Advancing careers in vegetation management
The University of Wisconsin- Stevens Point offers the only professional utility vegetation management certificate program in North America thanks, in part, to the vegetation management team at American Transmission Co.
The Utility Arborist Association and Utility Vegetation Management Association developed the Utility Vegetation Management Certificate Program in 2014. The certification includes a college-level training program for middle managers and leaders in utility vegetation management and an industry-recognized professional credential. The program was initially piloted at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology before transitioning to UWSP in early 2020.
ATC’s vegetation management team has supported University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point’s Forestry Department for five years, teaching an annual weeklong utility vegetation management course and serving on the UWSP Forestry Advisory Committee for four years.
ATC’s involvement has brought greater awareness of the career opportunities available in vegetation management, leading the UWSP College of Natural Resources, Forestry Education and Development Initiative to offer the Utility Vegetation Management Professional Development Program certificate.
“ATC’s vegetation management team played a huge role in our decision to offer this certificate,” said Dr. Les Werner, professor and director of the Wisconsin Forestry Center at UWSP. “They made the UWSP faculty see the opportunities for students to have a rewarding career in utility vegetation management. Without that introduction, we would probably have taken on the certificate, but we would have been at a disadvantage of what it would take to implement it.”
Demand for vegetation management drove need for certificate
While job growth in the arboricultural industry is expected to increase by 7% over the next five years, the opportunities in utility vegetation management are currently limitless. There are three main reasons for this demand – changes in FERC/NERC regulations impacting management of vegetation on transmission line rights-of-ways, regional challenges such as emerging tree pests like the emerald ash borer and managing within fire- prone areas, and the public’s decreasing tolerance for power interruptions.
“We’re very excited about the utility vegetation management certificate,” said Philip Charlton, president, Utility Arborist Association. “The certificate will better prepare people to be managers and help distinguish them from their peers. We also wanted to give tree workers an opportunity to have a career path to move out of the tree and into management, even without a college degree.”
Comprehensive program provides needed skills and knowledge
The comprehensive training program is designed and facilitated by industry professionals, who provide the knowledge and skills needed to plan and manage sustainable utility vegetation management programs. The certificate is earned by completing six, 12-week courses that are project-based and 100% online. Participants range from tree workers to tree company executives.
Courses are designed to enhance the understanding and application of the industry’s best practices including safety, integrated vegetation management, environmental stewardship, and sustainability.
Completion of the certificate program is an avenue to being recognized by the industry as a Certified Utility Vegetation Management Professional by the UAA.
The intensive, two-year program was first offered by UWSP in April 2020 with 25 participants. There was so much interest that UWSP offered another course in May 2020 for an additional 25 participants. In September 2020, 50 people enrolled and 54 people enrolled in January 2021. The first UWSP class will graduate in early 2022.
Roughly 20 people were certified as part of the initial Southern Alberta Institute of Technology pilot.