Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Arboricultural Association.

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New AA RC application process

Author:  Simon Richmond
Last Updated:  16/03/2021

Simon Richmond, Senior Technical Officer

Spring 2021 sees the launch of the new application process for the Association’s Registered Consultant (RC) Scheme. This marks the culmination of a systematic review of the scheme and its operation.

For several years the number of Registered Consultants in the scheme remained static: while there were some successful new applicants joining every year, they were effectively replacing older members who were reaching retirement age and stepping down from the scheme. This lack of growth initiated an investigation into the operation of the existing scheme and analysis of its purpose, aims, objectives and function and, crucially, the motivation and incentives that encourage aspiring consultants to apply.

As a result of this work, we have instigated regular Aspiring RC workshops, a new Quality Assurance system, the appointment of an External Auditor and Lead Assessor as remunerated positions and, most recently, the revised Application Process. Introducing these innovations also entailed a review of our internal systems and the staffing required to manage them. We now have a manager of the scheme with technical and administrative support within the Association and an external team of Lead Assessor, Liaison Officer, report portfolio Assessors and a Quality Assurance panel.

We have always described the RC Scheme as representing the very highest level of professional arboricultural consultancy in the UK, and we are confident that this remains true today. We have, for some years now, offered focused continuing professional development (CPD) events for RCs each year – the annual Standards and Development Day. This serves to offer specialist CPD in addition to the existing annual requirement for Professional or Fellow Members and, as such, an assurance that RCs are maintaining their skill and knowledge at the levels expected.

Portfolio Modules

However, when challenged to demonstrate how effective this quality assurance structure was, we recognised that there was no specific assessment of individual RCs’ work or standards, and so the new Quality Assurance system was developed. This requires each RC to present a selection of their completed reports, one of which is chosen to be scrutinised by the QA Panel. The panel meets twice a year and three or four RCs’ work is assessed. Since its introduction in 2019, the panel has reviewed the work of 14 RCs and this ongoing schedule will complete assessment of all the existing members of the scheme, creating a rolling system whereby each RC will be subject to the Quality Assurance assessment on a five-yearly basis.

As discussed in my article in the winter 2020 issue of the ARB Magazine (issue 191, page 8), our review of the scheme identified that some potential applicants felt they were effectively excluded from applying to become RCs because of the requirements to present specific types of reports for assessment. The comprehensive review of the application process undertaken by the Association’s Consultants Working Group (CWG) has resulted in a wholesale analysis of the different types of professional work undertaken by contemporary arboricultural consultants. As a result, we now offer the choice of 19 different subject modules, which sit within six separate competency areas. The requirement for submission will be a total of five subject modules, of which one must be the compulsory Professional Practice module, RC1.

The remaining four subject modules must be chosen from at least three separate competency areas (i.e. no more than two modules from the same competency area). Another key change is that applications under the new process will be submitted at two fixed dates annually: 1 March and 1 September. This gives the applicant a useful target date for compiling the portfolio of reports and any supporting documents.

The assessment of the submitted portfolio of reports is carried out confidentially and detailed feedback is provided by the Lead Assessor. If this stage of the application is successful, the applicant is invited to interview and, if successful at that stage, is accepted into the Registered Consultant Scheme.

The details of the whole application process, including the specific requirements for reach module, are set out in a new Application Guide which is available on the Association’s website, along with a revised Report Writing Guidance document and supporting information for completing the online application: www.trees.org.uk/Accreditation/Become-an-AA-Registered-Consultant.

For some time we have been offering potential applicants the opportunity to submit one single report for scrutiny, as a pre-application check. This has proved invaluable to many applicants over the last two years, as it has been observed that minor (or major) deficiencies in one report from an applicant are likely to appear in most, if not all, of their reports. During 2021, the Association will carry out this pre-application check of one report free of charge if it is accompanied by an expression of intent to submit a full portfolio application.

We believe we have carried out a thorough review of the Association’s Registered Consultant Scheme and we now invite those that consider themselves to be working at the appropriate professional level to consider application.

This article was taken from Issue 192 Spring 2021 of the ARB Magazine, which is available to view free to members by simply logging in to the website and viewing your profile area.