Skills Championship celebrates Best Crane Operators, Draws attention to Skilled Craft Shortages

Crane Institute of America Certification LLC, (CIC), along with Event Partners and Co-Sponsors, awarded prizes to three of the nation’s best crane operators, following the Crane Operator & Rigger Championship on Sept. 29, 2015. The competition was held during the opening day of the 2015 International Utility and Construction Equipment Expo (ICUEE) in Louisville, Ky.

Launched in 2011 to bring awareness to the importance of training and certification in the qualification of crane operators, CIC designed competition standards and scoring methodology to assess operator skill and precision in load handling.

The 2015 Championship may have been the toughest challenge to date. The 14 contenders faced an extremely tight course setup and a near constant deluge of rain. Despite the course and weather challenges, which simulated real working conditions, 2014 returning Champion Kenneth Bowyer of ALL Crane Rental successfully defended his title. Bowyer, who has 20 years of experience, earned a score that was better than any other recorded by more than 100 operators who competed during the 2014-2015 season. As the 2015 Champion, he received a $10,000 prize, sponsored by Crane Institute of America, Cranes 101, Crane U, North Dakota Crane Certification, and Viant Crane.

First runner-up was Eric Gaut of CraneWorks, Birmingham, Ala., who received a $2,000 prize, and second runner-up was Jose Villanueva of Bay Ltd., Corpus Christi, Texas, who took home $1,000. All three operators also received custom belt buckles from event partner Crane & Rigging Hot Line.

See scores and photos from the Championship here.

Celebrating this generation, looking ahead to the next

During the Championship awards dinner honoring the competitors and winners, guest speaker Dr. Jeanne Fredericks, Director of Education for the Associated Builders and Contractors of Indiana/Kentucky, acknowledged the intelligence, mental alertness, precision, and ability to handle stress that it takes to be a skilled crane operator. She challenged the 14 operators who competed in the Championship to ask themselves, “How will the world be different because I am here? What legacy will I leave?”

“By 2018, it is predicted that the industry will see tremendous shortages of crane operators.” She cited stats from the home states of the three winners. “In Florida, the expected shortage is 8,538. In Alabama, as many as 11,000 will be needed. And in Texas, the number is 5,780,” said Fredericks. “We do a tremendous disservice to young people when we force them into higher education as their only option. We need to educate parents about the well-paid, rewarding jobs in construction. I urge you to get involved as a craft professional with your local middle and high schools to bring that awareness. Become an instructor and practical examiner. Help others to become certified,” she said.

“OSHA’s requirement for crane operators to be certified is no more than two years away. The shortages that Dr. Fredericks refers to don’t include operators already in the workforce who remain uncertified,” added Jim Headley, CEO of CIC. “The industry needs every available operator to be properly trained and qualified by their employers, and that includes achieving accredited, third-party certification,” he said. “CIC offers employers an affordable option to validate the knowledge, skills, and abilities of their operators, riggers and signal persons.”

U.S. sets example for training and certification

The Cranes & Derricks Construction standard released by OSHA in 2010, along with the newest ASME B30 standards, set a high bar for crane operator and rigger qualification. Employers in other countries have taken notice. “During the ICUEE show, a number of international visitors representing construction, inspection, crane service, and manufacturing were looking for training and certification options to implement in their companies,” said Eduardo Carcache, Sales & Marketing Manager for the Crane Institute Companies.

“ICUEE’s claim as an international show held true. Employers from Mexico, several South American and European countries were looking for training and certification programs to assess skills of operators and riggers. CIC’s crane operator certifications are designed to assess an operator’s knowledge and skill by type of crane as well as capacity, said Carcache.

Future updates to CIC’s rigger certifications will include practical exams for both Rigger/Signal Person Certification and master Rigger, an advanced certification. In addition, CIC is piloting tower crane operator certifications programs for fixed jib, luffing jib, and self-erecting types of tower cranes.

About Crane Institute of America Certification

Crane Institute of America Certification LLC (CIC), Villa Rica, Ga., is an independent certifying organization providing OSHA recognized, NCCA accredited certifications for mobile crane operators according to type and capacity, as well as rigger and signalperson certifications. Other programs include certifications for operators of service/mechanics trucks, articulating boom cranes, and digger derricks. CIC serves construction, utility and power generation, underground construction, manufacturing, and heavy industry. Learn more at

About the Crane Operator & Rigger Championship

The only crane operator recognition program of this scale in North America, the Crane Operator & Rigger Skills Competition underscores the role training, certification, and experience plays in safe crane operation. Since its debut in 2011, the annual competition provides a venue to showcase the industry’s best crane operators.

The 2015 Championship was hosted by CIC and Crane & Rigging Hot Line. Sponsors were: Altec Inc., Columbus McKinnon, Hirschman Automation & Control, and DICA Outrigger Pads. Grand Prize sponsors were: Crane Institute of America, Cranes 101, Crane U, North Dakota Crane Certification, and Viant Crane Service.

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