Sims Crane & Equipment says it has launched Sims U, a paid, hands-on crane operator training school based in Tampa. An inaugural group of eight students started the 16-week program on April 1; the first semester ends in mid-July.
The next session begins Aug. 19 and Sims says it is actively seeking interested applicants from the Orlando, Miami, Fort Myers and Jacksonville areas.
“Qualified applicants can enter a paid training program that will prepare them for long-term, stable and potentially lucrative careers in the crane industry,” said Dean Sims II, the company’s marketing vice-president. “We are always looking for the right people who are eager to learn and build their skills before jumping into the seat of their own mobile crane.”
By the end of the 16-week course, Sims U students will be expected to pass the CDL Class A driving test, rigger and signalman certification, and a core competency test of their crane knowledge.
According to Sims, the inaugural Sims U class was a diverse group. “We have two veterans, two firefighters and several young people in their early twenties all starting new careers,” he said. “They understand that our expectations are high, but that the Sims U program can jump start them into a profitable career.”
Students receive about $12,000 for living expenses during the training period, and a first-year apprentice starts about $16/hour (union scale). A crane operator can make as much as $32/hour with a pension and healthcare.
“The total package for an experienced crane operator is around $50/hour,” said Sims. “Top Crane operators can work 2,000-2,600 hours per year making a top-end pay package coming in at around $130,000 annually.”
The classrooms have a modular arrangement that can accommodate up to 20 students. There are also two virtual reality simulation stations that allow students to practice the basic functions of crane operations in a controlled, safe and simulated environment. The simulators use Oculus Rift and allow the instructor to design scenarios focused on specific skills and tasks students may encounter in the field. In addition, the training area includes a green-screen virtual set film studio, which will allow for the production of more educational content for digital learning.
“Sims U could be the perfect option for a young person looking to launch their career – you earn a paycheck while becoming educated and developing technical skills,” said Sims. “After four months – instead of four years – you will receive a pay increase and have a satisfying long-term career rather than being thousands of dollars in debt, which has become a common burden for many young people.”
Men and women who want to work in this field need to have physical dexterity and strength and enjoy working outdoors in Florida on or around machines, Sims explained. “Crane operators also need the ability to make solid snap decisions. Our apprentices are thoroughly tested on their decision making capabilities,” he said.
Sims U is a step toward a larger program designed to better prepare employees to make good decisions each day in their future careers, he said. In addition to pre-apprentice training, the new facility will host new hire orientation opportunities throughout the year.
Future plans will include developing continuing education courses for existing operators that will include a one- to three-day, topic-focused program designed to update current operators on safety regulation changes, client specific requirements or changes to company policy for best practices that exceed regulatory compliance.