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8th August 2017

Raising standards in arboriculture – the development of VETcert

Planning the VETcert project at the Tortworth Chestnut

The project seeking to develop a certification scheme for those who work with veteran trees is well underway. In June the VETcert partners met in Gloucestershire at an event hosted by the Arboricultural Association.

On the Sunday in advance of the meeting, the partners were treated to a visit to Crickley Hill led by Simon Cox, Technical Officer for the Arboricultural Association. This was an opportunity for partners to catch up, as well as look at some beech pollards and ancient oaks.

Monday morning started with a trip to the Tortworth Chestnut, led by Jim Mullholland, Training and Technical officer for the Ancient Tree Forum. Jim, who lives around the corner from the tree, explained its history and showed some of the vast collection of lithographs, paintings and sketches the Tortworth Estate company have amassed.

With the field trips out of the way, the partners headed to a meeting room to discuss the project. Updates on the how work was progressing were given by partners. The first item of work focussed on researching existing certification schemes, to see what can be learnt from them. This element of work was led by Inverde, Belgium’s premier arboricultural, forestry and nature conservation training centre. In undertaking this exercise, the project partners looked not only at tree related certification schemes but those from other disciplines as well. Other notable schemes include one for dry stone wall professionals and another for inspectors of children’s play equipment. A short list of suitable schemes has been produced, and this will be used to guide the creation of a framework for VETcert.

The second item on the agenda focused on the development of a veteran tree standard against which candidates will be assessed. Recognising the wealth of veteran tree knowledge they bring to the project, this task is being led by the Ancient Tree Forum. The standard setting process is ongoing, the aim being to produce a draft document available for public comment in December 2017. Some initial findings from the questionnaire are that approximately 90% of respondents believe there should be a prerequisite level of experience and qualification from candidates before they can apply for the scheme; for contractors (tree surgeons) the favoured amount of experience is 2-5 years whilst for consultants it is 5-10 years. The analysis of the survey responses is ongoing and the Ancient Tree Forum are hard at work preparing the draft standard in advance of a 5-day partner meeting in November in London.

The remainder of the two days was taken up with the practicalities of working on an EU funded project; there being strict requirements for reporting and time keeping. Although slightly tedious, these are essential elements of the project and have to be adhered to if partners are to receive their proportion of the funding. Vikki Bengtsson, ATF co-Vice Chair, and representing ProNatura, Sweden’s leading veteran tree management research and consultancy firm, is no stranger to EU projects and kept us on track as the meeting chair.

Further updates will be provided until the project comes to a close in August 2019. If you have any queries about VETcert  please contact Jim Mullholland, Training and Technical Officer, at training@ancienttreeforum.co.uk.

Posted by: Jim Mullholland Jim is the Ancient Tree Forum's Training and Technical Officer. He has a background in ecology and arboriculture, and has worked as a tree officer. He has a particular interest in veteran trees and bats.

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