Pictured above is Dave White (far left) with his board of directors (from left to right: Mundy Piper Wilson, Tim Gamma, Tom Prosser, Andy Felix (front), Noel Boyer (rear), Josh Morin, Jason Showers, Alan Jones, and David Fleischner) at the Winter Management Conference.
Even though he’s only been involved for a few months, the uniqueness of the tree industry isn’t lost upon new Tree Care Industry Association president and CEO, Dave White.
“Tree care tends to get lumped in with the more general (OSHA) regulations that don’t necessarily recognize the unique challenges of being in a tree and operating a chain saw,” White says.
White learned about TCIA while he was the executive director of the Northeast Public Power Association (NEPPA). He applied for the challenge of working with a national association, but White says that his work with NEPPA made TCIA a good fit for him.
“NEPPA had a real focus on employee training and safety,” White says. “So TCIA was a great fit for what I was passionate about and what I was already doing.”
In addition to NEPPA, White has worked in trade associations for more than ten years. With trade associations, White says that the focus is shifted onto the members and making sure they get the best bang for their buck.
“I think the most important thing is the ability to develop and implement a strategic plan that focuses on delivering value to our members,” White says. “That requires listening to members, identifying their pain points and determining how best the association can assist its members in overcoming those obstacles.”
LABOR FIRST. Currently, White is following the strategic plan created by TCIA’s board of directors. While TCIA has many different focuses as an association, the strategic plan picks what White and TCIA as a whole will focus on. For now, that focus is work development.
“We’ve been really focused on our work development initiative and how we best help our members recruit, train and retain the workforce that is needed to get the job done,” White says.
Labor development is a huge focus right now for good reason. White says that finding and developing tree care workers has been a long-term problem since TCIA’s original formation.
“We’ve gone back and looked at board of directors meeting minutes back into the ‘30s and ‘40s,” White says. “This isn’t a new problem, but it’s one that we have the ability to bring some new, novel approaches to and we need to line ourselves up to do that.”
White describes the in-progress workforce development program as being something that tree care industry members can hopefully use as a turnkey solution to the labor crisis problem. The program will take new employees and turn them into safe, productive arborists that can work with them.
Currently, White is working with different departments within TCIA and figuring out how each can be utilized to better create a workforce development program that can get new employees into the field in a safe way.
“Our marketing team is looking at how we can do a national campaign identifying target audiences to let them know about the rewarding careers in tree care and connect them to those existing jobs,” White says.
White says that the membership team is also looking at how businesses within the industry can better advertise their available jobs. In addition, White plans to use existing programs like the tree care academy, certified tree care safety professional and the electrical hazard awareness programs to better develop workforce development.
Workforce development is an important goal for White, but he describes the process as ongoing. The program won’t ever be completely finished so much as consistently updated.
“I think it’s going to be a rolling wave, where we’re constantly putting out new and updated initiatives to continue to try to help with the workforce shortage,” White says.
The workforce development program is first on a list of short-term goals White has in front of him as president and CEO. White’s also working on member engagement online, in-person and through products and services.
While White’s current goals are short-term, he’s also thinking ahead. This time next year, TCIA will start a strategic planning process that will outline what direction the association — and the industry — go in the coming years.
“My goals right now are to just continue the good work that’s been done and gear up for a more intensive strategic planning process,” White says.
A GREATER APPRECIATION. While White’s background in NEPPA prepares him for a lot of the safety aspects of the tree care industry, his dad was also lineman for the power company, leading him to have a great respect for these dangerous industries.
“I’ve grown up around this kind of work all my life,” White says.
Even though he’s no stranger to dangerous work, the science and research that goes into tree care is something that was completely new to White.
He says that the research into invasive species really impressed him, especially being from Central Massachusetts where Asian long-horned beetles do a lot of damage. White was also amazed by the complicated physics that are involved in tree care.
“The rigging, ropes and other tools used to ensure that a branch or tree falls where it’s supposed to are quite impressive,” White says.
Even though White knew that there was a science that went behind tree care, it’s not something he thought of very often before he joined TCIA.
“When you’re immersed in it, you get a greater appreciation for the work they do,” White says.
White’s continuing to immerse himself in the industry by participating in Tour des Trees in late August. Tour des Trees is a week-long cycling event that will see White biking 530 miles in seven days, ending at the International Society of Arboriculture Conference in Columbus, Ohio.
The event takes place to raise money for the Tree Fund, which provides scholarships and funding towards trees and arboriculture related research. White has been spending his free time training for Tour des Trees both to raise money for a good cause and to get more involved with the industry.
“This is a great industry full of really wonderful and dedicated people,” White says. “Everyone’s really dedicated to not only taking care of trees but taking care of each other, making sure everyone goes home safe at the end of the day and that’s what’s important.”