The Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT) is looking for students who want to train as crane and hoisting equipment operators after the recent official opening of its Spruce Grove, Alta. facility, a facility that features both equipment and simulators.
The new facility, named the Melton Crane and Hoisting Building, measures 1,170 square metres and has allowed the institute's crane and hoist program to expand its intake capacity by 80 per cent to 430 students each year. The facility's opening ceremony was this past June.
"The provincial government originally wanted us to handle 500 seats (a year)," said Malcolm Haines, dean of NAIT's School of Skilled Trades as it projected the need to fill both construction and resource sector positions prior to Alberta's slowed economy. But that request was impossible to accommodate in the old NAIT facility in Metro Edmonton.
"We could not stretch it to more than 276 seats," he said.
The facility had its first intake of students in September 2016. Melcor Developments, a real estate development company headquartered in Edmonton but with offices in both B.C. and Alberta, designed and built the crane centre. Funding came from the provincial government and NAIT. Melcor and the Melton family donated $1 million to support the facility's construction and building support programs at NAIT.
"That building and the equipment required some significant outdoor space," he said.
NAIT has been able to acquire 54 hectares (134 acres) near Spruce Grove, a community which has swung its support behind the new campus with the first building sitting on 15 acres. Haines said there are now plans to bring other programs from NAIT to the site where there is more room for expansion.
The new site and building allows NAIT to offer a course for crane and hoisting equipment operator (boom truck) and a second course for crane and hoisting equipment operator (mobile crane).
Haines said that because Alberta's oil and gas sector is experiencing a downturn, there are less than the average 276 seats being filled current, providing lots of opportunity for new students to fill the new classroom.
Obtaining crane operator training and upgrading can be difficult as training facilities require expensive equipment, skilled supervision, and acreage. In B.C., the international Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) Local 115 operates the only training facility for crane operators in Maple Ridge, B.C. and has in the past doubled up on its program to accommodate apprentices and for individuals returning to upgrade their credentials. The facility trains both union and non-union apprentices.
Haines said he hopes the new facility will become a draw in Western Canada.
"We would take anyone that would come our way," Haines said. "We have the capacity."
There is the opportunity to partner with other jurisdictions that lack the training facilities or cannot accommodate individuals, he said.
One of the features of the new facility is the ability to train on simulators. The facility has three simulators that students can use either during or after classes, said Haines. It also offers three mobile crane and three boom trucks.
NAIT's crane and hoist equipment operator (boom truck) is specific for apprentices who operate boom trucks with a capacity between 5 and 45 tons. The maximum tuition per semester is $588.
The crane and hoisting equipment operator (mobile crane) program trains individuals to service and operate the hoist and swing equipment used to move machinery, materials and other large objects. Mobile crane operators may also drive the crane to the job site and set it up for a lift using blocking and levelling materials. The program refers to cranes with a lifting capacity of 15 tons or above.
Apprentices must currently be employed in the trade or find an employer willing to sponsor them as an apprentice registered through the Alberta Apprenticeship and Industry Training system.