The “looming” shortage of arborists could pose a safety hazard and spark an urgent recruitment drive

According to an industry leader, the number of arborists needs to double in five years to keep up with increasing demand for green space across the country.

An additional 20,000 arborists are to be recruited by 2027 to ensure Australia’s parks remain safe and to prevent trees from falling without warning, known as ‘tree failure’.

Contractor Citywide is concerned about how the industry will keep up with commitments from governments at all levels to plant more trees for the benefit of the environment.

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The profession is on the federal government’s priority list for skills and is listed as in high demand in all states and territories.

“The industry has identified a need for 20,000 arborists in just the next five years just to keep up with existing levels of green infrastructure,” Citywide spokesman Simon Mossman told AAP.

“(In some areas) we could get by with four times as many arborists and arborists today.

“Governments and industry are at risk of potentially not meeting some of their goals for planting more trees.”

Citywide’s Samuel Virgo has a stake in the company’s high-demand tree care business. (JOEL CARRETT) Recognition: AAP

In recent years Australia has seen a number of fatal accidents involving trees or branches striking pedestrians and cars, showing how catastrophic tree failure can be.

“To mitigate potential safety risks and tree failure, we need the numbers. That’s basically the bottom line here,” Mossman said.

Arboriculture Australia director James Maund said he believes the labor shortage is worse than any other blue-collar trade.

“We recently conducted a survey and 91 percent of employers said they could not find the staff they needed and it was impacting their business,” he said.

Maund recently conducted an intensive training program and said three-quarters of those who completed it found jobs within a week.

According to the President of the Australian Local Government Association, Linda Scott, nine out of ten local authorities suffer from a shortage of jobs and skilled workers.

“Some communities need more arborists, while others need more planners, building surveyors or environmental health officers,” she said.

The labor shortage has long bothered arborist Michael Stafford, who tends trees around Melbourne.

“It’s going to be a pretty stressful situation,” Citywide’s contract manager said.

“We then look at 20 years later, the doubling of trees and how we’re going to conserve them.”

Isolation rules abolished

He believes more school leavers should be encouraged to pursue careers and consider arboriculture as it offers a lifelong career and something different every day.

Maund agrees that the profession “isn’t something people have on the horizon.”

He said while the job can be dangerous with a high number of injuries per capita, there’s a variety of roles on offer.

Arborists tend, plant and fell trees, while many move into advisory services or specialized areas such as pests and diseases.

Maund said the industry is particularly keen to include more women and young people in its ranks.

“It offers a great opportunity for someone who doesn’t want to work in an office environment,” he said.

“There’s a whole range of jobs in the industry that can span a 20, 30, 40 year career.” The “looming” shortage of arborists could pose a safety hazard and spark an urgent recruitment drive

James Brien

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