New Qualified Staff

As I write this, Queensland is in the middle of yet another short lockdown and I realise that, even though we are largely unvaccinated and have yet to adapt and grow some resistance like trees would, it’s proving for now that we really do live in the lucky country.

It’s business as usual for us all in the arboricultural industry and as with trees we continue to go with the flow and constantly change and adapt to whatever situation faces us.

Events of the past few weeks have hopefully reminded everyone of their need to continue to maintain and protect our environment and practice good hygiene in all areas of our work and life and to be able to respect the need to be responsible for our countries biosecurity.

It is always exciting to see new entrants to our industry and, as trainers we have the honourable task of training and guiding new recruits through the entry process to a career that is often life changing, can be used throughout the world (once borders open again!) and lasts a lifetime.

Employers often struggle to recruit new qualified staff and we believe that one of the best ways to ensure a continuity of qualified efficient staff would be to ensure that you are involved with and able to properly mentor any apprentices that you employ through their training in the workplace as well as having an active interest in their training, while they are also enrolled in an arboricultural course of study.

Remember to consider the following points before you employ an apprentice, nominate an employee or enrol into a course and address the following questions.
• Are you ok with heights?
• Do you want to be a climber?
• Do you want to work at height from an EWP only?
• Do you want to work around utilities such as within the energy supply network?
• Do you want to work in a commercial or domestic environment?
• Do you want to work within the municipal system?
• Do you want to specialise in plant health?
• Do you just want to drive a truck and lift heavy things?

When introducing our most recent intake of students at the start of their journey to being a qualified arborist, a large percentage of the group expressed a desire to be tree climbers.

“Dr Alex Shigo and Dr Claus Mattheck didn’t climb trees but have shaped our industry and the way we care for trees immensely.”

Some were just wanting to work from an EWP and some were just looking to be ground based.

So how do we guide them along the pathways that can be taken for a lifelong career?

How will they get to become a future tree climber consultant, manager or business owner?

While there is no easy answer it generally requires following a tried and tested process, often termed as an apprenticeship, involving carrying out the hard yards and starting out at the bottom as a groundie.

There is a need to spend time learning how to become part of a team dragging brushwood and carrying logs to feed the chipper, progressing to learning a few simple knots to be able to tie things on the climber’s line and to develop some tree knowledge along the way.

Ask lots of questions and make an effort to learn some tree names even when you are dragging branches to the chipper you could be learning about trees. How do they smell? How heavy is the wood? Do you get splinters in your hands? What colour is the timber? Are there flowers or fruits? Why is the heartwood soft or hollow? What is in the pruning standard AS4373?

At TFT during our regular training sessions we constantly encourage the students to identify trees by their correct names on our training work sites and we find there is a real stumbling block with nomenclature and a common identification for a Eucalyptus seems to be a universal “It’s a gummy mate!” But there are just so many types and it is an ongoing learning process, so we recommend learning the local common trees in the area that you are working with as a start and then break out the books and the key identifying systems.

Most modern trainee arborists are equipped with many learning resources at their fingertips such as the internet, tablets and smart phones with Apps for identifying trees as well as a wealth of informative websites that assist with tree identification that can be called up when out on site with a mere flick of the fingers.

Remember, you don’t have to be a climber to be considered as a qualified arborist, although some will argue that climbing trees is essential and that to be an arborist you must be a climber, but what about some of the industry legends?

For example, Dr Alex Shigo and Dr Claus Mattheck didn’t climb trees but have shaped our industry and the way we care for trees immensely.

There are also a number of highly regarded practicing consulting arborists that have never climbed or worked above ground in a tree.

It’s also worth considering some of the advances in EWP design and the availability of narrow access machines that are towed to site on a trailer or loaded on a small truck that are able to fit through a 750mm wide gate and set up to reach heights in excess of 30m.

Although not a cheap investment initially, if you looked at the investment over the machines’ lifespan compared to paying a climber’s wages it may turn out to be quite an economical option.

