning curve for all CICB team members, each instructor and staff member emerged stronger because of the struggles and conflicts.
Back to normal-ish
Fast forward to 2023. In some regards, CICB has returned to the way it did business pre-pandemic.
But certain changes that were implemented in 2020 remain in effect today, O’Connor said.
“Although the desks are no longer six feet apart, many of the safety protocols are still in place,” he said. “Each classroom is fully stocked with hand sanitizers and other PPE as necessary for the health and safety of clients and employees.”
The instructional staff also learned how important being in the classroom is for the client’s success. CICB continues to host online refresher trainings, understanding that not everyone is able to travel to the Houston or Orlando facilities. However, CICB still highly encourages in-person training.
“Nothing is comparable to the face-to-face classroom interaction and hands-on experience,” said O’Connor.
The YouTube Crane Training Channel remains active and continues to be utilized during instruction. CICB recognizes that there are different learning styles, and some learn better with visual aids in the classroom. In addition, the videos can be viewed at home prior to entering the classroom, which can better prepare students for their training.
Traveling to on-site training and inspections is not nearly as big of a challenge as it was in 2020 and 2021, but some hiccups remain in effect today. CICB’s instructors and inspectors try to plan ahead of time in case the unexpected happens, as airlines are continuing to face staffing shortages.
“We do whatever it takes to make it to an on-site inspection or training,” O’Connor said. “If that means renting a car and driving six hours in the snow because our layover got cancelled, we will make it happen. CICB’s tagline is ‘Elevate Your Expertise,’ which is the goal with each and every client. Even during the height of the pandemic, our focus was to ensure that each client had a seamless experience and left the classroom with an abundance of knowledge. Today, the focus remains the same. No matter what challenges are thrown our way, CICB will always put the students first, making sure they leave highly trained with a memorable experience.”
Alexandra C. Bomersbach is a former English teacher who joined CICB’s marketing team in 2022. With a passion for writing, Bomersbach creates a variety of content for CICB.