Vermeer Australia have discussed the process of dealing with worker shortage for tree care based on an American Arborist’s perspective. When it comes to tree care, an increasing number of homeowners and businesses are turning to professionals for help to take care of the general health of their trees.
This increased interest in professional tree care services is a result of a number of factors including urbanisation, urban sprawl, natural disasters and imported insect pests and tree diseases.
While the increased demand for professional tree services is helping to grow tree care businesses, it is also putting a strain on their workforce. The availability of skilled and job-ready workers and the retention of these workers are two of the challenges faced by the tree care industry.
According to ArborMaster, the commercial arborist industry employs approximately 225,000 people. The average tree care company in the United States experiences an annual turnover rate of 25 percent, or four persons. This turnover contributes to the shortage. Fifty percent of this shortage annually is for the job classification of ground worker.
The ground worker holds an entry-level position in the tree care industry. These persons perform equipment operation and transportation, climbing support and pruning services. This is an ideal introduction to the industry and a building block for a career in arboriculture.
Despite the job availability, there is no rush to enter the tree care service profession. A number of factors come into play. There is a lack of educational programmes to teach those entering the industry how to perform efficient and safe tree care services. In most cases there are no incentives to seek out the limited education that is available.
Also, tree care service jobs in many parts of the country are seasonal. Without a portfolio of services to offset changes in seasonal demand, it is difficult to maintain an established workforce. Wright Tree Service, based in Des Moines, Iowa, knows this firsthand. Julie Chapman, Director of Human Resources for Wright Tree Service stated that they have a difficult time in finding people who want to work in the tree care industry.
Wright Tree Service have operations in 24 states and focuses on utility line clearing. According to Chapman, Wright is continuously looking for good ground workers and individuals from within the ground worker ranks who have the skills and characteristics to become managers.
Wright Tree Service have found success in hiring Hispanic workers. However, confirming immigration status makes this difficult in some regions of the country. Wright Tree Service have developed programmes to help their managers to develop their respective hiring skills to offer employment to the right individuals and learn how to nurture workers with management potential.
One programme created by Wright Tree Service is designed to provide additional training to individuals with management potential. Division mangers have the opportunity to select three workers with management potential to attend an annual training program. Attendees participate in a series of mini-sessions that equip these individuals with the tools and skills to further advance within the company.