So what does ArborScape and the Harvard University Graduate School of Education have in common?
Both feel that current education opportunities for youth are too narrowly focused on academic, class room-based approaches. Let me explain by giving you a little background.
A couple of years ago ArborScape received a complaint because the company owner brought his 11-year-old son along while doing a tree removal. While it is unorthodox, it’s part of a three generation family tradition of learning tree work. Of course the customer’s concern was understandable.
When we started out most clients knew we had a number of interns both paid and unpaid learning the ins and outs of the tree service business. We jokingly, called it kidsourcing, a play on out-sourcing. As we’ve grown we now have more new customers every year and you might wonder if we are breaking child labor laws. Not a chance. It’s just a part of our internship program.
The truth is that young people desperately need opportunities not provided by the current education system.
Harvard University released a study in February that called for more vocationally-oriented training. With current teen and young adult unemployment at its highest since the Great Depression, the study concludes, “At present, we place far too much emphasis on a single pathway to success: attending and graduating from a four-year college.”
At ArborScape we couldn’t agree more. Understanding the skills needed for a modern day career require exposure to real-world office and field work. Also working with the future workers of Denver and beyond helps us create a sustainable business.
Americans with children in primary and middle school see the problem with their kids sitting in a classroom for 12 years. That worked when you were being prepared to sit at a desk at the same company for 30 years.
That worked when pensions were the norm and job training was paid by employers.
That is not how it works anymore!
“The challenge is to develop kids into better adults then you are,’” said Adora Svitak, author of the book “Flying Fingers” published when she was 8 years old. This child prodigy spoke at the TED conference about how kids enrich the “adult” perspective.
“Kids aren’t hampered by reasons not to do things,” Svitak said. “Kids dream and that is the first step in creation.”
At our tree company, we make sure that young workers have proper protective equipment if they’re working on a tree crew. We teach job skills but also teach them how to learn on their own, how to suggest, plan and execute a project. Through this process, it’s great to see their natural entrepreneurial talents blossom.
This summer, we are giving our kids opportunities to lead. Here are some important contributions they make.
- Answering telephones and emails
- Building Twitter campaigns
- Creating Photoshop design ideas
What may surprise is the quality of those contributions. Over the past year interns have helped us:
- Save $3,000 on marketing costs
- Triple the click-thru rate of our online advertising terms
- Audit plant health care files for informational errors
Not bad, is it?
I think we all want to teach our kids how to make their dreams come tree. If they want to do something and they set it up and execute it, anything is possible. If our interns learn that, then our kidsourcing is a success.