When working on a major project like Southbank Place, a mixed-use development in London providing high-quality commercial and residential units by the River Thames, the skills of a crane driver like Graham McWilliam are absolutely essential – and its also given him the chance to progress his career in the construction industry.
Working on the site for Select, a plant hire company that is part of the Laing O’Rourke and Expanded Group, he tells us about his role and how it is developing.
Please tell us about your current role, and the exams and training that have got you there.
My current role is driving a tower crane, lifting different materials to get them safely from one destination to another. I have completed a few months on a course at the CITB’s National Construction College based at Bircham Newton in Norfolk, to get qualified as a banksman/slinger and complete tower crane and crawler crane training.
When did you first consider training and a career in construction?
When I was 15-years-old, I completed a prevocational construction course at school, and my brother and family are all in construction, so that is what initially got me interested in working in this industry.
How has your employer helped you to your current level of skills and achievement?
My employer gave me the opportunity to start the training as a crane driver, sending me to college to train and then supporting me to be able to learn until I was able to work on site.
What is it about your line of work that you find most satisfying?
I enjoy getting the job done safely; my job can be dangerous if not done correctly so it feels good to have the job done safely. I enjoy working at heights and enjoy some great views.
Do you think people appreciate the level of hard work and skill needed to pass an apprenticeship?
I work late when needed, as the job needs to be done. I do feel the company I work for shows its appreciation for the hard work I have achieved. I think people in general who do not work in construction do not understand the level of hard work, time and concentration I have had to put in to become qualified as a crane driver. They also look at my job as if I just sit there all day – but there is a lot more involved when you are lifting heavy, costly objects from one place to another and have to land it safely. I always work in very tight spaces with other employees around me.
What are the exams and experience that you are working to over the next few years?
I have just received my Blue Card which states I am now a competent crane driver: this has taken me between 18 months and two years. I have a lot more to learn from time spent working to gain more experience and I will be keeping up to date with the changing equipment, cranes and, health and safety information.
Do you have any advice for people considering a career in UK housebuilding?
Make sure you don’t cut any corners, always listen to instructions – especially regarding health and safety – and ensure you are correctly trained and qualified to do the job you are doing. I really enjoy working as a crane driver and would definitely recommend it as a career choice.