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Youths find path to city forestry

Winnie Chow has always had an affinity with plants.   Her interest in nature was cultivated early on when her parents took her hiking and cycling as a child.   To combine her interests with her career, Ms Chow is now studying for her bachelor’s degree in horticulture, arboriculture and landscape management at the Technological & Higher Education Institute of Hong Kong.   She is also a beneficiary of the Urban Forestry Support Fund’s Study Sponsorship Scheme.   The fund supports the Development Bureau in implementing the sponsorship scheme and the Trainee Programme to encourage youngsters to join the arboriculture and horticulture industry, and to boost tree management and maintenance in the city.   Ms Chow, who wants to be an arborist, attained more than 20 total grade points in the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education Examination and is eligible to receive a scholarship from the sponsorship scheme.   The scholarship amount is the total tuition fee or $50,000, whichever is less, for each academic year.   She said the scholarship greatly reduces her financial burden, allowing her to focus on studying.   Untapped potential “Trees are living organisms that go through birth, ageing, sickness and death,” she said.   “They need professionals with the right knowledge to manage them, so I think there is great development potential in this industry.”   To nurture talent, the scheme offers study sponsorships to eligible applicants who have completed recognised arboriculture, tree management and tree works programmes at the Qualifications Framework Level 2 to 5 by local vocational, tertiary and training institutions.   The sponsorship amount for arboriculture and tree management programmes is 50% of the tuition fee or $20,000, whichever is less, while for tree works programmes, the amount is 70% of the tuition fee or $6,000, whichever is less.   Career boost Graduates of arboriculture, tree management and tree works programmes at the Qualifications Framework Level 3 to 5 can apply for a training allowance through the Trainee Programme.   The allowance is about 30% of the monthly salary and is provided through trainees’ employers. Once they have attained the professional qualifications as an arborist or a tree climber, a bonus of $30,000 and $20,000 will be offered respectively.   Tsang Ho-lam, who works for a horticulture and arboriculture firm, participated in the programme early this year.   He said: “The training allowance ensures our salary can reach a certain level. More companies are willing to hire young people and working experience is important to us. We need the experience to acquire professional qualifications.”   Mr Tsang said he hopes to acquire the professional qualification to become a tree climber.   “We have to climb and prune trees as well as to maintain them. I like this job. Climbing trees is a fun sport. Every time I climb to a treetop, I get to see different scenic views. This experience is wonderful.”   In demand The bureau’s Tree Management Office Head Florence Ko pointed out that there is a strong demand for arborists and tree workers in Hong Kong, but youngsters in the industry do not have stable jobs and training opportunities.   “So we have launched the Study Sponsorship Scheme and the Trainee Programme to enhance the strength and capability of the industry to ensure that the tree management work in Hong Kong is of high quality, to protect our urban forest and also to minimise tree failure risks, thereby protecting public safety,” she said.   The bureau expects the scheme and the programme, which accept applications all year round, to benefit about 300 students and around 100 graduates of related courses a year.   For more details, visit the websites of the Urban Forestry Support Fund and the Construction Industry Council.
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