Apprenticeship pathway to the lifting industry’s future

8 August 2019

Baz Trewhella, learning and development projects specialist at the Lifting Equipment Engineers Association (LEEA), was tasked in 2018 to initiate a project for establishing an apprenticeship standard for the lifting industry. He explains the progress and scope of the initiative.

During the industrial height, the lifting industry found it easy to absorb recruits. A young person seeking their first employment only had to walk down to the docks, for example, where they might be given a job on a crane. In more recent times the lack of apprenticeships has made it hard to channel much needed recruits into an industry with a maturing workforce and a general skills shortage.

When somebody has been in any industry for a long time they will know all the short cuts and techniques. They may ask: ‘I’ve been doing this for 40 years— what can you teach me?’

Well, quite a lot actually. The industry is constantly evolving with the onset of new materials, new innovative ideas, better ways of doing things and the inclusion of modern technologies. As valued as they are, older generations within the workforce are not as in tune with these areas as younger people.

It is therefore not enough for the sustainability of our industry to simply put young recruits under the wing of an old hand with a legacy skill-set that does not necessarily match the requirements of 21st century operation.

The creation of an occupational standard apprenticeship will play a crucial role in addressing the issues of a general skills shortage and an aging workforce. It will attract and maintain a new and much-needed pool of talent. It will offer a pathway to progress, potentially, from little or no industry knowledge right up to working independently at an expert level.

Our industry needs and has been crying out for such a solution for a long time. In response, we are now developing its own apprenticeship standard.

The idea behind the Trailblazers scheme is to deliver apprenticeships that meet the needs of employers rather than employers having to fit in around a prescribed framework. Working together as a group, it is employers who are driving the creation of our sector’s apprenticeship frameworks.

Last year, having identified a gap for a lifting apprenticeship scheme, LEEA invited its members to come together to form the necessary Trailblazer Working Group (TWG) to establish what the sector actually needs from its future workforce.

An initial meeting of the TWG took place during LiftEx 2018. Given that whole process generally takes around 12 months, we hope to finalise the scheme in November—around the time of LiftEx 2019.

Acting as facilitator I consulted with companies and brought the team together. Upwards of eight organisations willing to input information were needed to build the apprenticeship standard.

A draft proposal to develop an occupational standard for the provisionally titled ‘Lifting Equipment Technician’ apprenticeship has now been devised, following a meeting of the TWG convened by LEEA)during the end of March at the association’s headquarters in Huntingdon. The TWG worked with Sarah Walker, relationship manager at the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education.

As mentioned, apprenticeship standards aim to be more suited to the needs of employers than the old frameworks they are replacing, because they are designed by employers to cover the knowledge and skills required for a specific occupation.

Because lifting is ubiquitous, this apprenticeship will have a breadth of scope that taps the shoulder of the many sectors where lifting is involved— including entertainment, medical, aeronautical, oil and gas, offshore, renewable energy, the military, logistics, manufacturing and construction. The apprenticeship must therefore be as relevant to, for example, lifting a patient onto a hospital bed as moving heavy pipes on an oil rig.

The draft proposal is being circulated to independent people who will examine the draft to ensure the apprenticeship is fit for purpose for the entire lifting industry and all of its constituent sectors.

The TWG will seek training providers, including establishments such as colleges, and also achieve banding for funding—the intention is for the apprenticeship to be set at Level 3 (Advanced apprenticeships, which are equivalent to 2 A-level passes). The duration of the apprenticeship is provisionally 18 months.

A recent stage, which took place in June, was for the TWG to discuss the End Point Assessment (EPA).

Unlike the old frameworks of the standard, the apprentice is assessed at the end of apprenticeship. The EPA is essentially a set of theoretical and practical assessments that will be delivered in a variety of different ways.

Regardless of what sector they are in, the apprentice will end up doing an EPA to show what they’ve learned over that period, their skills on the shop floor, and to demonstrate their ability to undertake what was covered in the apprenticeship.

The development team of the apprenticeship have to find a suitable body that is capable of delivering such an assessment. One of the intentions is for LEEA to become an end point assessor. Obviously within the industry we provide that necessary training.

We expect the EPA to be finalised in October and then, subject to the approval of the industry, the standard will be finally signed by November.

Apprenticeships can be for all ages, subject to an organisation’s requirements, but this development is particularly vital solution for an aging lifting industry that currently attracts too few younger people. It is important that we market this new apprenticeship at the right level, which is why we are integrating it with LEEA’s new Think Lifting school engagement programme. This programme sees association members receiving training and tools to equip them to visit local schools with the aim of encouraging young people into the industry, with the apprenticeship providing the entrance.

With the advent of this apprenticeship we are making more people aware of the fact that we are tapping the shoulder of all those sectors within the lifting industry, which opens up all kinds of career possibilities. We can ask: ‘have you considered offshore, the medical world or the entertainment industry? This is where the Lifting Industry works, so you might like to consider the apprenticeship in that particular sector’.

The industry is itching to see this apprenticeship standard on the table so they can pick it up and use it, so we need to get this standard across the line—and we have every intention of doing that.

The Apprenticeship linked to the Think Lifting programme is a fitting initiative for LEEA’s 75th anniversary year, which is all about looking to the future. LEEA works to support our members to reach excellence, but we also must work on behalf of our members to raise their profile with end user markets.

We can look forward to these schemes not only bringing young people into our industry but also acting as a conduit for delivering the new ideas and fresh thinking that will bring the industry into the 21st century.

Baz Trewhella
LEEA’s training centre in Huntingdon