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Matt Florjancic

“The first step toward change is awareness. The second step is acceptance.”

Canadian-American therapist Nathaniel Branden understood that to make changes, one had to become aware of alternatives. Then, one had accept those opportunities for the changes to happen.

Like many other trades, the lifting and rigging industry has seen fewer skilled laborers entering and more experienced operators leaving the workforce in recent years. Instead, many who otherwise would join a trade or labor field have been guided to pursue college degrees.

Ross Maloney, CEO of the Lifting Equipment Engineers Association (LEEA), is hoping to change that and has helped with the creation of Global Lifting Awareness Day to draw attention to the career possibilities in the lifting and rigging industry.

Maloney started his career as an economist and holds a doctorate degree in political economy. Initially, he had nothing to do with the lifting and rigging industry. However, he was appointed to the Board of LEEA, and has been able to work with 1,200 global corporate partners throughout industries associated with lifting equipment.

Maloney joined Mazzella’s podcast, Safety Factor, to talk about Global Lifting Awareness Day, which is Thursday, July 13, and how LEEA is helping to further interest in skilled labor careers around the world.

What Is Global Lifting Awareness Day?

Various overhead lifts being performed at multiple job sites

Global Lifting Awareness Day, like some other good ideas around the world, started in a hotel bar.

When you get people in the industry together, they are diverse, opinionated individuals, and getting them to agree on anything is often problematic. However, one of the things many managing directors can agree on is in the top three things that keep them awake at night:

  • Where am I going to recruit from?
  • Where’s my next generation of employees coming from?
  • How can we bring the industry together to address this issue?

Global Lifting Awareness Day became the solution.

Driving by LEEA, Global Lifting Awareness Day will bring together industry stakeholders, including manufacturers, suppliers and end-users, with the purpose to promote safety and high quality load lifting.

In its fourth year, Global Lifting Awareness Day uses social media to promote videos, articles, and in-person activity. Additionally, the website, www.globalliftingawarenessday.com, hosts information on:

  • Apprenticeships
  • Military recruitment
  • Diversity
  • Sustainability
  • Technology

The key message is this is an industry day, and it is not limited to the United Kingdom and Europe. By partnering with sister associations, LEEA has made Global Lifting Awareness Day truly global, in that it is being promoted in:

  • The United States
  • Europe
  • New Zealand
  • The Middle East
  • Southeast Asia

How Does Engineering Impact the Lifting and Rigging Industry?

Engineering is about coming up with a practical solution to a real-life problem, which is why organizations like the American Society of Mechanical Engineers exist.

It’s not something theoretical, or talking about winning an argument. It’s about fighting against gravity to overcome real, observable challenges.

While the engineering industry is attractive to some, finding qualified engineers for the lifting and rigging industry has been tough because of the thought that it’s all manual labor. People think it’s about grease and physically demanding work.

To combat his own children’s feelings, Maloney explains lifting and rigging as math-based physics used to overcome challenges. As he puts it, the lifting and rigging industry is going:

  • Higher
  • Further
  • Deeper
  • Places that generations ago, we never thought possible

What engineering is doing is helping to overcome barriers, which makes it a more interesting concept.

This is about showing there’s an exciting pathway for your careers. It means engineering professionals expect and hope the younger workforce will achieve at school, and either pursue higher education or a career in the trades. The hope is that by using GLAD, the lifting and rigging industry becomes first in the race of actually attracting a new generation of workers.

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What Is the Mission of Global Lifting Awareness Day?

Different needs and roles that the lifting & rigging industry needs to hire for

GLAD is about attracting young people to the lifting and rigging industry. Also, it’s about showing people who are looking for a career change that our industry is where they can thrive.

If you are bright, smart, dedicated, and hardworking, the lifting industry will give you the rewards that you’re looking for. And it’s not limited to people who are interested in being riggers or crane operators, either.

The lifting and rigging industry is looking for:

  • IT (information technology) professionals
  • Engineers
  • Trainers
  • Scientists to research the strength of:
    • Metals
    • Synthetics

Often, scientists in the lifting and rigging industry are tasked with overcoming gravity to lift an object, and then, managing risk to make sure it is done in the safest way possible.

With that comes unique opportunities to do cooperative projects, such as with:

Why Has the Lifting Industry Struggled to Recruit Talent?

Admittedly, the lifting and rigging industry has focused on the work, instead of the unique opportunities to be experienced.

Those opportunities include LEEA members who monitor the wire rope on Sydney Harbor Bridge in Australia. Additionally, LEEA has members working in the offshore energy sector in the North Sea, as well as the Middle East. In the United Kingdom, lifting and rigging companies have helped with the construction of new nuclear stations.

“What’s much better is when we talk about the impact that our industry has, both positive and negative, positive in the sense of literally, look around you now, nothing in the room is there without having been through a lifting process,” Maloney said. “The negative side, if you go on social media, particularly LinkedIn, you will see videos of people experiencing a lift failure Actually, we know that when stuff gets dropped, injuries and fatalities happen. What we do is important for our way of life, but it’s really important to make sure everybody gets home safely at night.”

Global Lifting Awareness Day really pitches the industry as having an important role in building economies. If we don’t invest in lifting and rigging now, we will not go forward. What’s happening in Europe at the moment really showcases the need to be able to pivot quickly. During the COVID-19 pandemic, when people were creating hospitals within a month, those projects only happened because lifting engineers existed.

The belief is this industry has a brighter future than it does just a proud history. The lifting and rigging industry “will not rust away or wither on the vine.” This industry is full of opportunities and really has a positive future ahead of it.

How Are Other Industries Recruiting Younger Workers?

A younger generation of workers performing duties in the lifting & rigging industry

The need for developing a younger workforce in the lifting and rigging industry is a problem other engineering industries are experiencing, too.

