After two years in the planning, the Landscape Horticulture Department announces its new Urban Arboriculture Program starting this Fall and offering both a degree and two certificates in this popular career of planting and maintaining trees. To help introduce the new program, the Landscape Horticulture Merritt community is inviting the Merritt community and beyond to a tree-climbing demo with a chance to hop into a bucket and go up in a tree youself to see how it’s done close-up on Tuesday, May 1, from 12-2, in front of the Library. Besides the bucket truck, arborists will demonstrate climbing techniques to show how they work on the trees to maintain them, and bring a spray truck to show health-care applications.
The idea for the program came about because of the demand for trained arborists in the area but no programs to train them. Local and national companies from the tree industry approached Merritt’s highly reputable Landscape Horticulture Department and asked for help. It was an offer that Laura Forlin, Co-Chair of the Landscape Horticulture Department, couldn’t refuse.
“Big tree companies couldn’t find enough skilled help to hire so they came to us and asked us to start a program to train workers,” she says. “They said, ‘we have tons of job openings but nobody to fill them.’ They also shared that they would be willing to hire our students while they were still in school.”
That’s all she needed to hear to start thinking about making it a reality. “We felt like we were well-positioned, given our location in the center of the Bay Area. We met with tree industry folks to find out what kinds of skills were needed for those jobs and built the program with that feedback in mind.”
So for the past two years, the department has been building a curriculum for the new program,“Urban Arboriculture” to meet the needs of the industry. They combined existing classes like “Intro to Horticulture” and Plant Terminology” with nine new classes they created like “Aerial Tree Work” and “Equipment Fundamentals.”
Their work has resulted in the creation of a two-year Associate of Degree in Arboriculture and two Certificate of Achievement programs in Tree Care Specialist and Tree Climber Specialist. This Fall, there are six courses offered for students to start the program, and Laura has already had lots of interest from potential students.
“We are the only college in the state to offer this program,” says Laura. “The next closest one we know of is in Oregon. Most workers learn on the job which is very costly for companies who have to train their workers. That’s why they wanted a program to send them to.”
In fact, several of the company representatives who asked for the program will be the instructors. “We have received a tremendous amount of support from the local tree companies, like Aplus Trees, Arborwell, and Davey Tree Expert, and from the national Tree Care Industry Association (TCIA). Besides teaching in the program, many companies are serving on an advisory board to offer advice and support.
“We’re exciting about our new program and hope everyone will come out to the demo to see it,” says Laura. “We’d especially like to have counselors try it themselves so they can tell interested students about their experience!”
Photo credit (right): Tree Care Industry Association (TCIA)