NB_360_21_8 - NB 360-21-8 PER - Release of NRCS Career Planner Tool
NB 360-21-8 PER - Release of NRCS Career Planner Tool
National Bulletin: NB 360-21-8    Date: July 8, 2021  
Subject: PER - Release of NRCS Career Planner Tool  

Purpose.  To announce the release of the NRCS Career Planner and provide the resources to use it.     
Expiration Date.  September 30, 2021   
Background.  When the AgLearn system transitioned in 2018, some of the functionality of the old system was lost and is in the process of being re-established. Two of the functions lost that held significant employee development value were the competency and proficiency resources. NRCS places high value on individual development and the ability for each employee to have a career map for success.

The NRCS of the Future effort, which launched 2018, identified the need to ensure that occupational competencies for all common job series were developed and linked to training resources.  To meet this need, a team was established to identify missing competency groups by series, where competencies needed to be updated, and what occupational competencies needed further refinement.  In addition to working to meet the goal of developing competency models for all series, the team developed a proficiency tool, called the NRCS Career Planner.

Until the competency/proficiency functionality can return to AgLearn, the Career Planner can be downloaded and used by supervisors, employees, and partners to assist with individual development plan development in working towards career goals. While this tool provides a valuable function and its use is recommended, each allowance holder has discretion to determine whether the Career Planner is appropriate for their area.

While this competency project was initiated before NRCS received the Direct Hire Authority for 1,525 additional staff, the significance of this tool has become even more important as a resource to onboard and identify training needs for these new employees. Since the Career Planner is built as a Microsoft Excel tool and will be housed on a publicly accessible website, non-Federal partners who help provide delivery of services will also have access to the Career Planner. Identified training needs for both Federal and non-Federal partners will support States in development of multi-year training plans. Having a consistent tool in place helps to reduce risk by supporting a consistent proficiency expectation for all staff and partners performing similar job functions.
Explanation.  The NRCS Career Planner is a Microsoft Excel tool that assists staff and supervisors in evaluating proficiency levels and identifying gaps in the assigned competencies for their current grade level and position. It also serves as a resource for employees to see the proficiency targets for higher grade levels. Employees are then able to chart their career path and identify training needs for developmental opportunities.  The Career Planner provides a broad guide for the series and is not intended to split out competencies based on different career tracks within a job series. Supervisors can use this planner to work with each employee to tailor the competencies to individual position needs.

The Career Planner is designed to facilitate the discussion between employees and their supervisors around training needs, career development and growth opportunities. The Career Planner contains competencies and their assigned proficiencies for grades 2 through 15.  With this information available in one place, new employees can quickly see what it will take to be proficient at their job, and supervisors can quickly see what level of training is needed. The Career Planner can be used with Pathways interns to establish training needed to get them to the GS-5 level on or before conversion into a permanent position.

The Career Planner generated report details what training and development items to include in the Individual Development Plan, allowing an individual to work toward their desired career potential and improve the data used by the Farm Production and Conservation, Business Center, Human Resources Division, Workforce Programs Branch, Employee Development Section to plan course offerings to meet the needs of NRCS.

Work units at both the State and above-State level can make customizations to the Career Planner prior to releasing it to staff if they choose. Available customizations include adding tools and resources as well as adding competency tasks. The Career Planner User Guide: For States, Divisions, and Centers will provide detailed instructions on this process. The unlocked/customizable versions of the Career Planners along with all additional materials can be found on the Career Planner SharePoint. A training webinar on customization of the Career Planner was held on June 22, 2021 and the recording can be accessed through the SharePoint.

This National Bulletin is announcing the release of version 1.0 of the Career Planners. Version 2.0 is expected to be available in 2022. Feedback on recommended changes or enhancements to be incorporated in version 2.0 can be posted to the Career Planner SharePoint. Additionally, if you encounter an error or issue with the tool, there will be a FAQ document developed that you may consult. You may also use the error reporting link on the SharePoint site to request assistance.

The Career Planner tools and resources are currently available for job series 457 Soil Conservationist, 458 Soil Conservation Technician, and 470 Soil Scientist. The Engineering job series group is anticipated for release by the end of September 2021, with additional job series such as 454 Rangeland Management and 471 Agronomy under development for later release in FY22. If a work unit decides not to customize the tool, the “locked for editing” national version of the tool can be distributed for local use.  

A number of additional resources will be available to assist in the roll out and continued use of the Career Planner on the Career Planner SharePoint including:
• Communications Toolkit
• Career Planner User Guide: For States, Divisions, and Centers
• Career Planner User Guide: For Supervisors and Employees
• Career Guides
• Training video for Employees and Supervisors

Contact.  Ongoing maintenance and support for the Career Planner will be provided by Management & Strategy Deputy Area staff in the Strategic Support Services Division. Questions about this bulletin should be directed to Rebecca Salazar at rebecca.salazar@usda.gov or Laura Emberson at laura.emberson@usda.gov. Feedback about the tool and error reporting should be submitted through the Career Planner SharePoint.      




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