Skill Shortage Series

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Minimum Industry Standards Project

Arboriculture Australia to provide students free MIS access.

Arboriculture Australia continues to broaden the scope of its Minimum Industry Standards (MIS) project, and has recently implemented a new initiative to offer free access to the MIS for the core units of competency for all arboricultural and vegetation management students in Australia.

The MIS peer-reviewed booklets comprise a collection of standards written and reviewed by Australian arborists, designed to provide key knowledge for industry, with Arboriculture Australia advising it has moved to provide free student access following the approval of new Australian Qualifications Framework arboriculture qualifications in August.

As advised by Arboriculture Australia, the new qualifications refer to the MIS in the qualification companion volume, and recommend registered training organisations (RTOs) rely on the MIS as a guide for industry expectations and practices.

Students to be provided electronic access Arboriculture Australia Senior Staff Member Alex Wilson stated that under the initiative all RTOs “will be able to set their students up with electronic access to the core MISs they need for their course”.

“Offering the MIS to all students is a major commitment for Arboriculture Australia,” she explained. “There is a challenging administrative workload, and the need for additional software development to manage the volume of traffic.

“We have been reorganising our staff resources and working with RTOs to develop a simple, straightforward process for student MIS access. It’s a big job, but we’re very excited about the prospect of this new connection to the future of our industry.”

By offering students free access, Arboriculture Australia states that it hopes to:

  • Provide the next generation of arborists with a comprehensive, industry-approved body of knowledge to support their training and development
  • Provide clear, consistent guidance to RTOs on industry expectations, practices and terminology
  • Enable industry training that is based on a solid, nationally shared foundation by referencing the same training manuals wherever the learning takes place
  • Ensure that training complements industry practice so that students receive a consistent message in the classroom and on their worksites
  • Improve safety by providing foundation documents which cover the full range of skills that a working arborist should know

“The MIS peer-reviewed booklets comprise a collection of standards written and reviewed by Australian arborists.”

Alex said that Arboriculture Australia had worked closely with state and territory associations to develop the standards, which had made an “enormous contribution” to the project, with it having been entirely funded by industry contributions through the industry stewardship program. “We want to send a really big thank you to Active Tree Services, ETS, ENSPEC, Asplundh and Arbor Australis Consulting, who provided the funding, and remind everyone that the MIS project has been proudly developed for the industry by the industry,” she said.

The MIS Go International

As Arboriculture Australia further develops the MIS – with a number of MIS currently being written and reviewed, including the first MIS to be written at the diploma level for consulting, municipal and utility arborists, and as guidance for all sectors involved in urban forestry – there has also been significant interest from overseas.

Alex advised that earlier this year the New Zealand Arboricultural Association (NZ Arb) voted to adopt the MIS, while Arboriculture Australia is now also looking at translating the standards into both French and Japanese.

Alex stated that the NZ Arb “contribution will be extremely valuable in the review and development of the standards”, and noted that “the MIS are turning into truly global documents, and this is a huge credit to all involved”.

“By the time this article is published, we hope to be offering electronic access to the MIS through our website,” she commented.

“Then our next game-changer will be Safe Work Method Statements for arboricultural work tasks, currently being developed by our Arboriculture Australia Work Health and Safety Committee. This will be another amazing resource we will be providing to our industry for free.”

Further information can be found at the Arboriculture Australia website: www.trees.org.au

November 18, 2020 / by / in ,
Financial Support

Options for apprentices.

Financial support for apprentices is a fundamental component of addressing skills shortages in the arboriculture sector, providing additional assistance to help ensure skilled workers are coming through the ranks, and it is important to be aware of the range of options available.

Given that skills shortages are an ongoing issue for the sector, employers and apprentices will be well served to have an understanding of the processes involved in securing financial support, which can provide an increased incentive to both commence and complete an apprenticeship.

In this series we’ve previously looked at the Additional Identified Skills Shortage (AISS) payment, designed to provide financial incentives for both employers and apprentices across a number of selected occupations, including arborists, experiencing national shortages.

In addition to the AISS payment, there are a number of other forms of financial support available for apprentices, including Trade Support Loans (TSLs) and the Living Away from Home Allowance (LAFHA), helping to assist with costs that arise over the course of an apprenticeship.

“In addition to the AISS payment, there are a number of other forms of financial support available for apprentices.”

Trade Support Loans

As advised via the Australian Apprenticeships website, TSLs are available for eligible apprentices, and have been designed “to assist with everyday costs while completing your apprenticeship”.

Arborists are listed on the TSL Priority List, identifying qualifications and occupations eligible to receive a loan, and apprentices undertaking a Certificate III or IV qualification are potentially eligible.

Australian Apprenticeships Advises:

  • Up to $21,078 can be received over the life of an apprenticeship, with the year of the apprenticeship determining the amount that may be received
  • There is no waiting period to claim
  • TSLs are paid in installments to a nominated bank account, with apprentices able to opt-in and out over the course of an apprenticeship
  • It is not possible to claim retrospective TSL payments
  • While TSLs are interest-free, they are indexed annually in line with the consumer price index
  • TSLs are repaid through the tax system, after a minimum repayment threshold has been reached ($45,880 for 2019-20), with repayments calculated as a percentage of income.

