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Demand Increases for Qualified Arborists In New Zealand

19 September 2017

Cameron Mitchell

Trained, highly-skilled, experienced arborists are hard to come by in New Zealand right now.

The arboriculture industry is in the midst of a boom and there simply aren’t enough qualified workers to keep up with demand.

Bark Ltd has successfully grown into a nationwide business over the past 22 years and manages some of New Zealand’s most prestigious grounds and gardens including Parliament and Premier House. But the company’s arboriculture manager for the Wellington region, Cameron Mitchell, says more apprentices are needed coupled with quality industry training.

“Arboriculture as a career has been on the skills shortage list for quite some time now,” he explains. “There are very few qualified arborists available to train up new ones and the challenge for any apprentice is finding a site where you’ve got the time to focus on training and learning.

“We strongly believe in taking people on and training them up to a really high standard which has benefits for both us and them. We take a lot of satisfaction and pride in sending people out into the industry who have been trained here at Bark.”

The company has a long-standing relationship with industry training provider Primary ITO and five of Cameron’s arboriculture team members are currently studying and undertaking on-the-job training to upskill themselves.

“Training is a collaborative effort. The apprentices will go on block courses with Primary ITO where they’ll learn the technical side of being an arborist and study subjects like tree identification and soil analysis. Then I’ll deliver a lot more of the practical skills here in the workplace.”

“Together we produce people who go on to be industry leaders in their own right. It gives me a deep sense of satisfaction and pride to see how far their careers progress.”

Arboriculture is ideally suited to people who are physically fit, have a sense of adventure, a practical mind-set, and love being outdoors. Once qualified, Kiwi arborists are sought-after all over the world, providing plenty of opportunities to work and travel.

Cameron is deputy chair of the industry’s training advisory group and treasurer of the NZ Arboriculture Association. He attributes the current industry boom to New Zealand’s strong economy, more housing developments and large civil projects such as Wellington’s Transmission Gully which require trees to be removed.

“I believe completing an apprenticeship and studying with Primary ITO is the best form of arboriculture training available. It provides that one-on-one support. Primary ITO’s training advisors are super friendly and the quality of their courses is always really high.”

He would encourage other arboriculture employers in New Zealand to offer Primary ITO training to help ensure the future of the industry as a whole.

“The investment you make in your trainees pays dividends as their confidence grows and they become more useful to you. I believe it’s far better to invest the time into training people in the early stages of their apprenticeship so they can increase their productivity as their skills grow.”