Andrew Esquilant discusses the difficulties of attracting youth to the crane sector and how the challenges can be overcome.
Andrew Esquilant, General Manager of Liebherr’s mobile crane division is the second inductee into the CICA Hall of Fame. Esquilant recently spoke to Cranes and Lifting magazine about his career and the crane industry.
“I was only ever meant to be in the industry for three months and that was 25 years ago. I’m a carpenter and joiner by trade and I was the leading hand on job involving a Liebherr tower crane from Morrow Equipment. The dogman for the crane was unreliable and frequently didn’t turn up and the project manager asked me to cover for him and that’s where my crane journey started,” he said
Esquilant worked with Morrow Equipment and worked on a three-month contract to build concrete foundations for tower cranes. By the mid 90s he was part of the rigging team erecting and dismantling tower cranes and then in 1997 Morrow Equipment offered him a position in sales.
“I started in sales rentals with some purchase rentals for Liebherr tower cranes and this suited me, and it was around this time I was introduced to CICA. I probably got into CICA with the best interests of Morrow Equipment and the tower crane business, but over time I met wonderful people and made great personal friendships in the association. Next year with be my 10th year as a board director. Induction into the CICA Hall of Fame is a privilege. There’s a lot of good people on the CICA honours list, and to be amongst them is a true honour,” he said.
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With his roles with both Liebherr and CICA, Esquilant is focussed on the issues relating to the ageing demographic in the crane industry.
“I’ve got a passion for helping young people. This reflects in a lot of things I’ve done with my kids like coaching and managing their sports teams as a lot of fathers do. In today’s society, children are told that to get anywhere in life, they’ve got to finish school and obtain a university degree to succeed. I’m fortunate to have a fairly senior job with Liebherr – I’m on the board of Liebherr Australia and what I believe to be the world’s best crane manufacturer and the only qualifications I’ve got are a dogman/drivers and carpentry and joiners tickets,” he said.
Traineeships and apprentice programs are key initiatives to bring new blood into the industry, but there are also challenges, says Esquilant.
“We have six apprentices in our program at Liebherr, yes it’s a big investment but we work through that accordingly. The crane industry can provide great opportunities in life be that as a crane driver, sales manager or a technical expert. There are a number of industries with limited numbers of young people coming through and we’re one of them. It’s a great industry to get involved in and the work is so varied.
“At Liebherr, we have to think deeply about apprenticeships and ask the questions about having the right resources and the right people in positions to make an apprenticeship a rewarding experience,” he said.
“As for the crane industry itself, there are also challenges involved in managing a young person who is potentially under the age of 18 in such a high-risk industry. Legally, you can’t get your licences until you are 18 but there are kids coming out of school at 16 and 17. What can they do in a crane yard for a year or two? Anything in the crane industry comes with a high element of risk. Also, many small businesses are working week to week and in that week a crane might only be hired for eight hours, so companies will find it hard to justify having apprentices and trainees. There isn’t intent to not employ, but it is a challenging industry to employ fresh from school,” said Esquilant.
With continued growth and the successful launch of new initiatives, Liebherr faces its own challenges, says Esquilant.
“We face our own challenges at Liebherr. Ensuring we have the right level of resources and infrastructure to manage the level of sales and the number of machines arriving is a constant battle. It’s a big area of focus for our business. Our apprenticeship program is setting a good platform, but it takes years for them to mature to be able to work on these machines,” he said.
“Two things I am passionate about; young people and training. It’s like everything, you are always trying to make your business better than the competition and sometimes selling cranes is just not good enough. I’m proud of how our training department and program is developing.
“Our used cranes department is another success story. I had a profile of the person I wanted, it had to be someone with a high level of mechanical knowledge. Tom Grady came from a very senior role with our Nenzing product. Tom manages the processes involved with our workshops to deliver our used Liebherr machines. Looking at some of the equipment you’d swear it was a new machine,” said Esquilant.