Labour shortages are impacting a wide range of industries in Canada, including arboriculture.
That’s what persuaded Dave Saunders, who’s worked as an arborist for more tha 30 years, to develop a pilot program for training local students as urban arborists.
He says training the next generation of tree trimmers allows him to give back, while solving a big problem Island businesses and municipalities face.
“That’s why I tried to develop this program, because I can’t find employees that want to work in my field,” he said. “Climate change, we’re seeing more trees die, we’re seeing more properties that need to be fire smarted. We need that workforce now but that workforce is not getting into the business, so somehow that trade is being missed.”
Saunders says a training program in becoming an urban arborist is the first of its kind, and the first training program on the Island — before this, people who wanted to get into the field had to study on the mainland.
Currently, Saunders is working with 18 students from Camosun College and schools in the Sooke school district. The five-day pilot program is meant to demonstrate the need for the project. Saunders says he is working on developing a full training program with Camosun.
During the pilot project, students have been working on learning safety, using equipment and conservation techniques in arborists work. Saunders says students have been excited about learning the trade.
Saunders says he’ll be running a similar pilot project with Greater Victoria school students this spring.
The students benefit and the schools are set to benefit as well, with students working on removing trees on school or municipality grounds, with the recycled wood then given back to the schools for their use.
“I hope that these kids can take part in all that process, right from being helpers to take the tree down, being helpers at the mill site, learning through that process and then replanting a tree and fully recycling everything,” he said.
Saunders adding that having a training program and more professional arborists could “help alleviate the whole situation” at Fairy Creek.
“In my my firsthand experience in logging and tree work in a municipal and a forested area, it’s usually nowadays, quite adversarial,” he said.
“Everybody that was (part of the pilot project) were from all walks of life, whether they were environmentalists or, or they wanted to cut a tree, now they fully understand that this can be sustainable, and it’s not us versus them.”