Auckland University graduate Josh Symes held a degree in geography and environmental science but like so many other young people, he was left wondering ‘what now?’
“Everything that I was applying for job description-wise, didn’t appeal to me,” he explains. “I didn’t want to be stuck inside working office hours every week.”
Thankfully his dream career dawned on the 29 year-old while chopping down large cypress trees one weekend in his parent’s Auckland garden.
“I decided if I could do that for a job all day I’d be pretty happy. I was aware those sort of jobs existed so I just started looking for arboriculture vacancies and stumbled across one at Wellington City Council.”
Josh says starting work as an arboriculture apprentice was “an eye-opening experience” to discover what the profession actually involved. “I was completely unaware of the real science that it is.”
His new apprenticeship involved on-the-job training and part-time study with Primary ITO. Over the past three years Josh has completed his Level 4 arboriculture qualification and has now been promoted to an arborist position working in council-owned parks and reserves across Wellington.
“The ability to study the theory and then implement what you’ve learned in the workplace straight away is a really great combination,” Josh says.
“What really struck a chord with me was the wealth of knowledge the Primary ITO tutors have. They’re experts in their fields and they have such a passion for the subjects they teach. It was a real privilege to just sit and listen to them and it was really reassuring to know they’re the ones teaching you.”
Josh progressively worked his way through study booklets, workplace assessments and classroom training sessions to learn a huge variety of topics including tree planting, pruning techniques, tree biology, soil science and more daunting subjects like advanced felling and rigging.
“I saw my colleagues doing that stuff out in the field and I felt quite intimidated. But Primary ITO breaks everything down into small chunks and in the end you realise your confidence has grown and you are capable of doing those tasks too.”
In fact, Josh improved his knowledge and skills to the point he was named ‘New Arborist of the Year’ at last year’s industry awards.
“I was taken aback really. It was one of those unexpected moments. We all learnt a lot from the experience and I’m so glad I had the opportunity to be part of it.”
“Knowing you’re going to be competing in a competition like that forces you to push yourself a bit harder when you’re studying. I put a lot of emphasis on my tree identification and aerial rescue skills. It pushes you in a good way.”
Josh says Primary ITO study has set him firmly on a solid career path and has helped him discover which areas of arboriculture he’s particularly passionate about.
“I quite like the idea of doing some consulting in the future, perhaps around hazardous trees or inspecting trees that might pose a future hazard. Or perhaps city planning with the trees and landscape and having some input into that.”
“The idea of teaching at some point, having been through the Primary ITO programme, is actually quite appealing as well.”