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The Park People Launch Treeforce This Summer

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Equitably Addressing Denver’s Urban Forestry Workforce Crisis


There is a well-documented worker shortage across the country. As hiring demands grow towards pre-pandemic numbers, we’re still seeing inadequate numbers of workers. Many experts note that wage stagnation over the last several decades contributes to this shortage. To make matters more complicated, the number of skilled workers does not match the demand for the crucial, innovative work across industries. There are not enough resources available to help folks transition to better paying, more stable careers.

What is the Urban Forestry Workforce Crisis?

In the face of our rapidly changing climate and urbanization, urban forests play a critical role in our resilience and strength as communities. With this critical role comes a huge need to increase tree planting and maintenance in our cities. Approximately 8,300 tree-industry workers are needed nationwide each year. Denver alone estimates a current shortage of 200 employees, which is predicted to grow as trees receive increased recognition as a vital tool in mitigating and combating climate change. Urban Forestry jobs involve everything from seedling production to municipal forestry to private tree care and stewardship. Communities with the lowest tree canopy cover are disproportionately low-income communities of color. This is reflected in the “inverted-L neighborhoods”, where the urban heat island effect is rampant and historic redlining practices have excluded neighborhoods from accessing green spaces. 

Tree care employers face challenges training and retaining employees in general, especially in communities where residents face barriers to employment. One report found that “92% of green industry businesses, which include areas like tree pruning, lawn care and floriculture, reported having difficulty finding qualified applicants for their open positions.” Relevant job training and placement has fallen behind the high demand for tree care workers. The statistics show that pre-employment training programs can lead to reductions in employee turnover rates as high as 50%. 

What will Treeforce do about it?

The Park People is excited to announce our launch of Treeforce in August 2022. Treeforce is a quality pre-apprenticeship program that provides career readiness training in green jobs and connects employer partners to qualified, pre-screened applicants. This program helps fill the worker shortage in the tree care community throughout the greater Denver area, while connecting community members facing barriers to employment to meaningful career paths in urban forestry. The heart of The Park People’s Treeforce will promote cross-industry collaborations throughout various sectors involved in the Colorado Front Range Urban Forestry Expansion Strategy, including municipalities, non-profit organizations, and private tree care companies. 

The pre-apprenticeship program will introduce participants to the breadth of forestry careers available to them and provide career exploration opportunities for underrepresented individuals in the field. Upon program completion, participants will be encouraged to pursue full time employment, education, and/or apply to the Colorado Arborist Apprenticeship. The pilot program will run August-September 2022. To learn more about Treeforce, our partners, and our first cohort, contact Madeleine Hooker at madeleine@TheParkPeople.org.

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