Detroit Local 17’s tree trimming programs are bringing in much-needed new workers to the trade, and they even got some international news attention recently.


Detroit Local 17’s tree trimming program is one of only two Labor Department-certified apprenticeships in the country, and what makes it even more special is the relationship the local has with the Parnall Correctional Facility in Jackson, Mich.

The IBEW designed a special curriculum and built a climbing structure for the six-to-nine-month program at Parnall where students learn how to safely climb trees, use tree trim equipment and obtain a Commercial Driver’s License. When released from the facility, participants can then join Local 17’s apprenticeship class and work at union contractors, an opportunity that greatly reduces their chances of ending up back behind bars.

The program is so successful that it attracted international news attention. The Associated Press published a story, photos and video featuring Local 17’s work at the correctional facility.

And it provides a much-needed talent pool for an in-demand job. It’s estimated that some 70% of power outages are caused by trees, and a lot of today’s trimmers are reaching retirement age, creating a need for a new generation to fill these much-needed jobs.

In addition to the program at Parnall, Local 17 runs a Tree Trimming Academy with local utility DTE that focuses on hiring local residents.

“We strive to build an empowered and diverse workforce and are excited to help develop more well-trained and well-paid workers who put safety first,” said Local 17 Business Manager James Shaw. “Growing and developing local talent has to be a focus to best maintain safe, reliable energy.” 

The work is demanding and dangerous – it’s not for everyone – but for those who make it through, they can earn $100,000 or more, plus benefits. For more on Local 17’s work to bring in new tree trimmers, check out the IBEW’s previous coverage of Parnall and the Tree Trimming Academy.