Working at heights is an essential part of arboriculture and Mathew O’Connor already had plenty of experience in that department when he first entered the industry in 2016.
The former high-rise window cleaner used to dangle over 100m in the air to clean the outside of Wellington’s tallest building, the Majestic Centre. So climbing up tall trees wasn’t too far out of his comfort zone.
“I do actually find heights a little bit scary but as long as I can make sure it’s safe, I’m fine,” he explains.
Mathew’s desire to take on a new challenge prompted his career change, and he secured an apprenticeship at Bark Ltd in Wellington about 14 months ago. His new employer immediately signed him up with Primary ITO to undertake on-the-job training and study arboriculture to help quickly develop his skills.
“The industry appealed to me as I enjoy working with machinery and love the outdoors. The fact that I can gain a qualification while working and learning on the job is also a huge bonus. I like the small and close team environment at Bark,” he says.
The 25 year-old already had the necessary ‘working at heights’ qualifications and a broad knowledge of health and safety thanks to his previous window cleaning job, but he has thrown himself into his arboriculture studies so he could advance as quickly as possible.
“I have had to be a fast learner as the responsibilities expected of me in my first year have been demanding due to the shortage of qualified arborists in the industry,” Mathew says.
“The highlight of my training has been working while I learn. I am a hands on person and like the adrenaline I get from felling, dismantling and climbing huge trees. I have enjoyed working with experienced arborists and learning from the industry’s best.”
Mathew says the mentoring he has received from his Primary ITO training adviser has been particularly beneficial. “Primary ITO have been supportive and available to answer any questions I have. My adviser is efficient and ensures I am on track with my unit standards.”
He credits the high standard of training he’s received for helping him progress quickly and manage additional responsibilities at work. “The training has also contributed to my second place finish at the Wellington Regional Young Arborist Competition and I have now qualified for the New Zealand Young Arborist Competition in Tauranga in October.”
Mathew plans to continue developing his skills and aims to become an expert in the field of arboriculture. “When I am qualified and experienced, I would like to lead a team of arborists and help train and mentor other young apprentices.”
He’s thankful Bark Ltd has partnered with Primary ITO to offer industry training, and recommends other people seize the opportunity to study if they want to successfully switch careers.
“Most definitely! Who doesn't want to learn and obtain a qualification while working and earning a decent wage?”