The first wave of budding powered access technicians have started their formal studies for the brand new specialist aerial work platform technician apprenticeship pioneered by IPAF - the International Powered Access Foundation.
The first eight apprentices are attending the first session of a new college course this week at the North Warwickshire & South Leicestershire College – the first college to offer the course.
The 'Level 3 Lift Truck and Powered Access Technician' apprenticeship forms part of IPAF’s roadmap to becoming a fully qualified powered access technician or engineer and was developed by IPAF in partnership with the FTA – Forklift Truck Association. While the practical training is likely to be more work platform dedicated, it means that aerial lift apprentices will also be trained on the basics of fork truck mechanics, while their forklift truck counterparts will receive aerial work platform training. All of which helps increase the number of young people entering the profession in order to fill a growing skills gap. IPAF hopes that a similar specialist initiative will spread to other countries.
IPAF’s Richard Whiting and Peter Douglas joined the apprentices and college officials to wish them well and acknowledge their pioneering role as the first to set out on the three year apprenticeship which will include 10 weeks of college based tuition each year. The first intake included apprentices from Access Engineering, Versalift, Mainline Group, 1 Up Access, Horizon Platforms, CTE UK, Southern Platforms and GT Access.
IPAF chief executive Peter Douglas said: “It is fantastic to meet these apprentices just starting out on their road to become fully qualified engineers specialising in powered access, this is something our industry has been crying out for, for a long time and is an excellent step both to recognising and certifying existing talent and attracting bright new people into a career in powered access. I’d like to compliment North Warwickshire & South Leicestershire College in rolling out the provision to support these apprenticeship places.”
Richard Whiting, who led the development of the course for IPAF, added: “We congratulate these first apprentices and wish them every success over the next three years and beyond. IPAF is pleased to provide each of them with a branded rucksack, hoody and other IPAF merchandise as a small, good luck gesture. The past year has been so difficult for many reasons, so we hope that this is a real sign of optimism for a brighter future ahead for them and for our wider industry.”
“We’d also like to offer our thanks to all IPAF members supporting the launch, including SpanSet, which provided a free harness and lanyard to each apprentice, Speedy Powered Access, which provided a Dingli scissor lift to the college, CTE (UK) for providing 3.5 tonne truck mounted lift, Versalift, which provided a van mount and others including Niftylift, Skyjack and GT Access, which all donated equipment for apprentices to learn on. We welcome any offers of spare kit in good working order that could be donated to the college to support apprentice learning.”
“In terms of the apprenticeship itself, it is already proving very popular: Two further intakes are planned for the fourth quarter, which means there are more than 30 apprentices already in pipeline. It is looking like these next two courses are already oversubscribed. It is great to see this support from members, we urge anyone still thinking about placing apprentices with the college to register your interest without delay.”
Katy Urwin, director for apprenticeships at the college, said: “We are delighted to mark the launch of this new apprenticeship standard, which is critically important to the mechanical handling industry and marks a step change in the type and quality of skills delivery that businesses can expect. The apprenticeship has been specifically designed in collaboration with employers in the powered access space and we are delighted to be one of the first colleges in the UK to roll it out from today.”
This a very good, and more profound initiative than it might at first seem. The UK’s new apprenticeships are a good deal more similar to traditional ones where the trainees served their time with an employer who had a vested interest in their future with periods spent during the year at college. They learn both theory and practical aspects of the job, at the same time mixing with apprentices from other companies and learning about other models of lift. On top of this they gain a really good on the job grounding while earning a salary and contributing to their employer.
Grants are available to cover the entire college tuition fees which can help encourage employers to take on more apprentices, rather than to relying on other companies to do the training and then poach their trained staff.
We will be covering this move in more detail in future editions of Cranes & Access.