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Chainsaw Wisdom
Arborist of the Future
Payback Time:  Mentoring the Next Generation

Are my feelings and the feelings my colleagues have shared with me that the workforce is shrinking real or perceived, local or beyond?   A recent Request for Proposal (RFP) released by the International Society of Arboriculture picked up on that suspicion that many of us have had, stating “Data suggests that interest in the practice of arboriculture has been on a steady decline over the last several decades, while the need for skilled labor to fill green industry positions is growing. At odds with a decreasing tree care workforce, are an increase in the number of trees being planted and a growing awareness among the general public (i.e. those demanding and paying for the services) that these trees need expert care.  More trees, requiring more care, means greater demands on the workforce.”

That acknowledgement and the ISA’s thoughts on strategies for workforce development are important topics of discussion for every Arboriculture workplace, small and large:

  • Encourage students (and their parents) in elementary, middle, and/or high school to consider a career in arboriculture, urban forestry, or an allied green industry field.
  • Articulate the variety and profitability of work (from pruning to policy making) available to those interested in arboriculture and urban forestry.
  • Help prepare individuals for their first jobs in the industry, whether through training, apprenticeships, internships, and/or a two- or four-year degree.
  • Ensure that these essential workers are properly educated and trained to current standards.
  • Provide continuing education to enable individuals to further their knowledge and develop their careers.
  • Recognizes (professionally and publicly) that green careers are rewarding and valued in the industry and society.


ISA notes several challenges currently facing industry, the current labour force and the future labour force:

  • Declining enrollment in academic and technical programs producing arborists, urban foresters, and allied professionals.
  • Decreasing supply of skilled labour.
  • Lack of standardized training requirements across companies, communities, states, and sectors.
  • Inherent risks associated with tree care.
  • Lingering social stigma between the trade industry and the professionals/white collar workers.


The good news is that the International Society of Arboriculture is moving swiftly on these challenges by collaborating to find/implement solutions within Urban Forestry, Arboriculture, and the larger green industry.  We can’t expect the ISA to leap this great hurdle on their own, and it’s best that individuals begin to take responsibility if work conditions are to improve in the short and long term. 

What does that look like exactly?  Check back for part 2.

You can read the “Facilitation Services for Industry Summit” RFP in full at http://www.isa- arbor.com/newsroom/resources/news_RFPIndustrySummitFacillitation.pdf


- Gary Oaks