Tree Corps Model Addresses Worker Shortage and Lack of Diversity

American Forests is pioneering a new way to build a diverse urban forestry workforce. Through our Tree Corps model, we work with employers to train and hire people of color and others facing barriers to employment for tree care careers in their communities.

Urban forestry has a shortage of skilled workers and thousands of job openings, and the industry is almost entirely white and male. Even with an acute labor shortage, women and people of color are still severely underrepresented in tree care.

The Approach: Inclusion and Support to Build a Corps

The Tree Corps helps employers address systemic barriers to inclusion. Each city-based Tree Corps works with one or more employers committed to training and hiring Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) for entry-level tree-trimming and -pruning positions.

Under this model, local workforce partners help recruit applicants from communities that are under-represented in urban forestry. Those partners provide new hires with stipends for childcare, transportation or housing to ensure they can have a smooth transition into the workplace.

To promote enduring change, the model also includes bias training to the employer and a mentor to support the Tree Corps members, who undergo extended onboarding training in tree care and safety.

Tree Corps Expanding to More Cities

American Forests first launched the Tree Corps model in 2021 through a partnership with TAZO Tea. The company sought to address climate change and environmental injustice by helping employ people who identify as BIPOC to plant trees in communities that need them the most. TAZO and American Forests are working with The Davey Tree Expert Company to create a five-person TAZO Tree Corps in five cities: Detroit, San Jose, Calif., Minneapolis, Richmond, Va., and Pittsburgh. Thanks to interest from other funders, the Tree Corps model is now being rolled out in additional cities, including Houston, San Antonio, Dallas, Austin and Phoenix.

The Tree Corps model is part of American Forests’ Tree Equity: Career Pathways Initiative, which connects people to tree industry careers and helps employers find qualified workers. The need for qualified tree professionals is expected to grow 10% by 2028.

Hiring people to care for trees in their own communities not only provides economic opportunities, but also boosts the chances that trees will thrive as they mature.