At TFT we encourage our students to be team players and be inclusive of all on site. We believe that everyone should have an input and a responsibility towards safety and, basically, if anyone thinks or sees something that they feel is not right they must do something about it, ask the question or sound a warning, even if they are not sure, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Along with our duty of care obligations it is also a WHS requirement for everyone in the workplace to have received relevant training regarding their roles and to be deemed as competent and current in their required skills and to demonstrate an ongoing process dedicated to improving their skills and knowledge through continual professional development.

To be able to be considered a qualified person within the arboricultural industry the general requirements are that you will complete a period of training and assessment based in both the practical workplace environment and the classroom.

The minimum industry requirement to enable you to be officially recognised as a qualified arborist is to attain the Certificate III in Arboriculture.

This qualification is currently classified within Australian Standard definitions and accepted by industry throughout Australia as the minimum industry standard requirement to be able to be considered as a trade level qualified working arborist.

There is a current skills shortage in the arboricultural industry, therefore, with the financial assistance currently available, now is the time to think about taking those first steps towards the true tree change career you’ve always dreamed of and to become a recognised and qualified arborist.

The journey to achieve arboriculture qualifications currently involves the completion of industry endorsed units of competency that have been designed according to industry requirements and composed engineered checked and industry approved.

Once you have achieved the Certificate III in Arboriculture, served your time in the physical side of the job or just want to consolidate and recognise your industry experience, the next step would be to continue your progression within the arboricultural industry and consider the progression from trade level working arborist to the next level which is to undertake the Diploma of Arboriculture.

To achieve the Diploma of Arboriculture you will embark on a journey that will see you develop and gain an intimate and considerable working tree knowledge, you will be educated through a combination of online training self-study and assessment methods, resulting in your successful completion of nationally recognised industry endorsed units of competency that make up the Diploma of Arboriculture.

To consider and comply with the broad expectations of the arboriculture industry and the emphasis on training and standards and the requirements of the Diploma of arboriculture our students follow a process that covers the following points:

• Introduction into the workings of a tree with its anatomy and physiology explained and explored
• Specification and planting of new trees
• Introduction and overview of legislation and compliance requirements
• Extensive Visual tree assessment and risk management
• Disease and decay diagnosis and management
• Looking after trees on development sites
• Preparation and submission of quality reports for clients and management.

Employers remember your company’s most valuable asset is its employees and new workers don’t grow on trees.

Employers that invest heavily in ongoing training for their staff generally demonstrate high standards of workmanship and are often the companies that win the best contracts.

If you want to have reliable professional staff you have to be prepared to invest in them. As your trainees are working their way through the training and learning process they will steadily begin to repay your investment in their future by becoming more useful and able to operate more efficiently within your company.

“It has been proven that independent training and assessment increases staff retention safety awareness productivity and efficiency.” Can you demonstrate that you have adequately maintained compliance and currency?

Can you demonstrate evidence of recent staff training or updating within your company?

When did you last organize an aerial rescue practice day? Or audit the pruning standards within your crew? These sorts of sessions are great team builders and also help to promote safety and confidence within your workers.
• Have staff members attended recent courses workshops or verification of competency (VOC) sessions?
• Are all qualifications certificates and licences up to date?

Making the effort and spending the time to study and achieve the relevant arboricultural qualifications will lead you on a lifelong journey in one of the most diverse industries I know and build a skill base that once all the travel restrictions are lifted you will enable you to use your skills anywhere in the world.

“Training is as important as the servicing of vehicles and machinery, after all, workers are the machinery that you run and need to maintain to enable the smooth operation of your business.”

“Any tree, particularly if it is lucky enough to be under the supervision of a TFT qualified arborist, will be a very happy tree indeed.”

Training for Trees is a registered training organisation (RTO)

We are completely independent and are not auspiced attached to or operating under the direction or licence of any other RTO, TAFE or parent company. This means we are personally able look after our students and employers at every step of their journey and beyond.

If you want to be officially classified as a qualified arborist you will need to complete the appropriate level of qualification:
• Tree worker or climbing Arborist Certificate III in arboriculture
• Consulting Arborist Diploma of arboriculture

“Safety Rules” Check out your eligibility for funding. Enrol now for the next intake Certificate III in Arboriculture and Diploma. Contact us for your qualifications, short courses, VOC, RPL and refresher training. Train with us and leaf qualified. See our website for details or email

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