In addition to this, Australian Apprenticeships advises that, upon successful completion of an apprenticeship, a 20 per cent discount on the amount needed to be repaid will be received.

Apprentices seeking to find out more about TSLs will need to contact their local Australian Apprenticeship Support Network (AASN), provider.

Living Away From Home Allowance

It may be necessary to relocate in undertaking an apprenticeship, with the LAFHA designed to support apprentices who fall into this category.

As advised via Apprenticeships Australia, the LAFHA is “for eligible apprentices during the first three years of training”.

Apprenticeships Australia advises that apprentices may be eligible for the LAFHA if they need to move away from their parent or legal guardian’s home for the first time to:

  • Start an Australian apprenticeship
  • Remain in an Australian apprenticeship
  • Receive essential supplementary on-the-job training with another employer

There are a number of eligibility requirements that need to be met, and as with TSLs apprentices will need to get in touch with their local AASN provider.

Our next installment in this series will look into the new industry license and how it is changing the profession.

Further information on TSLs and the LAFHA can be found at the Australian Apprenticeships website www.australianapprenticeships.gov.au

July 14, 2020 / by / in ,
An Overview Of The Arborist

Do you fit the profile?

The shortage of arborists coming through the ranks is well documented, and for those currently involved in the industry, along with those considering pursuing a career in arboriculture, an overview of the occupation at a broader level may well make for interesting reading.

The makeup of the workforce is certainly something for industry to consider in the context of labour shortages, with Department of Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business (formerly the Department of Jobs and Small Business) figures showing the lowest proportion of vacancies filled on record in 2018. Arborists comprise a comparatively small occupation group on a national scale, however there is potential to work all over the country, and there are a number of pathways that can be pursued in seeking career progression.

So, when all is said and done, do you fit the profile?

Arborist Occupation Overview

The federal government’s Job Outlook website collates information about a range of occupations, along with labour market trends and employment projections, which can be used to help assess different career options. In addition to providing an overview of the sort of qualities that will come in handy when pursuing a career in various industries, the website provides a snapshot of the demographics of different occupations.

Job Outlook presents the following information about arborists:

Employment size – at 5,600 workers, arborists and tree workers make up a small occupation category

Full-time employment – most arborists work full time (82 per cent, compared to the wider average of 66 per cent)

Average full-time hours – full-time arborists spend around 44 hours per week at work (the same as the average)

Age – the average age of an arborist is 36 years (compared to an average of 40 years)

Gender – 3 per cent of arborists are female (compared to an average of 48 per cent)

When it comes to a state-by-state breakdown of where arborists are employed, the figures show that over half of all arborists nationwide work in NSW and Victoria (33.3 per cent and 28.4 per cent, respectively).

Meanwhile, 18.5 per cent of arborists are employed in Queensland, 8.8 per cent in SA, 6.3 per cent in WA, 2.3 per cent in Tasmania, 1.5 per cent in the ACT and 0.8 per cent in the Northern Territory.

Qualifications And Prospects

The right qualifications are, of course, critically important in carrying out the range of duties required of an arborist – and arborists, equipped with qualifications and experience, will likely have a greater variety of career opportunities.

In terms of qualification levels, the Job Outlook figures reveal that 53.2 per cent of arborists possess a Certificate III/IV qualification and 14.7 per cent an Advanced Diploma/Diploma.

When it comes to putting these qualifications to use, arborists may find that career opportunities exist across a number of different industries.

The Job Outlook figures show that the main employing industries for arborists and tree workers are: Administrative and Support Services (59 per cent), Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing (17.2 per cent), Public Administration and Safety (13.2 per cent) and Construction (3.4 per cent), with other industries making up 7.2 per cent.

Our next instalment in this series will look into the new industry licence and how it is changing the profession.

May 12, 2020 / by / in ,
Apprenticeship Incentive: The AISS Payment

The arboriculture industry as a whole is dealing with ongoing labour shortages, and it is certainly worthwhile considering any incentives on offer to help train more workers, including the Additional Identified Skills Shortage (AISS) payment, which was introduced last year.

As previously covered in this series, a Department of Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business (formerly the Department of Jobs and Small Business) occupation report shows the labour market for arborists tightened significantly in 2018, with the lowest proportion of vacancies filled on record.

Further to this, the report notes new occupation supply remains below levels recorded in 2014, with there being signs demand has continued to grow, while apprenticeship commencements in the previous three years have declined.

The AISS payment is one measure introduced by the federal government to address skills shortages, with it advised via the Australian Apprenticeships website that it has been established “to boost the supply of skilled workers in occupations experiencing national skills shortages”.

