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Careers Day at Pate’s School

Author:  John Parker, CEO
  01/12/2023
Last Updated:  01/12/2023

John Parker, CEO

In July the Association took part in an innovative careers day at a Gloucestershire school.

Pate’s Grammar School is a co-educational establishment for children aged 11 to 18, and is located in Cheltenham – just up the M5 from the Malthouse. The careers day was organised by Emma Adams-Morgan, Head of the Personal Development Curriculum at Pate’s, and was intended to raise awareness about some lesser-known career paths which students might want to consider.

Three presenters had been invited along to make the case for their sector. Dr Samantha Organ, a RICS Chartered Surveyor and Senior Lecturer in Building Surveying at UWE Bristol, was representing the built environment. Phil Beastall, Creative Director at Squashed Robot and a writer and film director, represented the creative sector. And as you might have guessed, I was there to represent arboriculture on behalf of the Arboricultural Association and the tree care community.

The pitch

The day started with 150 year 9 students (14 year olds) listening to 10-minute presentations from the sector representatives. Each of these was a combination of why we thought the audience should think about joining our sector and a little about our own career journey. I started my presentation by asking the students if any of them had heard about arboriculture, or knew what it meant. One girl sat right at the front raised her hand. ‘Does it mean tree care?’ I was very impressed. ‘Yes! How did you know that?’ ‘Well, it’s written on your shirt.’ I was only slightly disappointed, but it is good to know our branding is working.

It is difficult to do justice to the whole sector in a 10-minute presentation, but I tried. Topics covered briefly included the importance of trees in the context of the environment, and the climate and biodiversity crises. Also, the value of trees to society, the benefits that amenity trees bring and the fact that behind the trees they see every day is a whole sector – arboriculture. I mentioned the different job roles available in management, consultancy and policymaking, using our What is arboriculture? leaflet as a prop. They were interested in the fact that you could make a living climbing trees, and that being an arborist can be quite a dangerous job. They were also very excited by the thought of climbing competitions.

Student involvement

After our presentations the students were divided into small groups, each randomly allocated either arboriculture, the built environment or the creative sector. Their challenge was to come up with a marketing campaign to promote careers in their nominated sector, targeted at school students. Each group had to come up with a slogan, a poster and an idea for a 30-second advert. They then had five minutes to pitch their idea in a qualifying round before the best five teams went on to pitch their ideas in a Dragon’s Den-style final.

As the students worked on their projects, Sam, Phil and I moved from group to group to get involved in the discussions and offer advice where required. I was really impressed with what I saw, and it was amazing to hear groups of young people discussing how best to promote arboriculture to their peers. They had obviously listened to a lot of what had been said and were supplementing that with their own research, and the materials I had brought with me, to create original ideas for their projects.

Their take on arboriculture

At the end of the day we were installed at our Dragon’s Den table to review the finalists. Of the five groups that made the final, two were representing the built environment and two the creative sector, with only one arb team having made it through. Luckily for our sector, that group was brilliant. Using Dr Seuss’s character The Lorax as the basis of their campaign, they focused on the wide variety of roles available in arboriculture, and clearly made the point that it was a career for everyone – one of their slogans being ‘ARBORICULTURE: ANYONE CAN DO IT’, which perhaps doesn’t come across exactly as intended, but you know what they meant.

The arb finalists made the case for arboriculture as a multi-disciplinary career which was good for society, and a profession where you could make a difference and have fun. They proposed a social media campaign with plenty of video content to promote the taglines ‘EMBRACE THE CANOPY AND EMBARK ON A REWARDING CAREER IN ARBORICULTURE’ and ‘VARIATION, COLLABORATION AND PRESERVATION’. The 30-second advert they wrote and acted out told the story of someone who was bored with their office job and turned their life around with a new career working with trees, although there are probably some of you out there reading this whilst sitting at your desks who might question that particular campaign.

Needless to say, the arb group was the unanimous choice of the judges to win the overall competition. Victory for arboriculture! All of the groups did some genuinely fantastic work, but obviously I was particularly supporting the groups promoting our sector and it was great to see their different approaches to the task. There was some truly impressive artwork and some really strong ideas. Potential marketing slogans proposed by the other teams included ‘HELP A TREE, HELP YOU BREATHE’, ‘SPEAK FOR THE TREES’ and – for a bit of celebrity endorsement – ‘TAYLOR SWIFT SAYS YES TO TREES.’

The Careers Day was a great experience and one of the most rewarding events I have participated in, and I would like to thank the whole team at Pate’s, particularly Emma, for making it happen – along with my fellow judges Sam and Phil for donating their time and knowledge to promote their own sectors. I would encourage any of our members to get involved in a similar event and spread the word about trees and the potential for careers in arboriculture.

The various Association freebies went down very well, with the frisbees, wristbands and pens proving particularly popular along with, somewhat surprisingly perhaps, a big stack of ARB Magazines.

If you find yourself booked to attend a similar event then let us know and we can provide all of the resources you need, as well as advice, tips and content for presentations if that would help.

Feedback and planning

At the end of the day, the students were asked to fill in a survey to give their thoughts on the careers they had learned about. Of those who responded:

  • 14% said they had heard about arboriculture before the day (which was surprisingly high, and only one of them actually put their hand up).
  • 86% felt that by the end of the day they were able to describe careers in arboriculture.
  • 15% said they would consider a job in arboriculture as a result of the day, and an additional 37% said ‘maybe’ to considering a job in arboriculture.

They were most surprised by:

  • ‘The wide variety of jobs.’
  • ‘Not just about trees.’
  • ‘The opportunities for tech jobs in the sector.’
  • ‘The variety and interest and travelling.’
  • ‘All of the non-physical jobs.’
  • ‘There are many different types, e.g. law.’
  • ‘Being able to compete in national tree climbing competitions.’
  • ‘Fun’
  • ‘How important they are for society and we didn’t know about them.’

Impact?

At our June Succession in Arboriculture meeting, the Association and our partner organisations identified schools, and particularly those year groups where pupils are considering their future careers, as being our priority to focus on. This experience seems to back up the value of targeting this age group, and whilst the overall issue of succession is of course a very complicated one, this is one simple step we could all take to make a difference.

It is very hard to say what impact these events have, and it is quite likely that none of the students who went to that Careers Day will end up working in our sector. But at least now they know it is an option. The first time I had ever heard of the idea of arboriculture as a career was probably at the age of about 25. Nobody ever came into my school to tell me that arboriculture existed or that I should consider working with trees. By investing just one day of effort, 150 year 9 pupils have now heard of arboriculture. Some won’t have listened at all, and some will have forgotten immediately. Some might only remember when they find a dusty frisbee at the back of their desk in six months, before tossing it into the bin. Some might have gone home and told their parents, further spreading the message. Whatever careers they do end up in, hopefully some of them will know what arboriculture is when they hear it mentioned in the future. And maybe… just maybe … one of them might decide that arboriculture could be the career for them.

Part 1


This article was taken from Issue 203 Winter 2023 of the ARB Magazine, which is available to view free to members by simply logging in to the website and viewing your profile area.