An Essential Guide for Training to be a Crane Operator

Becoming a crane operator can provide you with a high-rise view over the ever-changing sky lines of some of the UK’s major cities. Crane operators have helped shape the derelict docklands of Canary Wharf into a corporate powerhouse, and broken records building the UK’s tallest structures. The art of crane operation is one of the more difficult challenges in construction. You will be dealing with unfamiliar technology and will have a huge amount of responsibility so it is important you are serious about the role and understand what it will involve before embarking on the journey.

Construction Plant Competence Scheme

Construction Plant Competence Scheme

Whilst there are no formal qualifications needed to become a crane operator there are several routes you could follow to pursue this career, some of which may be more suitable for you, so it is best to explore your options. Although it is not the same in all workplaces, a lot of sites will require you to have a Construction Plant Competency Scheme (CPCS) licence. To obtain one, you should first contact an approved training provider and then begin two-week training course where you will learn the functions of a crane before completing a theory test at the end.

The CPCS is beneficial as it is the most widely accepted form of crane lift supervisor training, and therefore, without the qualification job opportunities may be missed. Furthermore, many employers are understandably very concerned about the safety of their staff, and so the CPCS is needed as it is considered the most thorough and robust form of crane lift supervisor training.

Once you have passed this, you will have your CPCS licence which is valid for two years and you are able and allowed to operate a crane, but it is still only the provisional phase, like using ‘L’ plates on a car. You will still require close and careful supervision until you are deemed to be sufficiently experienced enough to operate the crane on your own. Some workplaces may act as training providers themselves and may give you further in-house guidance to develop your skills, such as an intensive shadowing programme.

Eventually you will feel you’ve got enough experience to think about completing your NVQ. There is no rush to do this, as your CPCS is valid for 2 years, but most operators are ready between 3-6 months.

The National Vocational Qualification

Once you feel your training so far has enabled you to perform at a skilled and safe level you will be ready to complete your National Vocational Qualification (NVQ), in order to be deemed as fully competent. This NVQ will be specific to the use of a certain plant item.

For example, you may complete an associated NVQ for Crane Training Courses:

– Mobile crane operator.
– Slinger/ Signaller.
– Crane lift supervisor.

The NVQ is much less formal than acquiring your red card, but you will still need to approach a specialist NVQ centre, and usually the training provider you used for your CPCS will be able to provide the NVQ service also. The assessment will be specific to the piece of equipment you use and will take into account the experience you have gained since completing your CPCS. It will take place in your workplace, conducted by an assessor who is experienced in the profession, and who will compile their analysis into a portfolio.

The portfolio will cover areas such as: watching you operating your chosen item of plant machinery, witness testimonies and professional discussions. Once they’ve completed the portfolio, it will be submitted for internal and external assessment to ensure the training provider has completed it to a fair and consistent standard. This process can take around four to six weeks, but you are still able to carry out your role in this time. At the end of the period you will be issued with a certificate of achievement for your NVQ. This has no expiry date, it’s a lifetime skill and an achievement to be proud of. Your red CPCS card will also be upgraded to a blue card, which does have a lifespan.

The blue CPCS card is valid for 5 years and you will need to show your operating abilities through regular entries into a personal logbook. This is the only approved method of evidencing hours so it’s extremely important to keep on top of it. You need to record 300 hours per category in order to renew your blue card, this equates to approximately 60 hours per years so it is an achievable ask in the 5 years it will be before you need to renew.

We hope this guide has been helpful and has given you the information you need before deciding to embark on crane lift supervisor training. If you have any further questions about developing a career in this industry, or finding a training provider, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.