Speaking at last month's Arboricultural Association conference, CTC Recruitment owner Bruce Blackman said: "The big difference between this year and last is there are fewer candidates, so wages have gone up at all levels. Some employers are struggling to resource contracts and private sector consultants are putting up their prices as demand has gone up. People with level 6 qualifications are difficult to source - there are not enough people qualifying at higher levels to satisfy demand. A lot of colleges offer level 3 but it's a different depth of learning."
Gristwood & Toms general manager Mark Townsend said: "We can find recruits but it's getting harder. Employees are getting more discerning. A lot more smaller companies have set up in the private sector. Local authority work is still hard to get but in those other markets you can set yourself up. We offer training and career retention to bring people through the company. Money is a factor for them, but not the only one."
He added that the company's "Thirst Aid Kits"
- reusable 90-litre irrigation collars for newly planted urban trees - "are giving a 96 survival rate and are now in specifications". They are also exempt from watering bans such as that issued in the South East in 2013, he pointed out. "The water doesn't evaporate and you don't have to go round in vans watering them - it's an 80 per cent saving on time at the tree."