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Arborist apprenticeship is nationally registered and recognized by the U.S. Department of Labor. This program provides you, the employer, with an effective recruiting, training and retention tool for new and old employees. By offering apprenticeship, your business can grow and thrive!

Benefits for Your Business

  • Highly-skilled employees who adopt a safer work ethic and will produce quality results for your business, subsequently saving you money
  • A committed team whose skills, confidence and loyalty will develop under your expert supervision
  • Flexibility to replenish your workforce as experienced employees transition to different roles, change careers or retire
  • Increased productivity, resulting in a profitable return on investment for every dollar you spend on training
  • Lower recruiting costs because a motivated, satisfied employee with a defined career path and wage progression is likely to stay longer

Flexible Program Model

Employees are trained and certified at the highest skill levels through an apprenticeship program.

The program includes a combination of job-related classroom/self-study instruction in addition to on-the-job learning (OJL) at the job site. Design your program in one of three ways:

  • Time-based – your apprentice completes a required number of hours in on-the-job training and related instruction
  • Competency-based – your apprentice progresses at their own pace as they demonstrate competency in skills and knowledge through proficiency checkpoints
  • Hybrid approach – you customize a program using minimum and maximum range of hours and your apprentice’s successful demonstration of identified and measured competencies

Your apprenticeship program can be customized to meet the needs of your business and the skills of your apprentice. For example, you might have your apprentice complete the related instruction and OJL at the same time. You might also have your apprentice “front load” the related instruction before starting a job, or you could alternate related instruction and OJL.

This is an “earn while you learn” model. Apprentices are employees who receive a paycheck from day one, so they earn wages while they learn on the job.

It will take approximately four years for your apprentice to complete the program. However, the time it takes to complete the apprenticeship can be shortened based on any relevant and transferable education or work experience, if applicable, as well as any overtime that your apprentice works.

Here is a full list of the suggested competencies and associated hours of on-the-job learning (or “OJL”) that your apprentice can cover over the course of the program. Please take note from the following three instructions:

  1. Firstly you must identify someone on your team who is able to train an individual in all the work processes.
  2. Secondly OJL is an opportunity for you to train the apprentice using your company’s approach to each of these areas using technology that exists in your organization.
  3. Thirdly you may work with your state/federal apprenticeship representative to change the suggested competencies to fit your business model and company training philosophy.

Here is a full list of the competencies and associated hours for on-the-job learning:

Hours Work Process Description (Competencies)
450-500 Adhere to ANSI and employer safety standards for all work.
180-200 Identify common trees and shrubs in the employer’s region.
540-600 Perform rigging on the ground and aloft.
900-1,000 Access trees safely.
720-800 Operate a chain saw on the ground and aloft, and perform field maintenance.
270-300 Operate a chipper.
900-1,000 Prune trees and shrubs from the ground and aloft, according to ANSI A300.
720-800 Remove trees and shrubs.
720-800 Local Optional Work Processes
A. Operate vehicles with or without trailer.
B. Operate aerial lifts.
C. Operate stump grinder.
D. Participate in responses to storms and emergency situations.
E. Install tree support and lightning protection systems.
G. Perform plant health care activities.
5,400-6,000 Total Hours

To begin with as part of the program, apprentices complete job-related classroom/self-study instruction to complement their on-the-job training. This related instruction is approximately 440 hours of learning, and can be completed in one of two ways:

  • In-person at a higher-education institution with an approved program
  • Online self-study program provided by the Tree Care Industry Association

Apprenticeship Curriculum

Here is an outline of the topics that your employee can expect to cover over the course of their apprenticeship:

  • Arborist skills
  • Equipment fundamentals
  • Aerial tree work
  • Tree and shrub identification
  • Rigging and tree removal
  • Tree biology and identification
  • Plant health care
  • Leadership in tree care operations
  • Communication skills

Additional Training

In addition to the curriculum above, the following related-instruction training requirements depend on the needs of your business, and may include:

  • State Pesticide Applicator License
  • Safety training
  • CPR, First Aid and AED
  • Commercial Driver’s License

Getting Started Is Easy

  1. The Arborist Apprenticeship National Guideline Standards are available.
  2. Visit the U.S. DOL Employment and Training Administration to determine the primary contact who can assist you with the appropriate filing requirements in your state.

The Tree Care Industry Association (TCIA) will aid employers who wish to register their apprenticeship program with appropriate state or federal agencies. For more information, contact

Registered apprenticeship is an employer-driven recruitment and retention tool that combines on-the-job learning with related instruction. It is a proven approach for preparing workers for jobs while building a skilled workforce. This earn while you learn model offers a flexible training strategy, which can be customized to meet the needs and standards of your current business model.

Apprenticeships allow employers to take charge of building their own pipeline of highly-skilled, qualified and motivated workers.

Graduates of a registered apprenticeship program receive a nationally recognized credential awarded by the US Department of Labor.

Yes, your apprentice will be a full-time employee and earn money based on a progressively-increasing wage schedule. As the apprentice goes through the program, completing hours and learning competencies, they earn more money.

Here is a recommended wage progression:

First-year apprentice (0-1999 hours of OJL completed) = 70% of journey-worker rate

You are encouraged to evaluate apprentices regularly, using existing appraisal processes to provide employee feedback. Keep in mind, as the employer, you reserve the right to delay wage increases if the apprentice is not making good progress, or increase wage rate for exceptional performance.

By definition, a journeyworker is an individual that possesses a Certificate of Completion of Apprenticeship issued by the US Department of Labor Office of Apprenticeship.

To keep it simple, a journeyworker is a worker who has attained a level of skill, abilities, and competencies recognized within an industry as having mastered the skills and competencies required for the occupation. Your journeyworker should be competent in the content of the apprenticeship with the ability to train others.

The Arborist Apprenticeship is a new program, though, and therefore requires the establishment of journeyworkers. As the employer, you will determine the qualifications for a journeyworker and identify individuals on your team that meet these qualifications.

To help get you started, TCIA has compiled some suggested qualifiers for you to consider. CLICK HERE

In order to determine the journeyworker wage rate, you must first identify who meets the qualifications for a journeyworker within your organization.

Once this is established, you can determine how many qualified journeyworkers you have on staff and their average rate of pay. We also recommend that you exam local, existing wage structures to ensure an appropriate and competitive wage.

Each employer offers different benefits to their employees. It is your decision to offer tuition reimbursement. If this is not a benefit offered through your company, then the apprentice will be responsible for funding their related instruction.

You may grant credit for previous work experience based on your apprentice’s demonstration of skills or knowledge equivalent to those identified as on-the-job learning competencies.

The hiring process for an apprentice is no different from your current hiring process. Complete any interviewing, skills testing, drug testing or onboarding as you normally would.

Keep in mind, candidates can be sourced two ways:

  1. New hires to your organization
  2. Current employees

Consider posting your apprentice job opening through Outside Careers. We offer free entry-level job postings to help you start recruiting today.

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