First Scottish crane operator apprenticeship announced

The Scottish Plant Owners Association (SPOA) and the CITB announced that the first ever Scottish crane operator apprenticeship will start in January 2024.

The two-year programme offers a curriculum that delivers essential skills in crane operation. (Photo: SPOA)

The apprenticeship includes a 13 week block release training programme at the National Construction College (NCC) in Bircham Newton.

Apprentices will undergo intensive training in key categories, including slinger signaller, telescopic handler, plant and vehicle marshaller, and the essential mobile crane (with options for crawler crane and tower crane in future cohorts as required).

Apprentices will also gain the International Powered Access Federation (IPAF) accreditation for mobile elevated work platforms.

Equipment from brands such as Liebherr, Tadano, Kobelco, Wolffkran, JCB, Genie and Conquip are used for the training.

The programme concludes with assessments on mobile cranes which will offer people a Scottish Vocational Qualification (SVQ) and the Construction Plant Competence Scheme (CPCS) blue card.

Accessible path

Callum Mackintosh, immediate past president of the SPOA, said, “This apprenticeship is not merely a training programme; it is a strategic investment in the future of our industry. It is a key objective of the SPOA’s Lifting Group to ensure Scottish lifting businesses have a comprehensive and accessible path to obtaining skilled and competent crane operators. This initiative will help to reduce the average age of a crane operator and will contribute to the development of a highly qualified and safety-conscious workforce.

“There is a lot of support available for companies seeking to upskill their workforce through this apprenticeship, not least the fact that not least the fact that these Scottish lifting employers have a unique opportunity to claim 50 % grant funding training for HGV training to get these apprentice operators their Heavy Goods license – a critical requirement for mobile crane operators.”

Apprentices onboard

One of the first employers to sign up apprentices is Orkney-based Heddle Construction which is putting two employees through the apprenticeship.

Both existing employees, the first apprentice is 19 and has recently completed his plant operator apprenticeship whilst the second employee, aged 29, came to Heddle Construction looking for a change following a career in the transport industry.

Heddle Construction said the crane operator apprenticeship is a great opportunity to upskill its workforce and bolster the capabilities of the team.

Derek Heddle, managing director at Heddle Construction, which runs a fleet of Liebherr cranes from 40 tonnes up to 220 tonnes, said, “Being the sole crane operator in Orkney means we have a restricted pool of potential candidates when seeking crane operators who already possess the relevant qualifications.

“This new apprenticeship will allow us to upskill existing employees to broaden their skills. It’s beneficial for our operators to be trained in multiple plant categories, so the fact that the course includes categories such as slinger signaller and MEWPs is a huge plus. The course also provides a chance to complete all the training in one block.”

Operator opportunity

Chris Blake, plant curriculum manager, at the CITB, added, “Our earthmoving apprentice success has been proven over many years of continuous delivery and provision to companies the true length and breadth of Scotland, including all the islands. This has helped to fill the operator shortage and encourage new entrants into the industry.

“Now is a golden opportunity for the crane sector to incorporate new blood into our industry by grasping the mantle. Should companies take the plunge just once and see the benefits to their workforce then I am sure this apprenticeship will be as successful as the earthmoving provision.”

Financial support

Employers in Scotland wishing to enrol staff on to this crane operator apprenticeship will receive financial support which includes grants to cover the full cost of the course, fully subsidised travel and accommodation on site at the National Construction College and the opportunity to claim an additional grant upon successful completion of the apprenticeship.


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