12 Faces of Arb - Training Manager, Kirsty McNicol
Autumn trees in a field

Published on

October 29 2019

Welcome to 12 Faces of Arb where in our eighth edition we hear from Women in Arb member Kirsty McNicol, Kirsty gives us an insight on her route into the industry and her career so far in the world of Arboriculture training.

A headshot of Kirsty McNicol, training manager

I have been in the industry for the last 13 years, with my current position being Training & LOLER Manager. I come from a non-arb background, with previous jobs including aromatherapist, administrator and adult learning tutor. From my initial role as a contract administrator on a national tree cutting contract, I have worked hard to develop and build my knowledge of the industry and have moved up through various roles.

Having set up and then managed Hi-Line’s HR & Training department for several years (and having interviewed probably more potential arborists than most people will do!) I then moved into my current position. As well as my role managing Hi-Line Training I am part of the Senior Management Team at Hi-Line and am also a member of the Arb Association Media & Communications Committee.

My love & knowledge of trees and the industry has grown and developed and, as well as lots of informal learning, over the past few years I have studied for my Level 2 Arboriculture and other qualifications. Being given the opportunity to focus on developing Hi-Line Training as an independent training and LOLER provider has enabled me to use lots of the different skills I have gained to date and I am fortunate that no two days really look the same. I could be viewing potential training sites, discussing training with candidates/businesses, scheduling courses & LOLER inspections, doing my departments invoicing and admin work, ordering or issuing climbing kit, managing my teams diaries, producing social media posts, delivering training, working at shows/exhibitions, giving talks to organisations/schools, developing new courses or working on site feeding the chipper whilst we tidy our training woodlands! Occasionally, and not what I’d ever expected to be doing in my job, you may also see me carrying chainsaws into prisons to give workshops on working in arboriculture or shopping for large quantities of fake blood and other weird items for our arb-focused first aid +f courses!

“My love & knowledge of trees and the industry has grown and developed…”

I am thankful that my managing director has believed in me enough (or just given into my nagging!) to let me pursue my idea of developing Hi-Line Training as an independent training provider, and for the people around me who have taught me so much about, and supported me in, this industry.

Working in arboriculture and around trees gives you the opportunity to work in some amazing locations with your work environment continually evolving and changing.

So many of the arb community have an incredible passion for their jobs, which is infectious, and you can gain so much knowledge and experience from those around you. Whether in person, or via social media, most people are happy to share their skills and experience with others, be it help with tree or fungi id or advice on a new working technique or piece of equipment. What starts as a job often quickly turns into a bit of an obsession!

As my team will tell you my head is continually filled with plans / ideas!

Continuing to develop and establish Hi-Line Training as a high quality, forward thinking training provider, not only in the South West but across the UK, is of course high on my list.

I am passionate about promoting arboriculture to young people and in schools/colleges and in showing the varied career opportunities available working with trees. I believe strongly in outdoor based learning and am currently studying for my Forest School Leader qualifications, with the plan being to run tree-focused forest school sessions for all ages from toddlers upwards.

"I am passionate about promoting arboriculture to young people and in schools/colleges and in showing the varied career opportunities available working with trees."

Following the success of our “arborist experience days”, for ex-military personnel considering a career within the industry, we are now opening these days up to anyone thinking of a new career in arb.

My background as a qualified massage therapist has led me to research injury prevention/management for climbers and how the equipment being used can impact on this. Since taking over the management of Hi-Line’s LOLER inspection programme (we have over 500 kits a year in for inspection!), and the purchasing and issuing of the companies climbing kit equipment, myself and our LOLER inspector have reviewed the kit we issue our climbers and looked at how we can promote more ergonomic work practices. As well as implementing changes such as issuing Petzl Zigzags to Hi-Line’s climbers, we are also in the development stage of workshops focusing on injury prevention/management for arborists, which is exciting.

For someone looking for a career in arb my advice would be go for it . Research the area in which you want to work and see if there are any trainee/apprenticeship positions or Level 2/3 arb courses available. There are many routes into the industry so pick the one which is most suited to you. Choose high quality and relevant training and avoid spending money on qualifications you won’t need initially. Most employers would prefer you to have a high standard in the basic qualifications rather than have lots of qualifications but not be that great at any of them! Even before starting your training or new job start learning about trees – go to a local park or arboretum for a walk with a basic tree ID book and just look around. You’ll soon be hooked!

Don’t be put off. If arboriculture is something that interests you then give it a try. There are a wide range of careers in our industry and many amazing people to work with and learn from. Yes, it is a male dominated industry. Yes, it can be frustrating as there are still some smaller-minded people with outdated views and attitudes within it, but you will find this everywhere. Fortunately, there are also lots of encouraging and talented people (male and female) who you will work with and who will support and teach you. Speak to women working in the industry, a good start would be the Women in Arb group, and discover what jobs they do and why they love them. Focus on the skills you have and can bring to the industry, believe in yourself and work on being the best you can be.