Learning for life - arboriculture

Formal training does not have to stop when students leave college. In fact, many employers encourage staff to gain qualifications to help increase sales and morale.

Tree working hangs from a tree in a safety harness - photo: Stihl
Tree working hangs from a tree in a safety harness - photo: Stihl

The arboriculture industry spans a huge range of sectors, so practitioners tend to specialise and there are many small businesses run by owner/operators.

According to Nick Eden, director of the Arboriculture Association (AA), most training in this sector focuses on skills such using a chainsaw or wood chipper, working on an elevated platform, control of vehicles on highways and the use of chemicals in growth control. Certification for these skills is awarded by the NPTC (www.nptc.org.uk). Training providers can also be found via the Sector Skills Council for the Environmental and Land-Based Sector (www.lantra.co.uk).

Eden says: “Many businesses cover the physical skills but they do not appreciate the importance of skills needed to run a business. One of our least well-supported courses is about marketing, whereas we can’t run enough courses on tree safety.

“It’s unbelievable that people think they can run a business without knowing how to market their products. They need to recognise that they are not just arborists, they are business people and if they are going to be successful, they need to put a business head on their shoulders. Many people get into the industry because they like trees, and they concentrate on tree skills and forget they need business skills too, such as managing accounts.”

Those who do attend the AA’s one-day marketing course, which costs £160 per person, find it “phenomenally useful”, says Eden. They learn about what kind of copy to put on their website, how to make a flyer attractive, how to look after customers, the value of repeat business compared with finding a new customer, and how to appear attractive to prospective clients. Go to www.trees.org.uk/course.php for more information.

CASE STUDY

Banyards

The company’s main business is ­arboriculture, and its view is that ­training and development are key to running a successful company. HR ­administrator Gail Turner (pictured) says: “It benefits the people that are training and it benefits the company. If you don’t train and develop people, they’re going to leave. If you do they’re more happy and secure in their jobs.”

The induction day for recruits ­involves being shown around the site and completing a personal development record grading themselves on a range of skills. From this, the company assesses their training needs.

Most training is conducted in-house by senior staff instructing junior ­employees. Much of the training is ­practical, such as strimming on a highway. The company hires external training providers in ­certain areas, such as tree surgery, where ­specific National Proficiency Tests Council qualifications are required.

Turner says: “To gain the ­certificates, employees go to various colleges. We give them lots of support and make it as easy as possible for them. When they’ve completed the training, they feel empowered and confident and more enthusiastic about their jobs.”


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