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Utility Arborist Program Changed Randy’s Life


Randy was an ex-offender working a low-wage job making $10.50/hr at a sawmill. Thanks to funding assistance from the Michigan Learning and Education Advancement Program, Randy graduated the Utility Arborist program at Alpena Community College in May 2023. He now makes over $19/hour, with lots of opportunity for overtime and is in the process of buying a house. He now proudly introduces himself as a Utility Arborist. (photo: Randy speaks about the Utility Arborist program at the Mid-America Regulatory Conference in Grand Rapids)


At a presentation about this new non-credit Utility Arborist program, Randy explained his backstory, saying: “I was on a bad way with my life for a long time, I’m a convicted felon. I went through prison. I got out and got introduced to this class. They said they thought it would be a good fit. I didn’t know nothing about cutting, dropping trees, working around power lines”.


He said that throughout the course when the instructor, Walt, saw he was having a hard day he would pull him off to the side and talk to him and make sure he was okay and that he understood what was going on. He described the course as being hands-on and said the whole team at the college is great and they actually care.


Addressing the audience, Randy said, “Now I go clear power lines, I go out in storms. I keep the lines running, so you can leave the lights on for your family so you can come home.”


Randy said that at his job, thanks to the Utility Arborist program, he currently knows more than a co-worker who has been there for 8 months and didn’t go through the program. His co-worker has been training hands-on with their employer, but Randy is already ahead of him after doing the one semester Utility Arborist Line Clearance program at Alpena Community College.


Randy's goal is to become a Master Arborist and he says that his life has truly changed after taking this class.


The Michigan Learning & Education Advancement Program covered $3,000 of Randy’s $3,600 tuition and also helped with supportive service funding for his drug and alcohol tests, DOT physical and safety gear for the class. Without this assistance, Randy most likely would not have been able to afford this course.


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