The seventh in our series looking at 12 inspirational women who’ve chosen to make their living in arb. In this edition we get an insight from one of the few female utility arborists in the country on her route into the industry and learning the ropes in the world of utility arboriculture.
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12 Faces of Arb
I have always been an outdoors sort of girl; growing up I was always outside, knee deep in the dirt, surrounded by horses, livestock and wildlife, and never took to the idea of a career that would keep me inside.
I’m 24 years old and came into the industry January 2019 as an apprentice for a company which works predominantly in the Utility sector. We ensure that the lines stay clear and that there are no trees near the vicinity zones. I am a part of a 16 strong team, am the only female, and have never enjoyed getting up so much in the early hours of the morning to get to work, which I really think speaks volumes!
A few years ago, I had a job on a livestock farm. During the colder months, I would be out with my boss and his son, and watched them carry out tree work with awe, thinking ‘yeah, I could do this…I WANT to do this.’ My parents and I spent a lot of time contacting different employers to ask how you could get into Arboriculture and everyone came back with “go get your tickets, then come back to me”, which at the time, wasn’t possible with my personal circumstances. A few months later, while scrolling through a jobsite I found a pop up for an apprenticeship in Arb, went for it and applied. I heard back quickly, had my interviews and 8 months later, with a few tickets under my belt, I am head over heels in love with the industry.
Working with a large group of men can have its challenges but mostly I have found myself with a sense of belonging; like I have 15 brothers who have my back and am surrounded with nothing but support and encouragement.
“Working with a large group of men …like I have 15 brothers who have my back and am surrounded with nothing but support and encouragement.”
Utility has taught me a lot. We are always under the watchful eye of the Network, which means that our work is always completed complying to Health and safety regulations, and paperwork is in depth and thorough. Our vehicles are always loaded up with the correct PPE and equipment, and we are guided by our team leaders who all have varying years of experience and knowledge and are all regularly alcohol and drug tested in accordance with the Networks have a zero-tolerance policy.
I recently attended the Women’s Arb Camp (WAC for short) and had an amazing time meeting 50 other women working in similar environments to myself. We spent 5 days in beautiful Finland, climbing, learning, and progressing. I can’t wait for the opportunity to possibly join them again next year and truly believe that I have gained some lifelong friends from the experience.
“I recently attended the Women’s Arb Camp …[I] truly believe that I have gained some lifelong friends from the experience.”
The Utility sector has received a lot of negative opinions for quite some time, and was often seen as being tree butchery, but in more recent years it has really proven itself to be something that requires skill and perseverance. To have a tree in front of you, that is breaching the vicinity and live zones, with a minimum clearance required, and to be able to do it without leaving a half-decimated tree is a challenge, and one that all our guys can do. In order for us to carry out Utility works, we have all been required to complete a series of additional qualifications, knows as Utility suite, or UA which consists of several different exams, all of different levels ranging from basic electrical knowledge to felling, climbing and surveying around the Network. Our company takes great pride in being Arb Association Approved, with the Approved contractor accreditation awarded in 2014 and then the recently created Utility Arb Approved accreditation in 2018. I asked my manager why we go to such lengths and he explained that having this accreditation sets the bar for the level of excellence that we wish the company to achieve, and I am incredibly proud to be a part of this.