LTOA report suggests tree officer diversity is in need of improvement

by | Aug 9, 2023 | Featured Slider, Features, Latest, News

A report has found that the nation’s tree officers are not representative of the UK popular. The London Tree Officers Association (LTOA) Diversity and Inclusion Working Part (DIWP), in association with the Association of Tree Officers (ATO), has launched the 2022 ATO Diversity and Inclusion Report.

The survey was distributed to all ATO members and the Tree Officer Forum, with 181 respondents.

The comparisons in data were made against national figures for groups of respondents of similar working age, gender, and ability where applicable.

Women in the green profession

The majority (75%) of respondents were male, while 23% were female, underlining a notable disparity when compared to the national workforce ratio of 53% male and 47% female.

It potentially supports the idea that women are less likely to enter into urban green professions due to the lingering notion of male dominance and lack of support for women, says the LTOA.

Woman planting
Photo credit to Zoe Schaeffer

Last year saw nearly a 20% increase in landscaping companies being launched, but only 6% were founded by women according to Companies House data analysed by Instant Offices.

As more women enter the occupational sphere of the arboriculture and landscaping sectors, more networking opportunities and resources designed for women by women have been introduced to support professional navigation.

The Women in Arboriculture Group in association with the Arboricultural Association (AA) deliverz a support network throughout the sector, offering careers advice and mentor guidance, promoting diversity within the industry, and working to resolve the quotidian challenges faced by women in the professional arboriculture sector.

Neurodiversity, disability and mental health

Nearly a quarter (23%) of respondents consider themselves to be neurodiverse, compared to 12% of the wider workforce, stipulating the tree officer role is more attractive to those considered neurodiverse, says the LTOA.

Contrariwise, 6% reported having a disability, compared to 14% of the UK labour force, suggesting the physicality of the sector is creating an entry preventative barrier to people with a disability.

Almost a fifth (17%) noted a mental health condition in their response, in line with the wider UK workforce.

Entering the profession

Over half of respondents consider there to be preventative barrier to entering and progressing through the tree officer career, with 71% highlighting a total of 38 barriers, with the most common being:

  • Exclusionary industry culture, for example sexism and unconscious bias
  • Lack of jobs and poor promotion of the industry, lack of training and cost of training
  • Lack of career advice and opportunities to progress
  • Poor public awareness of the role of tree officers
  • Low profile of the industry

Two in five respondents answered yes to experiencing barriers when entering and progressing in the profession.

The succession crisis

Fifteen percent of respondents were between the ages of 25 – 34, 55% were between 35 – 54, 28% between 55 – 64, and 3% were 65 or older.

Respondent ages pie chart
Survey age groups pie chart

Zero respondents were below the age of 25, indicating a lack of entry level positions and young people coming into the profession, combined with an aging workforce is contributing towards the looming succession crisis and current skill shortage.

Arboriculture is facing a skills shortage, primarily in skilled professional and technical occupations and supervisory positions, with career growth being stagnated by the average arboriculture company size being unable to apply for apprenticeship funding.

In a report published by the AA in 2019, 24% of the causes attributed to the skill shortage include ‘difficulties recruiting people with the right skills and or attitudes’, revealing a weakness at training level, creating additional barriers at entry level.

The LTOA report features actionable aims to improve the availability and accessibility of jobs, including an increase in part-time roles creating more entry level opportunities.

The Landscape Institute (LI) is working with City & Guilds, which is delivering new Agriculture and Land Management T-Levels, with the aim to facilitate increased green job joining success rates.

To tree-cap

Tree officers fall below national average diversity indices in areas of gender, ethnicity, nationality, and religion, mirroring the findings of the 2019 report.

The data emphasises a significant need for change to improve the diversity of tree officers and the wider professional green job landscapes.

To read the full report, click here.