In June 2023, I was able to participate in a special event – a high-school-apprenticeship signing and graduation ceremony at my local high school in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin. The event had the look and vibe of a high-school student athlete signing up to play for a major college sports team. It was complete with a fancy, branded backdrop for pictures, cake and speeches from local dignitaries – from the school board, state legislators and even a video message from Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers. This was a big deal.
It was a celebration of students transitioning into the skilled trades. Plumbers, electricians, construction workers and the arborist profession were represented. The ceremony included kids finishing high school and moving into Registered Apprenticeship, signing up for one- and two-year youth apprenticeships. In the case of Hoppe Tree Service, we had a youth apprentice graduating and starting a full-time career.
It was refreshing to see the trades praised so highly by local officials, parents and especially the students. The idea that if you don’t go to a four-year university, you won’t be successful is over. More and more people are understanding the importance, value and need for skilled professions.
Getting the apprenticeship off the ground
Getting our registered-youth-apprenticeship program off the ground took some effort, but it was aided by the fact that Wisconsin has a Registered Apprenticeship program, and the youth program was able to be modeled after that. Our State of Wisconsin Work Force Development Bureau helped us employers create the program, along with helping promote it to high-school counselors and tree-service employers. It’s paying dividends now, helping legitimize our industry in the minds of high-school guidance counselors, students and their parents.
Our youth apprentice, Bryan Coleman, started the program as a 17-year-old student. He worked over the summer months, and during the school year spent the mornings working at our tree service and the afternoons back in his classroom seat at high school.
The curriculum included:
- Inspection, maintenance and use of personal protective equipment, rigging and climbing gear.
- Inspection of vehicles and towed units.
- Conducting basic tree inspections and establishing safe work zones.
- Tree climbing.
- Performing various pruning cuts.
- Tree and shrub ID.
- Signs and symptoms of common insects and diseases.
Halfway into the program, Bryan turned 18 and was able to use chain saws and operate the chipper. The youth apprenticeship jumpstarted his excitement for a career in the tree industry.
We are pleased that Bryan is the nation’s first graduate of registered arborist youth apprenticeship. We all know the need to raise awareness of our industry with the younger generations. Our industry is exciting; no two trees are the same. Youth apprenticeship is a great way to help spread the word. Many young people will gravitate toward it if given the chance.
August Hoppe is owner and president of Hoppe Tree Service LLC, an accredited, 23-year TCIA member company based in Milwaukee, Wisc., and a member of TCIA’s Board of Directors.
This article was based on his co-presentation, made with August Hoppe, on the same subject during TCI EXPO ’22 in Charlotte, North Carolina. To listen to an audio recording created for that presentation, go to TCI Magazine online at tcimag.tcia.org and, under the Resources tab, click Audio. Or, under the Current Issue tab, click View Digimag, then go to this page and click here.