Arborist Apprenticeship Off and Running in Colorado

Randi Grady, human resources generalist with Tree Top, Inc. Plant Health Management, an accredited, six-year TCIA member company, and the company’s apprentice, Tyler Williams, with his arborist apprentice Certificate of Registration. Photo courtesy of Tree Top, Inc.

The Colorado Tree Care Sector Partnership is an industry-led group working together to find solutions to the biggest challenges facing the industry’s growth and success. In 2019, several years of hard work by local business leaders, municipalities and support organizations culminated in the launch of the first cohort of arborist apprentices in Colorado. In December 2019, nine arborist apprentices from five different businesses and municipalities started their Related Learning Instruction at Front Range Community College in Westminster, Colo.

They have now completed courses in General Safety, Arborist Equipment Fundamentals, Intro to Tree & Shrub Identification, Tree Biology and Aerial Training. All classes have been taught by local subject-matter experts from within our industry. Chris Miller, Taylor Mathews, Keith Stoner, Josh Morin and Alex McIntosh worked with Lynn Vossler, director of workforce development at Front Range Community College, to deliver the instruction. Connie Krupp, a curriculum developer, and the Tree Care Industry Association (TCIA) worked with Front Range Community College to build out a curriculum based on the National Guidelines for Apprenticeship Standards administered by TCIA. Other local partners, including the City of Westminster, the City of Aurora and arborists at the University of Colorado, provided additional support to the program.

Members of the 2019-2020 Colorado Apprenticeship cohort include, from left, Yancy Villagrana, Robert Holcomb, Paige Heilman, Mark Anhilijian, Steve Dooley and Glenn Mullett. Four members are missing from photo. Photo courtesy of Front Range Community College.

Over the course of three years, each apprentice will work to complete 5,400 hours of on-the-job training under the guidance of a journeyworker and 440 hours of related learning coordinated by the Colorado Tree Care Sector Partnership and Front Range Community College. At the end of this skills-based learning program, these folks will be journeyworker arborists. They will have earned a transportable credential that is recognized around the nation by organizations looking for arborists to hire. They also will have zero new college debt, and they will be highly trained, experienced tree workers in our local workforce.

The Colorado Tree Care Sector Partnership continues to build out this program. In Colorado, each shop is its own Apprenticeship Sponsor, giving local business owners the control and responsibility of making the apprenticeship work optimally within their context. To make training numbers realistic for everyone, the Sector Partnership collaborates with all its members to meet this and other workforce issues that face all of us as arborists. Registered Apprenticeship has been a big focus for our partnership and is an awesome opportunity for us.

Since the launch in December, the arborist program has continued to grow. There are now seven companies or municipalities in Colorado that offer a Registered Apprenticeship program, five more that are currently considering how the program could work best for their location and one newly hired apprentice who is looking forward to next year’s related learning cohort while he builds his on-the-job skills and expertise.

By offering entry-level candidates the opportunity of a Registered Apprenticeship, we show them – and their parents, in some cases – a career path and process to become a skilled, knowledgeable professional while earning a solid wage that increases with skills and abilities. Local businesses find that their apprenticeship program offers a solid recruiting tool and training process that helps them meet their workforce needs, and experienced field arborists embrace this opportunity to be recognized as a journeyworker and to receive a certificate of completion as such from a Registered Apprenticeship program.

This is what we consider a win-win-win for all.

For more information on the Arborist Apprenticeship Program in Colorado, or the Colorado Tree Care Sector Partnership in general, please visit our website at coloradotreecare.cosectors.com.

Kate Strebe is the convener with the Colorado Tree Care Sector Partnership.

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