“Particularly in the United Kingdom, there’s a growing need for the next generation to have higher-level science and math skills,” Maloney said. “Research has shown that when you talk to a young person about science and math, it’s not something they’re particularly interested in. Thus, industries and careers that rely on those skills struggle with recruiting.

“There has been many attempts to show the value of engineering and illustrate why and what it contributes to our every-day way of life. However, those initiatives haven’t resulted in a significant boost of young people in lifting and rigging. Because of that, companies have ended up getting a very niche audience interested in engineering.”

How Can Technology Help Attract New Workers?

Right now, industry leaders are looking at how AI (artificial intelligence) could change work for a trade association. In terms of digital processes, we’re seeing there is a move away from visual inspections toward using drone technology. This takes crane operators and riggers one step closer to being able to understand usage and stresses without exposures to safety risks.

Digital results give end-users opportunities for doing what they currently do:

  • Better
  • Safer
  • Cheaper

The focus of using digital technology will be on:

  • How can we use digital technologies to do what we do already better?
  • How can digital technologies be the driver for change in the industry?

It’s a really interesting area to see how technology is going to grow in the industry. As part of Global Lifting Awareness Day, there will be a roundtable where LEEA is bringing together industry experts to talk about future trends. The lifting and rigging industry always will have component parts like hardware and wire rope. However, this talk will focus on identifying new processes coming that make work safer for the industry.

LEEA is holding roundtable discussions to help eliminate accidents, injuries and fatalities from the lifting and rigging industry. The goal always should be to work as safely as possible in the lifting and rigging industry. As the lifts become more challenging, it’s inherently more dangerous, harder, and technically difficult. However, with the expertise and dedication within the industry, worker safety should continue to improve.

How Can Companies and Individuals Participate in Global Lifting Awareness Day?

How companies can participate in Global Lifting Awareness Day (GLAD) 2023

LEEA will distribute a full range of content on Wednesday, July 12, one day ahead of Global Lifting Awareness Day.

Additionally, on July 12th, LEEA will have an event in the UK’s Houses of Parliament where they will be showcasing the lifting equipment industry. At this event, LEEA is expecting a visit with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, as well as other members of the UK government. They are going to the highest point of UK government to say, “Remember us when it comes to standards, when it comes to policy.”

On Global Lifting Awareness Day on July 13th, LEEA will use their website and social media accounts to develop interest in the industry. One of the webinars will focus on lifting within the nuclear energy industry. If you’re lifting something in the construction industry, it’s different from working with nuclear materials. It’s a dedicated webinar about nuclear energy. It’s free, and it’ll be recorded for on-demand viewing if you can’t join live. However, if you do join live, you can ask questions from industry experts.

Also, LEEA will be launching some online training during Global Lifting Awareness Day. They have an online app that allows you to instantly access guidance material so you can get industry perspective from other professionals.

What LEEA encourages everyone within the lifting and rigging industry is post any content that raises awareness of lifting. They’re encouraging everybody to show work being done correctly and to include #GLAD2023 in your posts. The industry posts don’t have to be polished or edited. The most hard-hitting stuff will be from the heart, raw and self-filmed.

How Is Mazzella Supporting Global Lifting Awareness Day?

We’re not unique in our challenges. Mazzella faces the same obstacles that everyone in the industry does. We’re constantly looking for more people to join our team, to fill our openings all across the United States.

We’ve been very intentional about trying to partner with programs that exist to help support U.S. military veterans as they phase out of their service and look for a new career. Also, we’ve developed a federally accredited apprenticeship program where you can learn how to be a crane service technician. You’ll get multifaceted overhead crane equipment training, including on the following systems:

  • Structural
  • Mechanical
  • Electrical

Part of that training includes understanding what appeals to younger generations, including working with emerging technologies, like virtual reality. The lifting industry can be taken back several hundred years ago to the days of blacksmithing. When you’re forging and casting, you’re a true craftsman. However, you may be able to incorporate technology you learned as a hobby, like using a drone to:

  • Inspect overhead crane equipment
  • Look for hotspots in electrical systems
  • Replace the need to send people hundreds of feet in the air to inspect a wind turbine

We’re really trying to be intentional about how we can recruit and raise awareness, and not just for ourselves, but for the entire industry. There’s so many different supply chains the whole industry relies on. The more we all of us can do to raise awareness about who we are and what we do is for everyone’s benefit, the better it will make the industry.

What Career Paths Do Workers Have at Mazzella?

At Mazzella, we have diverse product and service offerings to meet customer needs. This means no day is the same, which allows you to experience unique opportunities all the time. Plus, you have the opportunity to keep world economies not only going, but growing.

Any services we perform at Mazzella can be done better by someone who’s been part of the crane business. With Mazzella’s diversified portfolio of business units, Crane Service Apprenticeship program graduates can advance into any of the following fields:

Individually, you could advance your career and become a:

  • Service Technician
  • Inspector
  • Project Managers for Engineered Products / Modernizations
  • New Equipment Installer
  • Process Equipment Technician
  • Modernization Technician
  • Service Coordinator
  • Service Writer
  • Service Manager
  • Administrative Manager
  • Branch Service Manager
  • Regional Service Manager
  • And many others…

What we’ve found is when you learn everything from the ground up, then when you advance in your career, it all comes together. You’ll be able to make better decisions because you can see where the inefficiencies are and correct them.

Click here to visit our Careers Page, or here to watch our Advancing Careers channel!

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Disclaimer: Any advice, graphics, images, and/or information contained herein are presented for general educational and information purposes and to increase overall safety awareness. It is not intended to be legal, medical, or other expert advice or services, and should not be used in place of consultation with appropriate industry professionals. The information herein should not be considered exhaustive and the user should seek the advice of appropriate professionals.