I spent the last week in Biel/ Bienne assessing the work safety and knowledge of equipment part of the arborist exam that is organized and run by the BSB, the Swiss-German Arborist Association.
The exam is pretty comprehensive: two full days of written examination, followed the week after by two full days of practical and oral tests. This year’s course was made up of 29 people, with something like seven or eight people re-taking the exam after having failed the last one. The exam takes place every two years, with the course running in the in-between years. Next year we will be doing the same for the ASSA, the Romandie (the French-speaking part of Switzerland) equivalent of the BSB… their course ran the second half of last year and ended in June this year.
Having been able to contribute towards running these exams the last ten years has been a very meaningful and relevant process for me. Ultimately the rate of success of an exam reflects the quality of training that the examinees received – and likewise failure, so for me this is always also a time of self reflection.
The courses we run with these budding arborists are a very different cup of tea from basic training courses, where a large part of the clientele are foresters and landscape gardeners. In the former you really are engaging with people who are genuinely doing tree work in tree care companies.
Seeing a fresh group of twenty to thirty people coming through in a two year rhythm is almost like a time-lapse view of the industry. You are able to reflect upon meta-developments and trends – which clearly show where deficits lie – but also where improvements are being achieved.
What came as a pleasant surprise for me this year was that I felt that the majority of candidates seemed very clued up and switched on in regards to their equipment and techniques they use. Quite a few of mechanical devices were used in ascent, with gear looking clean and well configured, there was very little really goofy stuff – unlike other years. This, I believe, can be identified as a trend.
I do not really want to go into negatives, as I feel it would be unfair to the candidates who did a really good job in view of the mass of material they had to wade through and assimilate – but also from an ethical point of view it would be very unprofessional as an examiner to comment on those kinds of observations. Let’s just say that there was nothing really scary, where it felt as though the situation was out of control – no mean achievement in view of the at times pretty patchy weather.
Yes, there is always a but… one thing I would like to comment on is the reluctance to dive deep into a topic.
This is not specific to this event, it is a general trend that can observed: people are disinclined to commit deeply to something.
Everybody is keen to share their opinion with the world at the drop of a hat, to broadcast it via Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Reddit, Tumblr, LikedIn or Pinterest. All of this is very responsive: like short-twitch muscles, it delivers a burst of content, but the attention span is short – and the willingness to sit down and actually, really, thoroughly work though stuff, to develop a really profound understanding of a topic is quite rare. It is therefore all the more pleasing when you come across someone in an exam who has obviously gone to this effort and is able to explain concepts and equipment in a competent and in-depth fashion.
So, I say: Let’s give it some depth!