Crane operation is an in-demand profession with training that can sometimes be completed in under a year. You typically need to complete secondary school before you begin training as a crane operator; taking classes related to the construction industry can also help, but they aren’t necessary. If you’ve decided you want to get your crane operator licence, you’ll also have to complete these requirements.
Choose a Type of Crane
The two basic types of cranes are mobile cranes and tower cranes. A mobile crane travels to a job site attached to a vehicle. Construction companies build tower cranes at job sites.
While both types of cranes perform the same basic functions of lifting and setting down many different kinds of objects, tower cranes tend to be found at larger jobs, such as sites for skyscrapers or high-rise buildings. You need to choose which type of crane you wish to operate, because they each have separate licences that are only valid for that specific type.
Check for Province-Specific Requirements
The requirements for becoming a crane operator can vary from province to province. For example, certain provinces require you to take a training program and then go through an apprenticeship. Others, such as British Columbia, require an apprenticeship but no training program. You can still go through a training program to build your knowledge and improve your chances of getting hired once you get your licence.
When you get your crane operator’s licence, it allows you to work in that province. For a universal option that allows you to operate a crane anywhere in Canada, you can go for a Red Seal certification. There are Red Seal certifications for mobile crane operators and tower crane operators. Look for a training program that help you get a Red Seal certification. You’re eligible to take the Red Seal exam after you complete an apprenticeship program. The exam has anywhere from 100 to 150 questions with a four-hour time limit, and you need to get at least 70% to pass.
Start a Training Program
You learn the basics of crane operation in a training program. The typical crane operator training program lasts between six and 12 weeks. This training program shorter than an apprenticeship, which will make up the bulk of your training. Expect the training program to have classroom elements and hands-on sections. One advantage of going through a training program is that the program provider can often help you finding an apprenticeship. The knowledge you gain from the crane operator training program also comes in handy when you’re learning as an apprentice.
Complete an Apprenticeship
The bulk of your crane operator training will be in the form of an apprenticeship, where you’ll learn under one or more licenced crane operators. In certain provinces, you have to apply for a provisional crane operator status before you can begin working as an apprentice.
The minimum number of hours you need to complete in your apprenticeship depends on your location and the type of crane you’re learning how to operate. The standard range is usually between 1,000 hours and 6,000 hours, which you take as little as six months or as long as six years to finish. You need to keep a logbook of your hours and have your supervisor approve it to verify that you completed them.
You will receive a salary while you’re working and learning the trade. You obviously don’t make as much as a full-fledged crane operator when you’re an apprentice; instead, your salary as an apprentice is likely going to be between 50% and 80% of the standard crane operator rate. When you start your apprenticeship, around 50% of the standard rate is common, and then your salary gradually increases, making it even more important to manage your budget.
Pass Your Crane Operator Licence Exam
With all your training complete, your next step will be the crane operator licence exam. This is likely to be a two-part exam. One portion covers theory, and you complete this section in a classroom setting with pen and paper. The other portion is the practical test, when you operate a crane with the test proctor there to verify that you know what you’re doing. After your training and all those hours as an apprentice crane operator, both the theory section and the practical exam shouldn’t be too difficult for you.
Depending on your province, there may be one final step before you can legally operate a crane: getting a drivers licence for the vehicle class of the crane. In some provinces, you need a specific type of drivers licence to operate heavy-duty vehicles with air brakes. If you know this is going to be a requirement in your province, you can also get the licence in advance.
The road to becoming a crane operator takes time and commitment. It goes much more smoothly if you know exactly what you want, check the requirements for your province, and find the right training opportunity. When you put in the work, you can develop a valuable skill that opens up new employment options.