Simon Richmond, Senior Technical Officer
After a long period of gestation, the Association is launching its new Registered Consultant application process. All new applications from 1 March 2021 will use the new system.
The Arboricultural Association Registered Consultant (AARC) Scheme has been running since the mid-1970s and operates nationwide. Members of the scheme have demonstrated attainment of a recognised standard of knowledge, experience and the ability to practise as an arboricultural consultant in the most complex and demanding situations.
The aim of the scheme is to advance excellence in the field of arboricultural consultancy and it is promoted by the Association as establishing the highest level of attainment available within the UK. The award of AARC status (which applies to an individual, not an organisation or company) is made following a rigorous assessment process.
Over the years, the Association heard concerns from potential applicants that the specific range of subject areas required to complete the application process effectively excluded them from applying. Since we began the ‘Aspiring Registered Consultant’ workshops we have been exploring this issue in detail and recognise that as the role of the arboricultural consultant has developed over recent decades, there is now far more specialism in the sector than when the AARC scheme was first introduced. As a result, some consultants and other professionals, e.g. local authority arboricultural officers, who are working at the top level in their profession have been unable to present the full range of reports that the existing application process required.
The Association’s Professional Committee tasked its Consultants’ Working Group (CWG) with the challenge of designing a revised application process that maintained the same high standard but allowed the breadth of specialisms in the sector to be recognised equally. As well as delivering on this with a new approach to the choice of report subject areas, the CWG also considered other aspects of the scheme’s application process from an applicant’s perspective, including the timing of applications and the duration of the entire process.
The recommendations from the CWG were considered by Professional Committee and the proposed revisions were presented to the existing Registered Consultants for their contributions at their annual ‘Standards and Development Day’ in June. With the guidance offered and specific expertise on assessment terminology and methodology incorporated, the revised application procedure was presented back to Professional Committee in October.
What has changed?
The main change is that there is now a much wider field of subject areas, or modules, to choose from. An overview is set out in the table below. (NB: Final module titles may be subject to change.) We have also introduced two specific dates by which applications must be submitted each year: 1 March and 1 September. This helps to focus the minds of applicants; with a target date to meet they can plan the preparation of their reports portfolio ready to be uploaded to the online application portal by the due date. It also allows the Association to plan both staff and assessors’ time to validate, assess, mark and respond to the submitted applications, making the timeline for the whole process shorter, as well as transparent and more efficient. The interview is also scheduled within a timeframe.
In addition to the wide field of subject areas to choose from, the new system requires all applicants to complete a new compulsory module called ‘Business Management’. It is recognised that in order to run a professional consultancy business, whether as a sole trader or as part of a larger private practice or public corporate authority, any prospective AARC must have a good knowledge and understanding of how the business aspects are managed.
New portfolio requirements
The applicant can choose from a total of 18 subject modules, which are set out in 6 ‘competency areas’ (see table below). The requirement for submission will be 4 report modules, each valued at 1 credit, plus the compulsory Business Management module, RC1 (5 credits required in total). The reports submitted should be from different competency areas, with no more than 2 from the same competency area. Therefore, 4 reports from a minimum of 3 separate competency areas, plus Business Management, must be included.
A new ‘Registered Consultant Application Guide’ will shortly be available on the Association’s website, setting out the full details of the new application procedure, including the pre-requisite requirements, insurance, etc. and appendices which provide details of the content description and competency guidance required for each of the modules, and a timeline from initial submission to interview and completion.
Anyone who is already preparing for application under the existing scheme requirements may continue to do so but must make their submission prior to 1 March 2021. Those submitting their application under the new system may submit any time up to 1 March, or if more preparation time is required then they can apply prior to the autumn submission date of 1 September.
This article was taken form Issue 191 Winter 2020 of the ARB Magazine, which is available to view free to members by simply logging in to the website and viewing your profile area.