National Crane Academy Prepares Students for Future as Certified Crane Operators

By Jessica Hoover

            The National Crane Academy (NCA), located in Gardena, California, trains individuals to receive their NCCCO (National Commission for the Certification of Crane Operators) certification. Since the school’s inception, around 300 students have earned their certification, which is recognized in the Unites States, Canada, and parts of Mexico. 

            When Owner and Manager of NCA, Payam Dehesh, began the school in 2013, he said he wanted to help his students find their dream and make it a reality. Dehesh immigrated to the United States from Iran in 2008 to pursue his own dream of working with trucks and cranes, and after achieving his goals, he started NCA to help others do the same.

“I say, ‘God Bless America’ to my friends all the time,” Dehesh said. “I say it from my heart because I’ve seen what it’s like on the other side of the sea. There are big opportunities here. There are opportunities here that you cannot find anything close to on the other side of the sea. I always tell American citizens when they come to the school and to the work site, ‘You are blessed that you were born in this country. Don’t take it for granted.’”

Crane Skills Training

The main focus of NCA is to teach students about safety on the job site and how to operate different types of cranes, including the swing cab and the fixed cab telescopic boom cranes. Dehesh said that in a swing cab crane, the operator sits inside the cab and it swings at the same time that the cab is swinging. In a fixed cab crane, the operator sits somewhere fixed that is not going to swing with the crane.

            “The certification helps any person that comes to this course,” Dehesh said. “They learn about the safety on the job site, where they can use the cranes, where they cannot use the cranes. Those factors are important so everything is safe, and safety is critical. We show them the dangers and the hazards and what they should be looking for to get the job done and go home safe.”

             Students at NCA have the option of taking three courses: the Certification Course, Full Training, or Recertification. The Certification Course is aimed at students who are experienced in crane operation and includes two days of training in a professional college setting, crane operator certification written exams, and all practical exams. The Full Training includes everything from the Certification Course, along with 10 hours of hands-on training on the cranes. The Recertification extends a student’s certification after it has expired. The students have two days of classroom training before retaking the written and practical exams.

 “We want to give students the tools and basic knowledge to go to the field, stay safe and start working,” Dehesh said. “Every day they learn something new, so this is just the starting point. And we support them, if they need something they can just call and ask.”

Helping to Meet Demand

            After a student gets their certification, NCA also helps with job placement. Four out of five graduates are working in 30 days or less after course completion and certification.

“Since the industry is growing right now, there is a lot of demand for crane operators,” Dehesh said. “Also since we know so many people in the crane industry, if a student is looking for work, we put them in touch. The companies know they are new so they go through kind of a training process where somebody is going to be with them until they get the whole training done.”

            Former NCA student Cheri Kuchinski earned her certification in 2014 and went on to work on cranes for one of the largest oil companies in southern California.

            “Since I was a child, I was the type of girl that would play in the dirt, the tomboy,” Kuchinski said. “I would work in my dad’s garage in his workshop, and I worked with my hands. I always enjoyed it.”

She had been in the gas and oil field since 2004, but decided she wanted to make the change from a desk job to operating cranes for both a change of pace and financial reasons. On average Certified Crane Operators with a Class A license make between $92,400-$210,000 annually.

“At 46, I decided I wanted to get a crane license and change gears altogether,” Kuchinski said. “I recommend NCA to any student at any age. Even if you don’t have a steady hand, you learn how to manipulate your load. You learn how to rig them up together so that it’s balanced. You always have a spotter, and you do it the safe way. You can definitely do it.”

Dehesh was Kuchinski’s instructor during her time at NCA, and she said he was very patient and willing to go over any information she did not catch on to right away.

“I would definitely go back and take Payam’s class all over again because the class was wonderful,” Kuchinski said. “It wasn’t too big. He would stop in the middle of the class and explain something if you didn’t understand.”

            After earning her certification, Kuchinski was interviewed and tested for a roustabout position at Tidelands Oil Production Company, which is owned by Oxy. She tested into the top two out of 100 applicants and was hired.

            “After my interview and some waiting, I got on as a roustabout, which is working in the oil field doing maintenance on the big equipment and changing valves,” Kuchinski said. “It’s a lot of dangerous stuff, but one of the main things is that I was able to hop on the crane and work it. … NCA gave me confidence that, as a female, I can go out and do anything. Just by being able to work a crane, you go out in the field and learn that you can do all sorts of other things. I would send pictures of me on the crane or a tank to my granddaughters and say, ‘Girls can do anything if they put their mind to it.’”

            The cost for the courses at NCA is $1,997 for the Certification Course, $2,997 for the Full Training, and $997 for the Recertification. The next available courses are from April 27-29 in Gardena, California. NCA will also travel to companies to certify employees at their location. To enroll, go to nationalcraneacademy.com/courses/.

This feature appeared in the April 2020 issues of the ACP Magazines:

California Builder & Engineer, Construction, Construction Digest, Construction News, Constructioneer, Dixie Contractor, Michigan Contractor & Builder, Midwest Contractor, New England Construction, Pacific Builder & Engineer, Rocky Mountain Construction, Texas Contractor, Western Builder