AISS Payment: Employer And Apprentice Financial Incentives

Under the AISS payment, which commenced July 1 last year, financial incentives are provided for employers and apprentices across 10 occupations experiencing national shortages, including arborists, with it seeking to encourage more uptake of apprenticeships and grow the number of apprentices.

As the AISS payment fact sheet (available at the Australian Apprenticeships website) advises, the payments are administered under the Australian Apprenticeships Incentives Program (AAIP), and are additional to any payments an apprentice or employer may be eligible for under existing Australian government programs, with:

  • Eligible employers receiving $2,000, 12 months after commencement of the apprenticeship, and an additional $2,000 upon its completion
  • Eligible apprentices receiving $1,000, 12 months after commencing their apprenticeship, and an additional $1,000 upon its completion

The fact sheet advises that for an apprentice and their employer to be eligible, the apprentice must be new to the employer, commencing a Certificate III or IV level qualification on or after July 1 last year, leading to one of the designated occupations, with existing workers and their employers not eligible.

In addition to this, employers will only be eligible to claim the AISS payment for apprentices that qualify as being additional, with apprentices falling into this category being over and above the employer’s usual apprentice intake.

Meanwhile, an apprentice who is new to their employer and undertaking a Certificate or IV qualification, leading to one of the designated occupations is eligible, regardless of whether they are additional.

Exploring All Options

For employers and apprentices, it is certainly worthwhile exploring all of the options available under the AAIP, which contains a range of payments, including Trade Support Loans and standard employer incentives.

Meanwhile, looking ahead, it is also important to note that the AAIP will be replaced by the Incentives for Australian Apprenticeships (IAA) program, which will see a number of changes introduced, from July 1 this year.

For employers and apprentices seeking out further information, details about the AISS payment and the AAIP and IAA programs, along with a range of other relevant information, can be found at the Australian Apprenticeships website.

Our next instalment in this series will look into the new industry licence and how it is changing the profession.

March 11, 2020 / by / in ,
Qualified Arborists In High Demand

Skills shortages are an ongoing issue for industry, and in this new series we are seeking to gain an understanding of the current employment landscape and explore the options available for employers.

Ensuring there are enough qualified arborists coming through the ranks is a continuing challenge for industry, with skills shortages likely to remain a pressing issue for employers for the foreseeable future.

In short, employers should do all they can to retain skilled workers, with labour market analysis demonstrating the scope of challenges faced.

A Department of Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business (formerly the Department of Jobs and Small Business) occupation report reveals that, amid an ongoing trend of shortages, the labour market for arborists tightened significantly last year, with the lowest proportion of vacancies filled on record.

  • Around 15 per cent of vacancies were filled, a figure well down on previous years, with some of the key takeaways from the department research being:
  • The 15 per cent vacancy fill rate compares with 28 per cent in 2017 and 29 per cent in 2016
  • There was an average of 4.6 applicants per vacancy, down from 7.3 applicants in 2017 and 5.6 in 2016
  • Of the applicants, 34 per cent were qualified

The department advises that all employers sought Certificate III qualifications in arboriculture, which many stated was necessary to meet government contract requirements, with most seeking arborists with good physical fitness and at least one-to-two years of experience.

How do we compare with overseas markets?

The Australian arboriculture industry is by no means alone in experiencing issues related to labour shortages.

In the US, the Tree Care Industry Association has been advocating for visa reform, with it noting that “industry is facing a huge labour shortage”.

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook refers to arborists as “tree trimmers and pruners”, with its figures revealing:

  • There were 54,500 tree trimmers and pruners employed in 2016
  • Employment is projected to grow 12 per cent from 2016 to 2026, at a rate faster than the average for all occupations

As with its US counterparts, Australian industry has been looking overseas in seeking to recruit qualified arborists.

The department’s occupation report notes many employers stated, due to a lack of suitable domestic applicants, they had recruited qualified arborists from the UK in previous years, however these employers also noted recruitment difficulties have increased due to a reduction in overseas applicants.

What’s the outlook?

The department report notes new occupation supply remains below levels recorded in 2014, while there are signs demand has continued to grow.

Internet advertised vacancies for the broad gardeners occupational group (including arborists) grew by 50 per cent over the five years to September 2018, compared to 24 per cent growth for all occupations.

It is, however, worth noting that in the year to September 2018 gardener vacancies increased by 6 per cent, compared to 7.5 per cent for all occupations.

Arboriculture and horticulture apprenticeship and traineeship completions have remained steady over the past three years, as opposed to a significant increase between 2012 and 2014, with completions having returned to previous levels.

Meanwhile, apprenticeship commencements have declined, which the department notes suggests new training supply will unlikely significantly mitigate shortages in the near future.

The department advises that arborists and gardeners employment is projected to grow by 14 per cent over the five years to May 2023, compared to 7.1 per cent growth for all occupations.

Our next instalment in this series will explore what employers can do to build a champion team in a challenging labour market, including how to attract strong applicants and how to retain staff.

November 3, 2019 / by / in , , ,