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.

Crane Industry Services company news

Crane and Rigging Inspector Training for Jobsite Supervisors – August 30 – AGC Training Center

This program is designed to help supervisors and crews working with cranes and rigging to better understand the function of machines, components and gear to keep jobs safe, prevent delays and be savvy about the lifts taking place under their watch. The course will cover:

  • Optimize productivity – Inspection Criteria, Schedule and Performance
  • Verify Capacity for the Lifts Planned
  • Indentify Gear or Components to Reject

Note:  This program does not qualify or certify participants to conduct Third Party, Annual or Post Assembly Inspections.


8/30/2017 8:00 AM – 8/30/2017 4:00 PM


AGC Georgia Training Center
1940 The Exchange
Atlanta, GA 30339 United States

To register: Email parham@agcga.org for more information or visit www.agcga.org

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.

CIS Safety Icon

Crane Training, Inspections Take Advantage of Latest Tech Tools

Crane operation relies on constants—principles of gravity, force, and leverage have been the same since the beginning of time. But technology is reshaping crane training and offering new tools for crane operations. Drones, simulators and other tools are rapidly moving from military exercises to commercial construction applications.

If you doubt how quickly the landscape is changing, the 75,000 sq. ft. Tech Experience exhibit dedicated to new construction technologies at the 2017 ConExpo-Con/Agg show should be evidence enough. A year ago, Crane Industry Services embarked on a study with CM Labs Simulations Inc. and West Georgia Technical College to determine the value of simulators in crane training. More recently, they began assessing the use of drones for use in crane training, crane inspections, and lift planning.

Sim study update

“We are finding that 8 hours in a crane simulator is equivalent to 30-40 hours in the field. There is so much more that you can pack into a condensed training time when teaching crane operators new skills or lifting scenarios,” said Debbie Dickinson, CEO of Crane Industry Services. While the study is ongoing, the company recently launched a custom crane simulator training program for a utility company. The objectives were skill-based training, documentation of training, and measurements of skills achieved.  Simulators help to bridge the skills gap. “More seasoned employees are leaving the industry than new people are entering and we are losing a tremendous body of knowledge,” said Dickinson. “Simulators are being used by employers for strategic workforce development,” she said.

Shawn Galloway, CIS Instructor, worked with Dickinson and the utility to create a simulator training protocol, called CIS Skills Measurement Record TM.  Galloway has previous experience writing training protocols for unmanned aerial vehicle operations in the military, including drone tactical standards for the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines.

Galloway is applying this experience to the development of the Skills Measurement Record for simulators in crane training. “First, we identify the most common skills needed, and the most critical skills. We build scenarios for the simulator based on that and write curriculum, evaluations, and metrics to measure performance specific to the utility company’s training needs,” he explained. While the protocol would be customized to each employer and the skill level of employees, it provides a foundation for establishing how much simulator training is needed to achieve a certain skill level.

Just as the aviation industry has standards for how much training (both simulated and real) is necessary for pilots to maintain proficiency, CIS’s long-term goal for its research with crane simulators is similar. “The industry uses simulators. CIS is working to provide valid research that is useful to employers, simulator developers, and possibly standards-writing bodies for setting guidelines,” said Dickinson.

Drones and cranes

CIS uses drone technology to literally capture the big picture. Notice the small orange cone in the lower right corner? From that point it is 20 feet to a power line. Enough said.

In congested areas were laying the boom down is impossible, the CIS inspector took a close look at the working boom.

Meanwhile, the crane training and inspection company is now exploring uses for drones as part of their services. In crane operator training, overhead video shows the boom’s route through a course. “For example, teaching an operator awareness of powerlines and how to maintain control of the boom and load while maintaining proper distances is difficult to judge at ground level. By using a drone to video the activity from above, it’s much easier to see how close the crane came to the required perimeter,” said Cliff Dickinson, President of CIS, who is a licensed pilot.

In work environments, drones can be used to assist with post-assembly crane inspections. “These typically take place in congested environments, where it’s not possible to lay a boom down,” said Cliff Dickinson. A drone helps an inspector see the condition of components, wire rope, or the reeving over the sheaves on the boom tip.

Drones may also be useful in lift planning to double check the crane configuration and expected load travel route. Conditions on a job site change frequently. While the lift may have been pre-planned and even simulated in software applications, a drone can be flown in the expected crane or load travel pattern to make sure there are not unanticipated obstacles. “It’s a real-time comparison with a lift plan to confirm access/egress,” said Debbie Dickinson.

CIS’s endeavors mirror the shift in construction education. A new course at Georgia Institute of Technology’s School of Building Construction is teaching students how to apply a variety of technologies to construction tasks. In April 2017, Equipment World reported that the course, CONECTech, is teaching “how to integrate technology into the workflow and how to use it in a way that is functional on a jobsite.”

“When we teach students about technology, it changes so quickly we try not to focus on the gadgets so much, but on the application of the data that they extract,” said Javier Irizarry, director of CONECTech.

“It’s always important that the students understand the goals of the jobsite and its managers first and foremost.”

CIS is in talks with Georgia Tech to collaborate on developing simulator training protocols and drone applications for the crane and rigging industry. Both Irizarry and Debbie Dickinson serve on the AGC Georgia Safety Forum and plan to reach out to AGC Georgia members for participation in future research projects.

Crane Industry Services company news

CIS Expands NCCER Offerings in Northeast

Crane Industry Services LLC (CIS) announces successful completion of NCCER audits for two crane training companies in the northeast. New England Crane School in New Hampshire and Cranes101 in Massachusetts are now approved as NCCER Accredited Training and Assessment Centers (ATS/AAC), under the sponsorship and support of Crane Industry Services. CIS conducted initial instructor certification training and assessments, following the NCCER protocols and curriculum, and will provide annual audits and administrative services to meet NCCER requirements. CIS became an accredited NCCER training sponsor in 2015.

“Currently New England Crane School is offering crane operator certifications, qualified signal person, and basic rigging certifications to our customers, but we plan to eventually branch into other trade areas,” said Anna DeBattiste, President, NECS.  NCCER offers dozens of construction craft programs and credentials from boilermaking to welding. “We are pleased with NCCER’s customer service and the availability of a comprehensive curriculum beyond just crane operator certification,” said DeBattiste.

“Cranes101 is happy to add the NCCER Mobile Crane Operator Certification program to our list of courses. This comprehensive program is excellent for crane operators across the nation to get certified and work smarter. One way NCCER makes that possible is through its online verification and registry system,” said Jennifer Sturm, President of Cranes101.

“Our partnership with New England Crane School and Cranes101 expands the availability of additional accredited crane operator certification options to employers in the region. In addition to our corporate and government customers, our team is strong on workforce development initiatives to recruit and provide opportunity to people interested in learning more about the industry,” said Debbie Dickinson, CEO of CIS.

“Another thing I am personally very excited about is the partnership of three women—myself on behalf of NECS, Debbie Dickinson with CIS, and Jenn Sturm of CranesN101—in an industry in which women executives/business owners are rare. We work together on serving customers, marketing and brand awareness initiatives. Only two of our collective team of instructors is female. The majority of our instructors and examiners are men who are respected as experienced operators, riggers and managers from the industry. This is a great industry for both men and women,” said DeBattiste.