The fifth in our series looking at 12 inspirational women who’ve chosen to make their living in arb. In this month’s edition of ‘12 Faces of Arb’ climbing arborist Georgi Ennis discusses her journey through arboriculture and the exciting career possibilities on the horizon.
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12 Faces of Arb
I’m 20 years old and I’ve been working in the Arb industry for 3 years. Whilst working as a sub-contractor, I have become more competent with climbing as I work for many companies with different tools and teams with many years of experience. I’ve also branched out into carving which I enjoy as it is creative. Recently, I was asked by a company to come and talk to a girl school leaver who was interested in getting into the Arb industry. We tried rope climbing and demonstrated rigging operations – I think she enjoyed the experience.
Originally, I wanted to be a Horticulturalist/Botanist so I studied at Merrist Wood College where I completed a Level 3 City and Guilds Diploma in General Horticulture. After that, I worked in a prestigious plant nursery which supplies rhododendrons and azaleas to the Queen and Royal Household. Whilst working for the nursery, I helped build a display for Chelsea Flower Show which won a gold medal. I wanted to specialise more in trees and so I returned to studying at Merrist Wood College for another two years whilst completing a Level 3 City and Guilds Diploma in Forestry plus Arboriculture and a Level 3 City and Guilds Extended Diploma in Forestry and Arboriculture.
In the past year I have been travelling and working as a sub-contractor to numerous companies in the UK, Scotland and Sweden as a climber and carver as well as attending the annual Women’s Arb Camp which is held in a different country each year.
What do you love about trees?
There is so much I enjoy about working with trees. I love the seasonal changes, I love their complex biomechanics and how they react to changes in their environments. I love the history that can revolve around a single veteran tree that has witnessed great battles, social change and possibly even seen the life of a famous author writing stories under their shade. They provide so much for us; food, medicine, the oxygen we breathe. They probably hold the key to cure so many diseases which we are still unable to solve. They are the longest living organisms on this planet and form their own live museum for all to see for free. They are truly humbling to the soul.
I like the fact that everyone loves to teach or learn new skills. In general, people in this community want to develop either on the science side or the practical climbing/working side.
It’s always nice trying something new and finding things that work better when you’re climbing and working. The community of women arborists, tree officers, scientists etc. are amazing. You never feel overwhelmed, it’s always an enjoyable and educational environment.
The specialist set of skills needed to undertake tree work of any kind puts you through mental and physical agility as well as team work and good communication. Any one of these factors can be challenging but having to do all four with a team that you may have only just met, is something else. In our line of work, we have an ever changing office with a great view and an awesome workforce.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far?
The most unsettling situation I’ve had was with colleagues in the work place being inappropriate to the point of harassment, eventually my only option in this scenario was to leave. Being a young, female often has its challenges as for one, veteran tree surgeons may assume I don’t have much experience as I’m fresh out of college. To change their minds, I try and show them new techniques and discuss up to date thinking in the industry.
Any plans for the future?
So, starting in September 2019, I have been offered a place at Kew Gardens in London to complete a Specialist Certificate in Arboriculture which is a year-long course. From here I might stay at Kew and take a further course which could be another move towards taking a doctorate. I could also come back into the industry and become a Tree Officer or Surveyor but for now, I’m just working and improving my experience.
What advice would you give someone looking to work in arboriculture or change career?
There is so much more to arb that just ‘cutting trees’ – It’s such a flexible sector that anyone could find their niche within this industry and be happy for life – I know I have. Support each other and we will all have a great working life within this industry.
As with any male orientated industry, women can receive unwanted attention. If this becomes a constant problem, report it to your manager who will deal with the situation.
With the advantage of new climbing kit such as the rope wrench and chicane, it makes climbing trees much easier for anyone including women who might doubt their own strengths. There is also advancement in PPE designed specifically for women such as chainsaw trousers.
I’d like to thank everyone who supports me in the industry and those who have taught me key skills and broadened my knowledge to get me to where I am today. I am looking forward to seeing where my future takes me within the Arb industry.