Pilot Program Brings Together two NCCER Providers to Deliver Localized Training

Wood, a global leader in the delivery of project, engineering and technical services to energy and industrial markets, thinks locally when it comes to workforce development and training. A relatively small project for the company in Georgia, requiring about 250 construction workers, is serving as a training test pilot for the company.

Led by Mittie Cannon, Manager of Workforce Development, the program takes advantage of relationships built between local workforce development councils, industry trade groups, community organizations, and nationwide training provider, Crane Industry Services LLC, which is headquartered near a current Wood project.

“Our greatest asset is our people,” said Cannon. “We were looking for a way to provide our employees with ongoing training and credentials, but there’s only so much you can do on the job site,” she said. Both Wood and CIS are NCCER-accredited training sponsors providing nationally recognized credentials. The two organizations will share an off-site facility to deliver skills training for craft professionals as well as leadership and team building training for front line supervisors.  Since June 2017, the partners have been working together and realizing good results.

Training for electricians, carpenters, pipefitting, crane operation, and signal persons began just six months ago, and will conclude in the fall of 2018, although the scope of the project continues beyond that.

“Skills add value for life, to organizations and individuals,” said Debbie Dickinson, CEO of CIS. “This pilot training program is designed to ensure that a qualified, skilled workforce is available to meet our client needs.”

We asked Cannon, Dickinson, and Richard Campbell, a Piping Field Engineer who has 43 years of experience working for Wood and its predecessors, about their perspective on training and how Wood is implementing its pilot program.

What’s leadership’s perspective on training?

Cannon: “In 2016, our leaders recognized that employees were as concerned about training and workforce development issues as management was. Many companies view training only as a cost, but we want to create a culture that supports ongoing skills development. Providing employees with opportunities to gain advanced skills helps them feel appreciated.”

How has corporate culture changed regarding training and its perceived value? 

Campbell: “Training used to consist of what you picked up while working with journeyman level workers. Through the years, there has been a reduction in journey level employees. Efforts to provide training on the job site often fizzled out. Today the need to educate our replacements in our industry has become a bigger concern. Upper management sees the need not only for more training, but to get more of our youth involved in learning a craft.”

How can employers make sure training is meaningful? 

Campbell: “There has to be an end goal to encourage workers to strive for perfection. Employers should engage from the top down and employees need to know that management is supportive and willing to do what it takes to assist them in accomplishing their personal goals as a craft professional.”

What results do you expect to get from implementing comprehensive training programs?

Cannon: “Obviously a trained workforce is a safer workforce, but research has also shown that training contributes to improved productivity, quality, and employee attendance.”

What’s unique about the training you are providing?

Cannon: “We are not doing anything that hasn’t been done before, but we are taking a deliberate approach to deliver meaningful, robust training. We review the scope of work before we mobilize to identify any specialty training needed proactively, and we encourage employees to take advantage of the training available that expands their skill level.”

How many people do you expect to participate in training?

Cannon: “Our goal is 30% of the workforce to take part in training over the life of the project. We currently have between 40 and 55 percent engaged.”

How will you demonstrate that training is effective?

Cannon: “The corporate culture views training as an employee benefit. The percent of participation is one measure, and over a longer window we will be able to gather data on things like productivity, and accident reduction. But in the short term, we’ve had six laborers/helpers since June participate in training that advanced them to the next level. That means we have six people available internally with new skills we can use and we don’t have to go outside for those people. Even more have added new credentials, such as rigger or signalperson.”

Dickinson: “When employers go beyond compliance-only mentality and focus on training for skilled operations, safety increases and job delays and downtime decrease.”

What will improve the workforce outlook for the construction industry as a whole?

Cannon: “Contractors have to do a better job of establishing relationships in the local communities to create a pipeline of people coming into the industry. We must get involved in career and technical education, with local economic development groups, with faith-based organizations, and others.”

Crane Industry Services company news

Crane Industry Services Announces Simple Crane Operator Documentation Process for Employers

Example of a Skills Evaluation report produced for the QCOE. Exercises, written tests and practical exams are used to evaluate the qualification of a crane operator. CIS tracks the individuals and maintains records with recommendations for the organizations to improve ability and safety.

While employers have until November 2018 to make sure crane operators are certified, they currently have a duty to ensure crane operators are competent. (See current language presented in the OSHA Regulation update.)

To assist employers in evaluating and documenting crane operator competency, Crane Industry Services, LLC introduces a new and efficient process called Qualified Crane Operator Evaluations™ (QCOE). The process gives employers valuable insights not available in certification testing by identifying specific operator strengths and skills that need to be improved.

Competency is defined as one who is capable of identifying existing and predictable hazards in the surroundings or working conditions, and who has authorization to take prompt corrective measures to eliminate them. When it comes to crane operation that may entail familiarity with the type and configuration of the crane, hand signals, rigging, and ground conditions, among other factors.

The QCOE process graphs areas where knowledge and skill are strongest and where the operator and supervisors would benefit from more training or experience that the employer can provide or can be obtained through a reliable source. Employers receive recommendations for improved performance and documentation for current compliance requirements. The process lowers costs and hassles associated with certification testing.

