Careers profile - Arboriculture team leader

An arboriculture contractor team leader is the person who, having worked for several years as an arborist/tree surgeon, is the lead climber in a team that is typically made up of themself, a climber and a grounds person.

Using their experience, expertise and head for heights, the team leader will safely carry out and supervise tasks such as felling, pruning, crown reduction and stump grinding. Technical tasks such as risk assessments also form part of this role.

What is best about being an arboriculture contractor team leader?

"The most enjoyable aspect of my role is the variety of sites and tasks I get to deal with," says Richard Farrow, tree team supervisor for landscape management specialist Gavin Jones. "It's a great pleasure to visit some of the country's most environmentally valuable sites and figuring out how we can enhance those landscapes is all part of the fun." Nick Boden, owner of Sheffield Tree Care, adds that "working with trees, full stop" is by far the best part of the role. "There isn't anyone who does that job who doesn't enjoy working with trees."

What kind of skills, attributes, knowledge and experience are most in demand for this role in the recruitment market at the moment - and why?

Tree surgery experience

"You need someone who has developed a high level of competency as a climbing arborist," says Bruce Blackman, owner and manager of arboricultural recruitment specialist CTC Recruitment. "They need to know the best and most effective way to undertake the work." Boden adds: "For me, their experience would have to come from tree surgery. They would have had to have been doing the actual job for a long time - for five-to-ten years. For example, someone could start (a career in tree surgery) when they are 20 and when they are 30 they may get to be a team leader climbing trees."

People skills

Boden asserts that team leaders need good people skills because "they have to be able to walk on site and interpret the job that they are being asked to do. They have to have some understanding of why they are doing the job because the public continuously ask: 'Why are you doing this job?' They need to be able to give people a little bit more information than what's on the job sheet." Blackman notes that team leaders often liaise with many stakeholders, such as local residents and members of the local authority.

Health and safety knowledge

Both Boden and Blackman emphasise the need to be aware of health and safety procedures as well as regulations to ensure that tree work and risk assessments are carried out compliantly. Blackman says: "Obviously you would have to know quite a lot about health and safety - making sure the job is done safely and is compliant (with health and safety laws) - and liaising with the stakeholders on site, such as the council and local residents."

What sort of qualifications and experience would you need to see from a potential candidate to be convinced that they possess these qualities?

Boden notes that potential candidates need a first aid certificate and then, at the very least, certificates such as NPTC CS30 (Maintain and operate the chainsaw), CS31 (Fell and process small trees), CS38 (Climb trees and perform aerial rescue) and CS39 (Operate a chainsaw from a rope or harness).

It should be noted that while most people in the industry still refer to these certificates as "CS ...", the qualifications have recently been replaced by Qualification & Credit Framework units. For example, CS30 has become a level 2 award (certificate) in chainsaw maintenance, while CS39 is now a level 3 award (certificate) in aerial cutting of trees with a chainsaw using free fall techniques. Blackman notes that because employers are increasingly looking for more qualifications from employees team leaders should hold a level 3 diploma in arboriculture (a more in-depth qualification than a level 3 certificate), such as the City & Guilds level 3 work-based trees and timber.

The Arboriculture Association also recommends that master tree workers have a level 3 diploma, a qualification that will given them access to the association's technical membership. Blackman adds that people are increasingly looking for employees who hold a certificate of competence for dismantling and rigging trees, and says: "You would expect your team leader to be a driver."

Are any of the skills that are in demand transferable from other roles?

Boden says: "We get people coming in from landscaping backgrounds and I would also say that if someone had been working in a tree nursery and had a really good knowledge of trees that would be hugely useful. Basically, knowledge of trees is key. If you are a good climber or landscaper you can move into tree surgery. But you can't be scared of heights." But Blackman notes that arboriculture is "rather specialised", adding: "You would not be able to go into the industry straight away."


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Careers profile - Arboriculture team leader

Careers profile - Arboriculture team leader

An arboriculture contractor team leader is the person who, having worked for several years as an arborist/tree surgeon, is the lead climber in a team that is typically made up of themself, a climber and a grounds person.


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