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Requirements for Becoming a Crane Operator

With a shortage of crane operators all across Canada, the profession is growing in demand. As current operators retire, the industry faces the challenge of finding new, qualified workers to fill their positions. Find out what it takes to become a crane operator and fill a seat in this in-demand industry.

Choose the Crane Type You Wish to Operate

When you decide on a career in crane operation, you need to choose between the three basic types—mobile cranes, tower cranes, and boom trucks. A mobile crane travels to job sites attached to a vehicle and lifts up to 13 tonnes, while construction companies usually build tower cranes at job sites. Boom trucks use hydraulics to carry loads over 18 tonnes. While all these cranes perform the same basic functions of lifting and placing many different kinds of objects, larger job sites, including those for skyscrapers or high-rise buildings, tend to require tower cranes and boom trucks. Each of these crane types requires separate licences, requiring you to focus on a single specialty or meet the requirements and obtain valid licences for multiple cranes.

Province-Specific Requirements for Crane Operators

The requirements for becoming a crane operator vary from province to province. 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 the issuing province. For a universal option that lets you operate a crane anywhere in Canada, you can go for a Red Seal certification for your crane of choice. This means you need a training program geared toward this certification. Once you complete an apprenticeship program, you’re eligible to take the Red Seal exam. Keep in mind that the exam has anywhere from 100 to 150 questions with a four-hour time limit, and you need to get at least 70% of those questions correct to pass.

Start a Crane Operator Training Program

Crane operation training programs teach you the basics, and typical programs last between six and 12 weeks. Expect the crane operator training program to have classroom elements and hands-on sections. One advantage to completing these courses is that program providers often help you find a crane operator apprenticeship. The knowledge you gain from the training program also comes in handy when you move to the apprenticeship portion of your education.

Complete a Crane Operator Apprenticeship

An apprenticeship comprises the bulk of your crane operator training, and you learn under one or more licensed crane operators during this period. In certain provinces, you have to apply for provisional crane operator status before you can even work as an apprentice.

The minimum number of hours you need to complete your apprenticeship depends on your location and the type of crane you’re learning to operate. Typical apprenticeships usually range between 1,000 and 6,000 hours, and they can take between six months and six years to finish. While you’re an apprentice, you need to keep a logbook of your hours and have your supervisor approve it to verify their completion.

You receive a salary while you work and learn the trade, though you obviously don’t make as much as a full-fledged crane operator. Instead, your salary as an apprentice usually sits between 50% and 80% of the standard crane operator rate. When you start your apprenticeship, you commonly make around 50% of the standard rate and your salary gradually increases, making it even more important to manage your budget.

Pass Your Crane Operator Licence Exam

With your training complete, you’re ready to take the crane operator licence exam, which typically has two parts. The first portion usually covers theory, and you complete this section in a classroom setting with pencil and paper. The practical portion comes second, and it’s here that you operate a crane with the test proctor so they can 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 most often prove simple by comparison.

Depending on your province, you may have one final step before you can legally operate a crane—getting a driver’s 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 your province requires it, you can obtain the licence in advance.

Benefits of Becoming a Crane Operator

As with many careers that require advanced education and licencing, crane operators typically have their choice of high-paying jobs. Depending on the amount of time you put in and your educational certifications and licences, you can make anywhere from $34,000 to $77,000 per year. Regions with high demand include Ontario, British Columbia, and Alberta. In addition, those studying or looking to immigrate to Canada boost their chances, because licensed crane operators offer skilled labour within a high-demand market segment. Also, since construction work peaks in the warmer months, you can overcome this seasonality by using the colder months to brush up on other skill sets or work on a seasonal business that thrives in winter.

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. If you choose the small business route, consider QuickBooks Self-Employed to help you with everyday bookkeeping tasks. This app helps freelancers, contractors, and sole proprietors track and manage businesses on the go. Download the app today.

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