Identifying important skills and competencies needed for new Florida agriculture extension agents
Keywords:professional development, needs assessment, in-service training, onboarding, basic skills
The onboarding needs of Extension agents is a topic continuously discussed and researched, yet overwhelmed agents persist, suggesting that there is a missing link. We undertook a study to determine the competency training needs of newly hired agricultural agents in Florida. Two assessments were performed. First to identify main agriculture skills and competencies for new agriculture Extension. Those competencies where then classified into main domains and interviewees were asked to rank in order of importance in each group. Data were collected via an online survey of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension agents working under the agriculture program area. Agents needed training in specific agricultural competencies related to every-day work activities such as soil sampling, diagnostic skills, educational resource utilization, and relationship building. Although we assume that, based on job requirements, newly hired agents will enter Extension with such knowledge, results suggest an agriculture specific training is needed to meet the onboarding needs of new agents. Our study identified the priority needs for developing an onboarding program that establishes a level of standard knowledge. Those findings will serve to enhance onboarding training for new Extension professionals.
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