The issue of attracting new workers to the lifting equipment sector has been attracting increasing attention in recent years, just as it has in many other sectors within engineering. A generation of trained and skilled staff are in the process of retiring, having worked in the industry all their lives, and in the age of digital technology, working out how to encourage potential workers, both young and older, to consider a career in the lifting sector can require careful thought.

Thankfully, the industry has long been alert to the problem as it appeared on the horizon, and a number of schemes and initiatives have been set up across the world to raise the profile of the lifting industry and to make it more straightforward for new staff to join.

Spanish crane manufacturer GH Cranes & Components has launched Olea Premio (Prize) GH Cranes, a programme designed to assist both college students and entrepreneurs in entering the lifting industry.

One branch of the award scheme invites college students from around the world to submit development ideas involving GHmanufactured products such as bridges, cranes, and lifting machinery. The award includes a $7,000 prize for the winning idea and a $4,500 prize for the runner-up, as well as a trip for the winner to one of GH’s international branch offices to experience the lifting industry first-hand.

The scheme also includes the ‘Start-Up Contest’ programme, through which GH will analyse entrepreneurial initiatives submitted by business leaders, based around a present or future company, with a view to providing market access. GH has established security systems, automation, digitalisation and data analysis as priorities—all of which fit into the context of Industry 4.0.

Through the programme, GH will analyse selected projects and may choose to invest in them, or seek an international investor, ultimately signing a preferential commercial agreement with the start-up.

The initiative is backed by various institutions, representing geographic and thematic areas: Goierri Valley, the Provincial Council of Gipuzkoa, BIC Gipuzkoa, CMAA (Crane Manufacturers Association of America), TECNUN, UPV/EHU and MU.

The award scheme is part of the industry’s important efforts to attract new talent, says Pablo Pedrós, R&D director at GH: “At first sight, for college and university students, the material handling industry, and lifting industry in particular, does not have the same ‘glamour’ as other industries like automotive, energy, and aerospace. In some ways, it is even seen as an old-fashioned industry where a senior workforce dedicates their time to designing heavy steel structures to move on top of workshops.

“It is important to show that this is a multidisciplinary sector where there are plenty of interesting challenges to overcome, particularly with the current boost of IoT (Internet of Things) and digitalisation technologies.

“We need enthusiastic people to bring their talent to the lifting industry and offer them an attractive work environment to develop their professional and personal skills. That is the main objective of GH OLEA initiative.”

The initiative is also geared towards bringing new ideas and new entrepreneurs into the industry, which is another important service, says Pedrós: “Most commonly, independent entrepreneur and innovators have been working hard on the first versions of their products or services. And there is a point where they need to scale up their prototypes and MVPs. They are technology experts but, on the other hand, they find difficulties in reaching the market.

“In our experience with start-ups, they look for projects within the industry rather than pure financial support. They may even need infrastructures to work with and a network of customers to whom to sell their products/services. That is where an industry partner provides the best value for them.

“At our end, we want to enhance our innovation pipeline with agile methodologies, increasing our product/ service portfolio with cutting-edge solutions, and bringing our R&D ecosystem to the next level through an open innovation scheme.

“Therefore, established companies like GH want to become an industry partner for the start-ups, offering them an international network and a trusted partnership through winwin relationships that, depending on the maturity of the company, can be: financial support through industrial projects, commercial relationship and infrastructure support among the GH group network. Of course, we will also offer them venture capital from our Group or from a network of partners where appropriate.”

Introductions for Interns

Turkish company Güralp Vinç, a manufacturer of various lifting equipment including overhead cranes, jib cranes and gantry cranes, has taken on interns from Salford University in the UK at its facility in Izmir. It’s important to encourage young engineers into the industry, explains Gulcin Cicek at the company:

“Lifting business has a huge relationship with engineering. We need highly talented engineers to assist our job of improving future technologies, and it is really good to see eager students who want work or intern experience in our industry. It is helpful for our future work to have employees who learn our regulations and standards for designing cranes and hoists to global standards. There are job possibilities in various departments for interns or young professionals in this industry, and we believe that the number will increase, so we encourage them to join the industry and to make a commitment to the industry while they are learning here and improving their skills.

“The hiring policy in Güralp is really supportive of our interns. We give priority to our past interns during the hiring process. We think that it is beneficial to both sides, since it is so important to hire someone who is good team player and has good communication skills as much as their technical knowledge and proficiency for the required positions. We have an idea about their background, company adaptation and their work here and they also have an idea about our company and our work, although of course the hiring process changes depending on the requirements of the job role.

“In some job roles, there are possibilities to hire new employees from another industry. As a company we take the initiative in Turkey to encourage students to come in our industry, by going to high schools and universities and making presentations to show students benefits of working in that industry. In Turkey there are a lot of students who want to be an engineer but we face problems for finding welding workers here—there is less demand in the high schools for technical training schools for this field, so we are aiming to show students this industry’s benefits and needs.”