Crane Industry Services travels to the crane and operator’s location to conduct tests and documents each operator’s qualifications. “Excuses don’t work when an employer is behind on a job schedule or over budget due to skill levels that are lower than needed to complete timely, quality, safe work. QCOE also helps employers fulfill the ‘employer duty’ to provide documentation to OSHA regarding qualification of operators, but the main benefit is safer, higher quality work,” said Debbie Dickinson, CEO of CIS.

Sample results tracking an individual’s record from novice to qualified crane operator. CIS has developed more than 200 exercises, many of which can be performed on a simulator, for demonstrating skills related to crane and lifting equipment operation.

CIS is WBE certified and NCCER accredited to train and provide OSHA recognized, ANSI accredited crane operator certification testing.

Overcoming Barriers to Strategic Skills Development

Debbie Dickinson, CEO of CIS, addresses the importance for employers to continually develop people with the right skills for the job in an article for the October 2017 issue of Incident Prevention magazine. “Crane operation and rigging skills development presents greater challenges than some other areas,” she says.

Fostering crane and rigging skills across all departments

The utility industry has high expectations for employing safe work practices, and readily invests in equipment and training. Yet, there is one area where these organizations continue to lack employees with the right skills—crane operation and rigging. It’s not uncommon among utilities for individuals with crane operator certification to have less than 100 hours of actual operating time in a year. OSHA requires employers to ensure that crane operators are trained and competent; 100 hours or less is not sufficient to maintain crane operator skills. In emergency situations, utilities need crews who do not routinely operate cranes to serve as operators. A strategic approach to developing crane and rigging skills across business units could narrow or close the skills gap.

However, utilities, like all large and complex organizations, battle the 5 Cs: complex corporate culture causing complications. Different groups within the utility may, out of necessity, operate as silos, with little shared knowledge or resources. Construction groups usually have the most skilled crane operators and riggers, and readily invest in training these people, but crane and rigging experts are needed on T&D and Emergency Response crews as well.

Utility workers, especially those serving on emergency response teams, must wear several hats—meaning a single individual may need to be qualified for very different types of work, such as lineman, rigger or equipment operator. Having multi-skilled and trained personnel creates a more nimble and responsive workforce. Yet, the reality of maintaining skill levels in several trades, may also require staff and budget that is in opposition to the complex, corporate culture that thrives on efficiencies.

Management appreciates that it’s less expensive to have one person on a crew with qualified crane and rigging skills, instead of the whole crew. But in a widespread power outage, time is money. The fewer skills crew members have, the less productive they might be. In an emergency response situation, that may mean the difference in getting power restored later rather than sooner.

Organizations should ask: What is the best strategy for their needs? It might be developing a single individual with abilities to perform varying levels of tasks or having a dedicated crew of crane operators and riggers. Either option could work depending on safety, budget and timeline requirements.

Read the full article on page 37 of the October 2017 issue of Incident Prevention.

Many Paths to Training

By Debbie Dickinson

Mike Rowe

Few people are as articulate, funny, and seemingly everywhere at once on the subject of promoting professional craft skills as Mike Rowe. Hardly a week goes by that he isn’t being interviewed on a major news network, firing up Facebook, hosting a new television series, launching a foundations, or delivering scholarships.

To paraphrase the man who claims he has no real credentials to address the widening skills gap (plus other topics such as infrastructure decline, offshore manufacturing, and currency devaluation): Opportunity is not dead. People just need to be willing to work hard, have the right attitude, and get skills training for jobs that actually exist.

So where does someone go to get the training they need? There isn’t just one way, there are many paths leading in the same general direction. Which is great and terrible at the same time because you might have to look around a little to find a program that fits.

It starts with young people getting involved in activities that introduce them to those opportunities—SkillsUSA, student chapters of the Associated Builders and Contractors, Lift & Move USA, Build Your Future, Build America, and others. It is going take government and private enterprise making funding available to people who want to earn a certification or credential like welding, equipment operation, pipefitting, etc. Alabama’s model is enviable. Recently, the state’s newly created Craft Training Board announced that 500 people this year will get construction skills training thanks to $1.8 million in grants.

It’s also going to take unions, community and four-year colleges, training organizations, and employers to create curriculum that matches the skills needed. NCCER develops standardized construction and maintenance curriculum and assessments, which CIS provides, with portable credentials. Anything but stagnant, this not-for-profit education foundation is constantly refreshing its offerings. Just this summer they released updated electrical and pipeline programs.

I read recently that the number of colleges offering construction degrees is up 31.8% and the number of students enrolling in construction trades degree programs is up 26.4%. (Construction Equipment, August 10, 2017)

While these tend to be four-year construction management tracks rather than skilled trades, it’s still encouraging, as there is also a supply and demand problem for qualified middle management construction employees. According to a study by the Project Management Institute, between 2010 and 2020, demand for project management professionals will grow by nearly 700,000 in the United States alone. The June 2017 issue of Construction Executive magazine profiles several colleges that are retooling their construction degree programs. It included a directory of schools with these programs. Georgia Tech is one of those highlighted. Earlier this year Georgia Tech launched a professional master’s in occupational safety and health, the first program of its kind in the state.

