In our industry, it’s important to keep learning and growing, both professionally and personally. That’s where our Train the Trainer program comes into play. Train the Trainer is the pinnacle training program offered to those professionals who have a passion for training others, who want to share their knowledge and expertise to help move the needle forward in our industry.
The five and 1/2-day program immerses participants in the entire training experience to not only expand their professional toolbox, but to experience personal growth and insight as well. For a closer look at the Train the Trainer program, we spoke with NATS CEO and President Ed Carpenter.
According to Ed, the driving force behind developing the Train the Trainer program was “to make sure when we were going out and doing training that not only was the curriculum that we taught consistent, but the methods and the techniques that we used to engage an audience were also consistent. That was really the stepping off point; it was an internal need that we had.”
In 2007, NATS partnered with Arboriculture Canada Training & Education (ACTE) to present a Train the Trainer in Georgia; it “was really the first year we had both companies come together. The concept of Train the Trainer…I would like to give props to our friends from Canada; it was a jointly-crafted objective going back to the early-2000s,” says Ed.
In 2008 and then in 2009, NATS implemented the Golden Ticket policy, like from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, wherein anyone who was an existing NATS trainer received one Golden Ticket that they could provide to someone else to invite them to be a part of the experience.
“So many folks, including myself, after going through our Train the Trainer program were just so moved by the experience that we really felt a great need to share the experience with others,” says Ed. The 2009 Train the Trainer was the largest program of its kind, until the one held in Hume, California last December.
For the past 10 years, the Train the Trainer model combines the technical skills needed to perform a discipline such as chainsaw or climbing with the soft skills on how to effectively convey a message to an audience.
“We really tried to develop the Train the Trainer program to provide more of those soft skills on how to hold an audience’s attention,” explains Ed. “How do you engage with them, not only be technically proficient but then also engage with them to facilitate a conversation?”
Ed also notes that teaching adults and teaching kids are two very different things, and that is taken into consideration in the program’s curriculum.
“With adults coming in with so much experience, you really want to honor that experience and let that come out as part of the training event, and not just stand up there and lecture,” he says. “In fact, if you do that, especially with arborists, they’re going to write you off pretty quick, and you’re going to lose the audience pretty quick.”
Though the Train the Trainer programs are open enrollment, there are some basic requirements that participants should meet: they should have a certain amount of technical experience in the field (e.g. arborists, logger, parks department personnel), typically five years; and have the willingness and desire to spread the message of training.
“This past winter in Hume, we had a few people come in who didn’t necessarily meet the years of experience requirements, but we still let them attend because they are key advocates and they are in key leadership roles within their organizations,” says Ed. “So, they really came for the soft skills and they also got the benefit of more technical skills as well.”
Ed also says that the intention of Train the Trainer is to provide instruction on how to be a good trainer, “and that really made us shift gears on how we’re offering the program.”
“When we started offering it to the public, we really tried to couple it with topics that were in high demand. At the time, chainsaw was our highest demanded course – it was back then, and still is now – it’s by far and away the most requested training that we get,” he says.
Tim Bushnell, an arborist skills specialist with The Davey Tree Expert Company, attended Train the Trainer in December 2018 in Hume. When asked why he decided to attend, he says, “The program has a good reputation. I wanted to improve myself as a leader and as a presenter, and I thought this was a good way to accomplish that.”
The takeaways that Tim had from December’s program include how to better engage an audience, “whether it’s a small audience of four or five people, or you’re in front of a group of 200 people. The different exercises that could be one- or two-minutes to help keep them engaged, break up a talk, make things more relevant to them individually.
“I feel like I came out with a strong understanding of those skills, and I’ve used them since, and they’ve worked very well, which is excellent,” says Tim.
In the beginning, NATS called the program Chainsaw Train the Trainer, taking into consideration that it was easier for people to wrap their arms around a topic they knew, something that was familiar. After Skills Extravaganza in May, the NATS leadership team realized “that there are a lot of both internal needs as well as market needs we need to address better.”
To answer those needs, “We’re offering our first-ever tree climbing Train the Trainer called Technical Tree Climbing Train the Trainer in Warrenton, Oregon in October,” says Ed excitedly. “We’re also going to offer the first-ever Electrical Hazard Awareness and Aerial Rescue Train the Trainer in Hume in December.
“We’re super excited,” says Ed. ”We’ve completely overhauled our tree climbing program and completely overhauled our EHAT program to be able to facilitate and deliver a cutting edge, engaging experience, both in Oregon and California respectively.”
Additionally, NATS is collaborating with other industry peers who are considered global experts in the field. For instance, Taylor Hamel from DMM will be in Warrenton to provide additional instruction on equipment compatibility and testing of different climbing systems. And in Hume, Mark Bridge with Treemagineers will be on-hand to talk about some of the things he’s seen both in the tree care industry and other work-at-height industries, from a technical rescue perspective.
“It’s [Train the Trainer] a huge investment of time and money,” says Ed. “I can say, without a doubt, there is no question, people either identify ‘Yes, this [training] is something I want to pursue,’ whether they’re interested in working with NATS or training within their respective organizations, or “No, this is not for me.”
In regards to professional development, Tim adds, “Anybody who is looking to either grow their involvement or be involved with training of any kind would benefit from this program, no question about it. To collaborate and build relationships with other like-minded individuals that continue after the event and build a support team that you can bounce ideas off of is a great part of this as well.
“I’m hoping to do it again this December,” he says.