Lost in Translation: Leo Roldan Helps Spanish-Speaking Arborists Comprender

Leo Roldan

Leo Roldan is un hombre en una misión, a man on a mission. As district safety-trainer coordinator in Mamaroneck, New York, for SavATree, a 35-year TCIA member company headquartered in Bedford, N.Y., he oversees training for the district’s arborists, many of whom are Spanish speaking. He earned his Certified Treecare Safety Professional (CTSP) credential 10 years ago (he was the only Spanish-speaking participant in the class), recently renewed it and is eager to encourage companies to help their Spanish-speaking employees with safety training.

“That’s a side of the industry that could use some recognition,” he says. “Just translating the manual into Spanish does not take into account cultural differences. A hammer means one thing for me, another thing for you,” he notes. “It’s a theme I’ve been working on since I joined SavATree to become an instructor.”

CTSP is a TCIA credential that teaches tree professionals how to teach safety to adults. Those who earn the credential are then to go back to their company and apply what they have learned to help develop a culture of safety there.

“I spend a lot of time talking to Spanish-speaking employees when I do my presentations, because I know how to approach people from different countries; you need to break those barriers between instructors and learning. Some are from Mexico, Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala. You have to know what is going on with each one of these cultures,” adds Roldan, who has worked at SavATree for 20 years.

Roldan notes that it’s also important to explain to his workers why arborists do the things they do – prune a tree a certain way, inspect climbing gear, study an electrical-distribution system – and to have the training and credentials to back him up. “Now we have the Spanish-speaking guy here who is really professional,” says Roldan, conveying the perception he is after.

Leo Roldan, on the truck bed, says just translating a manual into Spanish is often not enough for proper training. Photo courtesy of Leo Roldan.

As a Certified Arborist, Certified Tree Worker Specialist, Certified Aerial Lift Specialist, Qualified Crew Leader, CTSP and TCIA EHAP instructor, Roldan says he sees himself as something of a role model for Spanish-speaking workers. He instructed his first EHAP workshop in Spanish at TCI EXPO in Baltimore five years ago with 25 attendees taking part, which, he says, was a rewarding turnout. However, the next year in Ohio, TCIA had to cancel the workshop because not enough people enrolled. It is an ongoing battle Roldan faces. On the one hand, there is not enough training offered in Spanish; on the other, not enough Spanish-speaking people attend.

Two reasons can account for that, he notes. One is a general aversion to sitting in a classroom, the other a sense on the workers’ part that they already know the material. That’s where CTSP comes in, since it emphasizes different adult learning styles.

Meanwhile, Roldan volunteers locally at Neighbors Link in Mt. Kisco, N.Y., and the Community Resource Center in Mamaroneck, N.Y., both of which provide employment help to immigrant communities. He also works with the New York State Arborists and runs the annual EHAP workshop for the Connecticut Tree Protective Association.

The safety instruction has “been a great opportunity to focus all my skills and knowledge to help Spanish people. They need more trainers and instructors,” says Roldan, adding, “The CTSP (curriculum) is not yet available in Spanish. That would help.”

Meanwhile, wish Roldan un feliz cumpleaños, a happy birthday, May 8.

For information about the CTSP credential, click here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Click to listen highlighted text!