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Sunday, April 14, 2024
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TreeForce: Where We Started And Where We're Going

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Hayley Kwasniewski
/ Categories: Green Economies

It has been nearly a year since The Park People launched TreeForce, and my, how things have grown since then. For both new and established readers, here is a quick recap of our one year old program (not to brag, but it’s walking, talking, and already graduated twice!), its milestones, and a look ahead as it continues to flourish. 

TreeForce is The Park People’s workforce development program, an innovative, eight week pre-apprenticeship designed to educate and prepare adults for career paths in urban forestry. The importance of this program cannot be overstated: Denver alone has an estimated 200 employee shortage in its tree industry, and this number is projected to grow as the city prioritizes tree-planting (in addition to other conservation and sustainability efforts) to mitigate the effects of climate change. Further, this program provides urban forestry career pathways to Denver community members facing barriers to employment, and with whom The Park People are connected via Second Chance Center, a nonprofit organization helping formally incarcerated individuals transition into society. Not only is TreeForce putting down roots, TPP’s Workforce Development program is creating canopy. 

Three TreeForce pre-apprentices and Field Crew Supervisor, Amanda, planting a tree for a Denver low-canopy neighborhood resident.

Launched in August of 2022, TreeForce provided an initial cohort of 10 people with the following training, combining traditional instruction with an emphasis on hands-on field work: Trees 101, Tree Identification, Tree Health and Biology, and Pruning and Planting, a Tree Care Industry Association (TCIA) certification, as well as soft skill building activities and career resources and opportunities. This cohort graduated from the program with the skills necessary to apply for full-time employment in forestry, or continue on in the arborist apprenticeship at Front Range Community College via employment sponsorship. Several of these graduates volunteered their time with The Park People following the program, and were actively involved in the recruitment process for subsequent cohorts. This pilot demonstrated incredibly positive results and proved that, for TreeForce, the sky was the limit.

The second cohort began in April of 2023. Determined to improve upon the promising results of the first cohort, our (previous) Workforce Development Manager, Madeleine Hooker, and Field Crew Supervisor, Amanda Westendorf, worked with Second Chance Center to invigorate the structure of the program and expand the curriculum to the following: Tree Biology and Soil, Tree Identification, Tree and Plant Healthcare and Diagnosis, Safety, Tools and Equipment, Knot Making, Planting, Pruning, Climbing, Rigging, Survival Maintenance. TreeForce continued its on-the-job training and fieldwork model, as well as its partnership with Second Chance Center, continuing to provide pre-apprentices with necessary resources and resume and career development skills. 

Without a doubt, these improvements galvanized the second cohort, and of the 12 enrolled participants, 11 graduated, and seven have already found job placements, with four at the following spaces in the forestry industry: Taddiken Tree Company, Davey Tree Experts Company, and SavATree. 

Graduates of TreeForce's second cohort.

As we prepare for the third cohort, The Park People now welcomes its new Workforce Development Manager, Jane Smith, who brings to the role her past experience in education and passion for the Denver community. 

“In preparing for the next cohort, I'm most excited about introducing myself to and connecting with our partners, as well as beginning the recruiting process. I'm really looking forward to getting to know the next group of pre-apprentices, and I'm working hard to plan for how we can best support them,” Jane said. “For the future, I would love to see all participants graduate and either go into an apprenticeship program or find full-time job placement.”

Field Crew Supervisor, Amanda, who brings a background in horticulture, also feels hopeful for the future, and has even floated the idea of an all-women cohort to create pathways for more women to enter the heavily-male dominated field.. 

Jane and Amanda are currently readying themselves for cohort three, set to begin on September 5th. After many hours of planning, collaboration, and hard work on behalf of both The Park People staff and TreeForce’s Pre-Apprentices, TreeForce is indeed a force to be reckoned with. Not only has the program helped maintain Denver’s urban forest and forestry industry, but it has provided career pathways for members of the Denver community. 

By promoting collaboration between nonprofits, private tree companies, and local government, The Park People is excited to have created a cross-industry sustainability movement that will only continue to grow. 

We’ve come a long way, we’ve planted many trees, and we thank our partners and funders for their continued support. 

TreeForce pre-apprentices pruning neighborhood trees.


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