Zack Parnell is President & CEO of Industrial Training International (ITI), a training solutions provider for crane operations, rigging, lift planning, and engineering. He joined the company as Director of Business Development in 2009 and has served as President & CEO since 2015. Learn more at www.iti.com.
DICA: You state on your LinkedIn profile that you believe in doing meaningful work that helps other people and improves our world. What is a project you are working on currently that is in that vein?
PARNELL: We all have a choice in vocation. My parents encouraged us that whatever we chose to do, it should be something that helps others. I am inspired by the premise of Timothy Keller’s book “Every Good Endeavor,” which seeks to help people align their vocation to their gifts as well as in a pursuit of truly helping their neighbors.
In the craft training and education space we are in, we are helping professionals to gain technical skills, elevate their earnings, do their work more productively and safely. Ultimately—because our customers work in aerospace, electric utilities, oil and gas, and related markets—our work helps to improve the lives of anyone who has ever flown on an airplane, depended on reliable electrical power to their homes, or driven a car. At ITI we take to heart being a steward of other people’s careers and the mission to help our customers’ workforce be more safe and productive.
Our most recent project is the ITI Learning Hub, a learning management platform with both free and paid content. We are partnering with many of the industry’s most notable players to curate an extensive library of crane, rigging, equipment, and safety content.
Our content partners include many of the industry’s manufacturers, vendors, and engineering thought leaders, like DICA, The Crosby Group, Liebherr, and Barnhart Crane & Rigging to name a few. Learning resources can be filtered by discipline and competency level so that individuals or managers can create personal learning paths for different careers. Related to this, we are offering free seats to online content through Specialized Carriers & Rigging Foundation to give high schoolers and educators access to industry specific learning resources.
DICA: While ITI is known for training that engages all of the senses, during the pandemic it became necessary to offer more remote learning options. How can this way of training continue to benefit the industry?
PARNELL: Like most things in life, the “online vs. in-person training” discussion is not black or white. Online learning is typically the more economical way for an employer to ensure its workforce achieves a large number of learning objectives, but it can be less engaging for adult learners than in-person, instructor-led training. Online learning is very good at preparing people for written exams, especially when the learner can be challenged with automated and randomized practice tests. Entry-level learning objectives and most theoretical topics are also great targets for online learning even outside of a period of global pandemic. On the other hand, for several learning objectives, there is simply no replacement for hands-on learning. A great case in point in the mobile crane world – it is tough to beat an online prep course for the NCCCO Rigger, Signalperson and Mobile Crane Certifications, both in terms of economics as well as topic mastery examination. But training a crane operator how to run a crane, especially to a level of proficiency allowing them to pass the NCCCO Mobile Crane Operator Practical Exam, just has to happen in-person, on a crane, and hopefully with some instruction.
A real gamechanger is virtual reality. It can be done remotely, deliver unlimited learning scenarios, and simulate many hands-on learning activities very well. Wearing a VR headset, a user can be immersed in a construction jobsite and tasked with tagging all the hazards they can find. Simulating scenarios like this is inherently safe – and has no real-world comparison as we don’t put learners in high-risk situations intentionally. We’ve recently proven in partnership with the NCCCO Foundation that our VR crane simulator can predict if an operator will pass the actual NCCCO practical exam to an incredibly high degree of reliability. This indicates that virtual reality has the potential to be trusted to deliver high-stakes hands-on training and high-stakes assessment as well.
Through this pandemic, we continue to do in-person training as customers require – and there is just no replacement for many of our course’s hands-on modules which involve teamwork, problem-solving, and live execution of the work. I do think the pandemic has taught us all that a lot of things can be accomplished remotely, and some things cannot. I expect many of our customers to continue to increase their use of online and VR learning solutions where it makes sense, thereby decreasing some training costs and throughput time, but still utilize hands-on training where necessary.
DICA: How did you first learn about DICA?
PARNELL: I think I first met all of the Kobergs, including Dick, during an Association of Crane & Rigging Professionals meeting around 2013. They are a fun and incredibly smart group of people. They truly care about others and aim to educate the market in a way that improves lifting operations. After that initial meeting, we have had ongoing conversations about how to best communicate things like ground bearing pressure and sizing outrigger pads. DICA has really brought the industry a great process for sizing pads for various cranes and applications.
DICA: What’s something you wish every industry organization understood about the importance of safety relative to proper outrigger setup and performance?
You know, I find an incredible number of things in life analogous to something in athletics. In both the physics involved in athletics and in heavy lifting and transport, I cannot think of anything more principally important than foundation loading. Whether I am surfing, hitting a baseball, or operating a crane, the first thing I should get right is my feet, or my foundation. Crane assembly and disassembly has become an important point of focus for OSHA and many organizations – which is great – and DICA has done a great job communicating to crane users the importance of a proper setup. Maybe the message of importance can gain a little more steam in every organization if their favorite sports metaphor is used to hit home the message.
DICA: You are a baseball enthusiast. Did you go through baseball withdrawal this spring, before games finally resumed in July? How did you get your alternative baseball fix?
Honestly, I rarely watch much baseball anymore, until after the All-Star break. I am a father of six… These days I get my baseball fix coaching Little League. We had one practice on March 10 then got waylaid by the pandemic. However, we played a lot of backyard wiffleball this summer and played a lot of catch.