Finally, employers must develop from within. Safety, quality, and productivity depend on equipping people with the skills they need to do the work. Training must be task specific and it must be ongoing. One and done is deadly thinking. Employers should look for training partners that can facilitate that kind of embedded, organizational training.

So back to Mike Rowe. While he regularly brings a dose of reality to all the talking heads in the news, he also puts his money where his mouth is. Through the MikeRoweWorks Foundation at profoundlydisconnected.com, scholarships are available to qualified individuals with a desire to learn a skill that is in demand. The Foundation has been instrumental in granting more than $3 million in education for trade schools across the country. So if you have the desire, Mike’s got the money, CIS has the training. Let’s get rigging.

OSHA Intends to Delay Crane Operator Certification Again

In May, OSHA announced its intention to extend the November 10, 2017 compliance date for crane operator certification. The proposal was presented on June 20 to the Advisory Committee on Construction Safety and Health. Although nothing official has been issued, OSHA is expected to issue a formal extension of the enforcement date by one year to November 2018.

The latest proposed delay comes more than six years after the crane rule was issued in 2010. Among the issues which need to be resolved are whether testing operators should be done by type of crane as well as by capacity. Many in the industry think testing by capacity is onerous. The other issue is whether certification is equivalent to qualification. Many employers argue that certification is a baseline and that other factors must be evaluated to determine if an operator is qualified for a specific lifting scenario.

According to Bloomberg BNA, “The 12-month delay would give the agency time to complete work on an updated rule (RIN:1218-AC96) and determine how the rulemaking would fit into the Trump administration mandate limiting new regulations.”

Many in the industry speculate that existing language will be substantially changed to remove the requirement for certification by crane capacity and to better define the role of certification in determining whether or not an operator meets OSHA’s definition of qualified.

“CIS supports national crane operator certification regulations, but we are hopeful that OSHA will modify current language. Certification should be required but acknowledged as a learner’s permit. Meanwhile, qualification should be documented by employers demonstrating an operator’s skill by type of crane, not by make and model of crane. Finally, qualification of operators should be re-evaluated and documented annually,” said Debbie Dickinson, CEO of Crane Industry Services, LLC.

Despite the likely one-year delay, Lexology.com reports, “Employers remain responsible for ensuring that these operators are properly trained on the equipment assigned to them. We suggest that companies do internal compliance or policy reviews periodically to ensure that their policies comply with the latest, changing standards.


ACCSH FAQ for the May 20 meeting regarding the compliance date extension.

Federal Register Notice June 6, 2017 of the ACCSH June 20 meeting.

Is Your Company Ready for the Next Rosie the Riveter?

The construction industry faces a big problem when it comes to filling qualified labor shortages, but many simple solutions can add up to significant return. After participating in last month’s Power Up event, promoting construction careers to young women, Debbie Dickinson, CEO offers these ideas for employers seeking to attract a new generation of workers—whether male or female.

“We heard great insights from speakers Kayleen McCabe of DIY Network’s Rescue Renovations and a vivacious senior woman, who was a real-life Rosie the Riveter during World War II,” said Dickinson. In addition, Dickinson joined a panel discussion with Fulton County College and Career Director, Lorissa Edwards, and student panelist, Breionna Glover.

In a recent article, The Business Case for Diversity and Inclusion, author Brent Darnell says: If all industry organizations and companies would commit to some very simple initiatives, we could improve diversity and inclusion dramatically in a relatively short time.” He claims that evidence suggests the industry does not value diversity, which creates barriers for wooing outsiders to join the construction workforce.

Get involved in local workforce development groups. State and local groups can help connect employers to re-entry citizens, transitioning veterans, graduating high school students, and others looking for a new career opportunity. Often funding is available to offset costs of training programs for these individuals. Find a workforce development boards in your area at CareerOneStop, a website sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor.

Be an industry partner with career and technical educators. More and more school districts are getting on board with providing students with an education that makes them career ready. But that takes a commitment from business and industry to supply field trips, internships, subject matter experts, and more. Check out Construction Career Pathways Conference, Dec. 6, 2017, Nashville, Tenn.

Agree to mentor someone. Provide role models. As Brent Darnell says, this means “providing meaningful training for the white guys.” An article published by Chief Learning Officer provides suggestions for how male mentors can develop women at work. The principles apply to reaching minorities or other under-represented demographics in the workforce.

Create training opportunities or make training accessible. This might be as simple as funding transportation for students from school to your business or job site for hands-on instruction. Or lobby your state to recognize October as Careers in Construction month, then host an open house. NCCER can provide free sample text for writing a proclamation.

If you are genuinely interested in hearing from young people or minorities, then roll up your sleeves like Rosie and get to work making it happen in a meaningful way for your company.