Local 793 business manager Mike Gallagher was quoted in the following article that appeared recently in Daily Commercial News.

With an aging workforce and infrastructure spending ramping up, the need to teach specialty skills such as crane and heavy equipment operation in Ontario has gone past talk and into crunch time.

Mike Gallagher, Oakville, Ont. business manager of Local 793 of the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE), addressed the gravity of the situation recently as he welcomed funding for seven new pieces of heavy equipment worth close to $1.3 million for the Operating Engineers Training Institute of Ontario (OETIO) campuses in Morrisburg and Oakville.

The OETIO trains crane operators as well as heavy equipment operators who run dozers, backhoes and excavators but Gallagher said they are barely keeping up with demand.

There are currently 320 crane and tower apprentices training at the Oakville centre but research shows OETIO and the colleges who also train heavy equipment operators are in a race against time as the huge boomer generation reaches retirement age.

The average age of a journeyman mobile crane operator according to Ontario statistics compiled in 2012 was 50; even more pressing, the average tower crane operator was 58.

“We carefully monitor that,” said Gallagher. “We allow retirees to work for a certain amount of time after they retire but you can only keep working for so long at this trade, it is a physically demanding trade.”

“So the opportunity is there for young people considering a career.”

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