Monday, July 9, 2007

ISA HK/China --- Credentials & Professional Arborist

Dear Station Members,

Upon the issue of the announcement of the Nov CA exam details, this Station has repeatedly received phone calls regarding the question of :

" Do I become a Professional Arborist (PA) by passing the Certified Arborist (CA) / Municipal Arborist (MA) exam right away ?".

This is a sensitive issue & views must be given with impartiality & reasonable accuracy, since Station Mail is today translocated overseas in several countries & read by international arborists with much more experience & knowledge than the undersigned. This Station would therefore carefully try to analyze the situation & edge to provide a timid reply with scrutiny by our overseas experts, so that something can be told to our infant Station Members as a response.

This Station views the position of the CA/MA exam & PA as follows:

(A) CA/MA Exam

CA/MA exams are currently given in the form of multiple choice only & answers are provided for best selection. These exams were primarily developed for countries with English as the mother tongue where communication by English is not considered to be a problem. No written report, practical hands-on skills or presentation are tested in the current CA/MA exams, which are something a PA would frequently perform in a genuine working situation. In a way, the candidates for the CA/MA exams are limited to testing for their reading skills, analytical power & decision making at large.

Since the CA/MA exams nowadays are given internationally in countries where English is a second language, it is possible that the candidates may be good in understanding English, but not so in writing or speaking English, or may even be absent in their practical experience such as climbing & pruning except for a whole bunch of theories from the books. Like in China, there are at least half a million population who can understand the English language up the level of the CA/MA exams requirement. Given that all these people would study hard & make the right choices at the CA/MA exams, in theory we can have half a million CA/MA in China who may pass the exam, but may not be able to communicate in English to any internationally acceptable standards, or may have never held a pruner for any tree work in any situation. In such case, do we accept these CA/MA instantly to become Professional Arborists in our territory, or in other western countries??

Next, let's look at what a PA is expected to perform in our territory.

(B) PA's Working Environment

Speaking as one of the longest running local PA in our territory, the undersigned would frequently encounter the following situations:

1. Nursery Practice --- The undersigned designed & maintains a 20 hectare Tree Farm from seeds to Young Trees in China. Instructions on Plant Health Care & Pruning are weekly given in-situ to China staff who know nothing of modern tree practices. Demonstration & supervision on pruning are absolutely essential in Nursery Practice or the trees in concern would be ruined instantly after wrong cuts. No answers to any problems will be given to choose from like in a test, & answers will have to be self-invented.

2. Tree Assessment --- Frequently e-mails were sent in to describe a situation with client's own comments & the PA would need to go down to study the tree in position to make out a judgment. The tree would be in any geometry or in any impossible location. Different from Nursery Practice, many answers to the problem would be provided by the client. Some clients would even try to lead the PA into doing what they wanted & in their favour. However, the PA should only use his knowledge & judgment to provide the best solution in line with international practices & would also need to persuade the client to accept what is required to be done. Report writing was usually necessary & sometimes a presentation was also required. In producing anything written, the PA would need to assume the information given could lead to a legal pursuit eventually, & must take prudence in his submission.

3. Presentation --- This may come in the form of seminar, public education or commercial teaching. The PA here would need to organize lecturing materials from his own records to give a discussion normally in Power Point, in English or in the local language. Again, no answers are provided anywhere & it would be pure communication skills that the PA would need to possess. The PA must also be prepared for Q & A time where all kinds of questions would be firing & it will be his/her verbal skills which would determine whether he/she is a truly competent person, rather than just by brandishing the credentials.

4. Pruning Work --- This could come individually or after the Tree Assessment above. The PA would either need to form his own team or climb up himself to carry out pruning work to the required standards. Normally, the clients would intervine with their own experience & would also doubt your recommendations. It would be the skills & knowledge of the PA to convince the client to accept the proper practices. No answers were provided here again on how much to prune or where to prune. The PA would have to study the tree & decide for himself/herself. Any incorrect cut would be irrevocable because limbs removed could not be joined back again. Bad pruning could also lead to law suit, if the client was knowledgeable enough. The undersigned has found Nursery Practice helped a great deal to make decisions in any Pruning execution.

5. Public Communication --- This may be for the undersigned at present for Station work, but can be for anybody in future. Our Station Mail reviewed international Standards & Technical Circulars as well as local specifications. We also reviewed tree practices from newspaper reports & gave comments with ISA practicing guidelines. Our Station frequently introduced overseas research reports. Some of these were sensitive & great care must be given in the presentation. In fact, owing to the sensitivity, this Station only exists in virtuality in the form of a Web Log to avoid any possible law suit arising. On the other hand, Station Mail has been written with education, without bias & factual. Any PA in HK/China are encouraged to submit their findings to our Station Mail for publishing anytime. Great skills in language & public relationship are required to draft up in a Public Communication.

6. Legal Consultation --- This may come in the form of Expert Witness or Consulting Arborist. This is the ultimate test of any Arborist's knowledge & communication skills. Excellent English is required here because the Court Judge will not be tolerant to unskilled presentation. The Court Judge would also disregard your background & would seek anything factual & reasonable in order to make a lawful decision. Your pen & tongue will be the key to win. Your ability to gather valid evidence & to present your case with experience & knowledge will be absolutely critical in representing your client. Legal knowledge is certainly a big help. Again, this ability is not tested to the full in the credential exams & the skills are normally beyond the scope of the current exam requirements. Any PA is expected to be called in for this service, be it due to his own responsibility at work or upon client's request.

By giving factual presentation of the above, it may be better now for the readers themselves to make their own judgment on whether by obtaining the CA/MA title alone would immediately make oneself instantly becoming a Professional Arborist.

There is currently no legal or institutional definition for a PA in our territory. This may be something our CA Family would like to think about later when we can have more CA/MA into our Station. This Station would prefer to see the making of a PA is through the continuous effort of participation in work & activities, by sharing information locally or overseas, by attending arborist conferences to learn of the latest development, by communicating with senior arborists, & by continually studying & upgrading oneself ; rather than by just aiming & collecting credentials, & perhaps forcing others to accept the professionalism merely by shining around the credentials. In HK/China, credentials seem to represent all & some people would be blinded by certificates & not seeing the actual quality behind. This effect is particularly heavy among our brothers & sisters up north at present.

There is a western saying that: " Do not rest on your laurel because it does not stay evergreen." By dusting & polishing your credentials everyday & not getting actively involved in the profession, may make the credential holder perhaps good looking rather than functionally durable.

best regards,

Sammy Au
Station Manager

1 comment:

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