Founder of Truetimber Academy Finds Value in CTSP

Andrew “Drew” Dunavant was a professional tree climber for more than a decade and a three-time Mid-Atlantic Chapter (MAC) ISA champion working for Truetimber Arborists, a 22-year TCIA member company based in Richmond, Virginia, when a new opportunity came his way.

“The company did not have as many CTSPs as they wanted, so it was a chance for it to add more and for me to gain the credential,” says Dunavant. TCIA’s Certified Treecare Safety Professional (CTSP) credential is designed to help tree care workers develop and nurture a safe work environment at their companies in four key areas: leadership, hazard identification, incident control and prevention and adult learning.

Man in red shirt with ropes and climbing harness in a tree.
Drew Dunavant’s role has changed from being in the trees to sales. He now works to ensure that tree care companies have the tools they need to perform their work safely. Photos courtesy of Drew Dunavant.


Dunavant moved into a safety and training role and, recognizing the need, helped create an apprenticeship program, Truetimber Academy, a program that continues at Truetimber Arborists today. Last year, Dunavant joined RBI Corporation, dba Shelter Tree, a seven-year TCIA corporate member company, as arborist segment leader. RBI (Richmond Battery and Ignition) started in 1919 servicing and repairing batteries and ignition parts for automobiles, and four generations later and still hard at work, it now sells gear for professional arborists.

Although Dunavant’s role has changed from being in the trees to sales, he still finds value in maintaining his CTSP credential. At RBI/Shelter Tree, he works to ensure that tree care companies have the tools they need to perform their work safely. Part of that is helping to educate customers and team members on the safe use of the products he sells, a position in which his previous experiences are highly valued.

Giving employees options

Certain companies have guidelines regarding what they allow their employees to do, says Dunavant. The safety crew knows how much training they need to give their employees, so Dunavant supplies information on the different techniques and equipment. This includes guidance for rigging, stationary ropes and tie-in-point methods they can use, “giving them options on a lot of different ways of doing a particular task and what the consequences are for each, and allowing them to make the decision.”

TCIA Qualified Crew Leader

Dunavant is a TCIA Qualified Crew Leader (QCL) and is Electrical Hazards Awareness Program (EHAP) certified. Prior to establishment of the TCIA Qualified Trainer requirement, he taught EHAP and several of the TCIA Tree Care Academy Career Pathway training courses. He is now a TCIA Qualified Trainer to teach Aerial Lift Operations 1: Fundamentals, and is working toward his Qualified Trainer credential to teach EHAP. “That has opened my eyes to how the younger generation learns, going through COVID and virtual classes, and how you learn to adapt to teach to a different audience,” he says.


headshot of man wearing a blue shirt with glasses, smiling.
Drew Dunavant

“The CTSP credential also is a leadership credential, a way of making good plans. That goes beyond safety and training. The CTSP training also teaches how people learn,” he notes.

One task they did in the training session was to describe how a worker is going to get fuel for fuel cans – a simple enough task. “The trainee might answer, ‘Go to the gas station, put in the additive.’ But what happens if they don’t know where the gas station is and what truck to use to get there?” Dunavant poses. “One can’t assume knowledge, and that helps you learn to explain the steps of certain things better, to check in, to ask good questions.

“Also, there are so many different ways people learn. You assume everyone learns the same way you do, but in so doing, you miss a big group of people. Learning how others learn is how you become a more effective teacher.”

To learn more about the CTSP and QCL credentials, visit and, under the Education tab, click on TCIA Credentialing Programs.

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