President's Perspective - Fall 2023

By Kevin Eckert on Monday, October 2, 2023

President’s Perspective

With humble appreciation for your trust and support, and an element of excitement, I begin my presidency of the Western Chapter of ISA. I wish to start my first message with my belief and pledge to you that the primary goal of chapter leadership, which should be the goal of all organization and government leadership, is accomplishment of core responsibilities. Ensuring that basic programs and services are in good running order and operating as intended is job one. Too frequently, especially in politics, leadership gets distracted with the latest bright, shiny thing that will leave its special mark and legacy for future bragging rights, while infrastructure is crumbling and basic services are malfunctioning.

I am pleased to recognize that our leadership, which includes Executive Director Rose Epperson and her wonderful team, has been doing an excellent job and we will continue with this focus on the basics first. As a Western Chapter member for almost 30 years, and now president, I believe that administration of chapter services, programs and resources have almost always worked great. More importantly, Rose and her team recognize that we have our challenges and, with your input, are always seeking opportunities for continuous improvement.

With this strong, service-based foundation established and maintained, chapter leadership and Rose have banked time and resources to enable WCISA to pursue initiatives that can improve and enhance services, resources and tools to help you do your work more safely, effectively, and efficiently.

After ensuring basic service and program delivery, one of my primary initiatives is the development of credible qualification credentials that will explicitly and clearly establish the credential holder as competent at a particular task (e.g., pruning, chainsaw safety, tree felling).

Arborist credentials are generally recognized as one of the strongest drivers for ISA and chapter members. Most services and programs revolve around education, training and the resources that support credentials. CEUs are usually reported to be the primary incentive for program attendance and membership.

In my 40+ years in our industry, the consistent challenge I encountered has been the inadequacy of our basic credentials. Years of dragging brush, climbing and running crews, developing and administering companies and programs, conducting training at all levels, and serving as an expert witness in numerous tree-related court cases convinced me that our credentials are great for knowledge, but lacking when it comes to the necessary skills to conduct our work safely, correctly, and effectively.

Certified Arborist, Certified Tree Worker, and Utility and Municipal Specialist are unequivocally valuable, basic educational programs that are extremely important to our industry and must be maintained at some level. However, these programs do not measure the credential holder’s practical skills. This is compounded by the lack of generally recognized, alternative arborist credentials that cause many service users to unreasonably expect and depend on these credentials as a qualification.

To be truly qualified, a credential holder should possess a sufficient level of knowledge (which is accomplished effectively with current credentialing) as well as a demonstrated competency in practical skills. These practical skills could be measured and defined through a set of “micro-credentials:”

  • Micro-credentials are focused credentials designed to provide the skills, experience, and demonstration of measured competencies required by recognized industry standards.
  • Micro-credentials will support arborists by delivering a well-defined training structure, including clear, standardized performance metrics, which verifies competence.
  • Micro-credentials provide a pathway to a qualification credential that identifies a professional’s competency for specific services/tasks.
  • Micro-credentials could be applied at various levels of the profession from entry to craftsperson through to “Qualified Master Arborist”.
  • Micro-credentials will support arborists with a credible credential that will increase their marketability and value to employers. This will also support employers and service users seeking to retain workers with defined, proven knowledge and skills.

I hope that you are as excited as I about the potential for micro-credentials. It will require a number of years to develop the full scope of the desired credentials, but we are working hard to establish the foundation. I would very much like to hear from you on your thoughts on this initiative.

Please contact me or the chapter office if you have questions, suggestions or would like further information on chapter services, resources, or micro-credentials.