Career profile - Arboriculture Team Leader

An arboriculture contractor team leader, having worked for several years as an arborist/tree surgeon, is
the lead climber in a team 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 team leader?

"The variety of sites and tasks I get to deal with," says Richard Farrow, tree team supervisor for landscape management specialist Gavin Jones. 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 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," suggests 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 says: "For me, their experience would have to come from tree surgery." He continues: "They would have had to have been doing the actual job for a long time — five-to-10 years."

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. The public continuously ask: ‘Why are you doing this job?’ They need to be able to give people more information than what’s on the job sheet." Blackman notes that team leaders liaise with many stakeholders, such as 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 confirms: "Obviously you would have to know quite a lot about health and safety and liaising with the stakeholders on site."

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

Boden notes that candidates need a first aid certificate and, 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). Most people
in the industry still refer to these as "CS...", but the qualifications have been replaced by Qualification & Credit Framework units. Blackman suggests that 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 gives access to the association’s technical membership. Blackman says people are increasingly looking for employees who hold a certificate of competence for dismantling and rigging trees, adding: "You would expect your team leader to be a driver." A new (level 2) arborist apprenticeship standard was launched in June 2017, designed to give more arborists the core skills required in the industry

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

"We get people from landscaping backgrounds and if someone had been working in a tree nursery and had a really good knowledge of trees, that would be hugely useful," says Boden. Blackman notes that arboriculture is "rather specialised", adding: "You would not be able to go into the industry straight away."


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