City Trees

July/August 2011

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TRAINING ARBORISTS FROM THE GROUND UP Diversifying Urban Forestry by Connecting Non-Traditional Workers to Jobs in Tree Care Story and photos by Kimberly Kujoth, Environmental Policy Analyst, City of Milwaukee, Wisconsin M ilwaukee has a strong urban forestry heritage and has long recognized the value of its urban trees. This commitment to the care and maintenance of the City’s tree canopy is challenged by current fiscal constraints. In the face of these pressures, the City of Milwaukee Department of Public Works (DPW) Forestry Section strives to innovate, improve efficiency, and add value to our community. One such innovation is Strengthening Diversity in Urban Forestry Service Delivery (hereafter referred to as Strengthening), an urban forestry training initiative to prepare low-income City residents for jobs in tree care. Strengthening is a result of shared priorities among Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, DPW Officials, and Forestry Management including: • Improving diversity within the urban forestry profession and increasing the relevancy of urban forestry among non-traditional audiences • Delivering cost-effective services • Contributing to green job creation Part of Milwaukee’s urban forestry tradition is a long- running comprehensive skills-development program that trains and produces work-ready arborists to care for and maintain the City’s 200,000 street trees and 120 miles (193 km) of landscaped boulevards. The in-house train- ing program is designed to prepare participants, who have no prior arboriculture knowledge or experience, to work in urban forestry. Strengthening is modeled on this training but with a post-training focus on family-sup- porting employment in the private tree care industry. Strengthening will recruit, train, and assist in placing between 30-40 low-income Milwaukee residents with industry employment over two years. Trainees participate in a rigorous 32-week program to gain the knowledge and technical skills needed to work in the tree care indus- try. City Forestry staff train participants in tree climbing using rope and saddle, pruning, rigging, tree removals, hazard tree assessment, landscaping and irrigation, and aerial rescue. In addition, participants are trained in tree identification, biology, and function; tree health and nutrition; urban soil properties; safety protocols; and equipment usage. 18 Participants also receive training and testing for a State of Wisconsin Class B Commercial Driver’s License and Wisconsin Pesticide Applicator Certification. The City not only benefits from the job-placement outcome, but also from external funding for trainer positions and from the pruning work performed by the trainees. While already experienced in training programs, the City sought expertise and partnerships to launch a suc- cessful initiative. Critical partners include the Tree Care Industry Association (TCIA), Milwaukee Area Workforce Investment Board (MAWIB), Wisconsin Regional Training Partnership/BIG STEP and the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees District Council 48. Funding is provided by the USDA Forest Service, US Department of Housing & Urban Development, MAWIB, US Department of Labor, Jobs for the Future, and the Milwaukee Area Workforce Funding Alliance. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 is the source of funding for both the US Department of Housing & Urban Development and US Department of Labor grants. As a leader in training accreditation in the industry, TCIA validates the appropriateness of the training participants receive. As part of the initiative, trainees earn the TCIA Tree Care Academy Ground Operations Specialist and Tree Climber Specialist Certificates of Completion. In 2010, the City graduated its first Strengthening train- ing crew with 13 graduates. Of the successful graduates, 12 were employed following graduation. Graduates went to work for local private tree care companies including American Tree Experts, Hoppe Tree Service, and Crawford Tree Service. Some went to work for Asplundh, which contracts with the local utility for util- ity line clearance. In addition, some graduates were on temporary assignment conducting water course mainte- nance on Milwaukee area waterways, contracted by the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District. Employers are impressed with the level of training our graduates received and many will consider placements for the 2011 training crew. We look forward to sharing more about Strengthening Diversity in Urban Forestry Service Delivery at the 2011 Society of Municipal Arborists conference, September 25-28. See you in Milwaukee! City Trees

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