No matter where we are in our career, we should always been pushing ourselves to achieve the next level. Learning new skills and gaining knowledge should feel like a constant cycle, because never can we know everything. Even in the arborist community- there’s so much to learn. There is always new gear being released, new techniques being discovered, and new certifications to earn. So where do you start?
In this blog we’re going to cover a few upgrades to add to your resume, the “must-have” courses, and career enhancing certifications.
Get your CDL Endorsement
If you’re new to the different styles of licenses, a CDL allows you to drive a Commercial Vehicle, in this case more than likely a truck (or the combined weight of a truck and trailer) over 26,000 pounds. There are various different levels of CDL (Class A-C). When applying for a job in the Arborist world this is extremely helpful as almost every tree care company has a chip truck, bucket truck, and / or crane truck that could fall into this category. If others on the crew don’t hold this endorsement and whoever does falls ill, gets hurt on the job, or quits, this instantly allows you to step in to transport any and all needed equipment to and from the job, which is obviously crucial. Not to mention having a CDL can carry over into many other lines of work.
The Tree Care Industry Association (or TCIA) offers a course for new hires going through an apprenticeship program. If your employer doesn’t offer this, ask them to check into it so you can learn the important first steps to tree service with the correct practices.
The way you first learn any skill will affect how you progress and learn the more difficult parts of the job- like climbing, notching, rigging, and more. Start with a strong foundation in the basics, and make sure they’re “up to code.” Because tree work is ironically something you can do with no previous education, certification, or degree--but it is YOUR responsibility to make sure you are properly educated so they know safe work practices and proper pruning techniques.
If you run a company and you’re looking to add to your crew, this is a great certification program to start with. You may know all the skills, but sometimes it’s hard to be the teacher AND run a company.
Really, we should have started here as this course is a must have. It’s not a cute extra certification you can add to your business card or on the side of your vehicle like you went above and beyond- it’s a mandatory class you need to be taking. No- we don’t hope to ever have to use these skills, but in a line of work that deals with heights and sharp objects- it’s a must.
This is a course that is also a must. If you’re a climber on your crew and no one else knows how to climb, what happens if you get hurt and can’t come down out of a tree- either tied in from climbing, or even in a bucket truck or aerial lift. As we discussed above- First Aid and CPR are must haves, but you can’t perform First Aid to a climber unconscious from blood loss 75 feet up into a tree if there’s no bucket around and you don’t even know how to put on a harness. If you’re looking for step by step training TCIA also offers an Aerial Rescue Program that makes the training easier than trying to write out your own.
Now we’re getting into really taking yourself and / or your business to the next level! Getting your Certified Arborist automatically puts you in a new category- you know more about trees than just how to cut them down. You understand their cycles, make up, the pest and diseases they may be susceptible to, soil makeup, what a tree needs to stay healthy, and SO much more. This does several things- it now opens up your business to solving more issues homeowners might be having which in return also means broadening the services you offer, which leads to more clients, more sales, more green in your pockets! Another thing is it separates you. There are clients out there that care about the health of their trees and are looking to only work with Certified Arborists. This cuts your competition down, depending upon your area, to probably less than half. The more you can educate your clients, the more likely they are to trust you, which means they are more likely to hire you, and again, more green in your pocket! I think you’re seeing the pattern here.
This Certification takes your business and allows you to double it. Right now, more than likely, you’re pruning, removing, stump grinding, perhaps cabling, but what are you doing when a deadly pest enters the picture? What can you do when a fungus starts taking over? How do you plan on breathing life back into a declining tree with poor soil conditions? These are all questions that can only be answered for the homeowner with a Pesticide Applicators License. You may be thinking- but I can walk into the hardware store, grab a bottle of spray and go to town, why would I pay to do that? Well- first off, on a simple note, there’s SO much in those tiny spray bottles the general public doesn’t understand, and they should, because it’s going on their lawn, trees, pond, over spray is getting on their porches, homes, grills, their children’s play sets, gardens… Chemicals are a scary thing and should be taken seriously. On a more legal note: Commercial Applicator License Is required to use any type of pesticide on property not owned or rented by the applicator or the employer of the applicator. So as funny as it is, a homeowner can handle some of these materials and have it be their own problem. Once you enter their property that makes it your problem, and you need a license. Plant Health Care is a whole new world- your day to day work is going to look a lot different ( no heavy lifting!) and your marketing strategies are going to look a lot different too. When a tree needs to be removed there’s one job that needs to be done with no questions asked- get the tree down. But when you enter a property with a declining tree you’re now responsible for treating the area like a crime scene- who broke in, what did they take, did they leave behind any finger prints, and how are you going to catch him and lock him away for good? With the knowledge you gain for this course you should be able to solve the crime and keep the homeowner’s trees safe!
Ok. So we’ve reached the end of this blog and at the beginning I promised you there was something for you in here. But what if you find yourself with all these listed, and more? Now what? Again, growing is a cycle. Perhaps it’s time for you to do more experimenting, do you have an idea you think might enhance the industry? Great inventors like Kevin Bingham (inventor of the Rope Wrench, Rope Runner, and Rigging Wrench) is the perfect example- just when the industry felt stale he flipped it over and said- we’re not done here, there’s more ways to do this.
Or perhaps it’s time for you to give back- share your knowledge by teaching or volunteering. This keeps you asking more of your peers, and your peers will keep asking more of you. This is the exact space where new ideas form.