Caribbean State Soil Scientist Receives National NRCS Civil Rights Award!
NRCS Caribbean Area congratulates State Soil Scientist Manuel Matos for his national recognition with the 2021 National NRCS Team/ Group Civil Rights Award as part of the NRCS Soil and Plant Science Division’s (SPSD) Leadership, Development, and Recruitment (LDR) Team.
The National NRCS Team/ Group Civil Rights Award recognizes a team or group who has made a significant contribution to NRCS in civil rights program delivery. It was bestowed virtually on Feb. 22, 2021 by NRCS Chief Terry Cosby.
The NRCS Soil and Plant Science Division’s (SPSD) Leadership, Development, and Recruitment (LDR) Team composed of: Leslie Glover II (DC), Luis Hernandez (MA), John Andreoni (CO), Manuel Matos (PR), Benjamin Hannibal (DC), Charles Kome (DC), Phillip Smith (CA), Katherine Gerdes (CO), Janella Cruz (NM), and Kendra Moseley (CA) made significant contributions to civil rights program delivery and filled a critical gap in NRCS. USDA and NRCS have historically lagged significantly behind the civil labor force numbers in most affinity groups for which statistics are kept. The team submitted a decision memo to the Deputy Chief for Soil Science and Resource Assessment (SSRA) and recommended a Civil Right Advisory Committee (CRAC) be established for the SSRA which was approved for immediate implementation.
Since its inception in 2017, the LDR Team has filled the civil rights gap by serving as a liaison between SPSD employees and leadership. The Team reviewed the agency’s workforce data and recruitment practices, identified areas of concern, and made recommendations for improvement. To help NRCS attract a highly skilled and diverse workforce, the LDR Team through numerous avenues; i.e., developed a strategic plan to fill mission-critical positions through the USDA Pathways Program, created a virtual recruitment toolbox designed for students, university staff, and current NRCS employees to find critical information; collaborated with the Farm Production and Conservation (FPAC) Business Center and the SPSD Outreach and Communication Team to host an internal webinar to help NRCS staff improve communication with the historically underserved to recruit a diverse pool of candidates, and hosted a recruitment webinar providing information on applying for USDA Pathways positions for accurate applications. These efforts resulted in:
- 130 NRCS employees attended the first SPSD hosted webinar to train NRCS employees to be effective recruiters and hiring managers.
- Hosted a webinar with more than 350 college professors and students where a Pathways Intern shared their experience applying for the internship and converting to a permanent position with NRCS.
- The Team developed a database to collect information about schools offering qualifying degrees and schools with cooperative agreements with the SPSD.
- The Team focused their recruitment efforts on schools that serve diverse populations such as Hispanic Serving Institutions, Tribal Colleges and Universities, Asian Pacific Islander Serving Institutions, and Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
- The Team developed an online evaluation to provide analysis for future webinars. Survey results demonstrated the webinar was informative, effective, and diverse.
- The format used to deliver both webinars will significantly impact how NRCS can conduct recruitment activities during the ongoing pandemic. Many participants expressed an interest in working with NRCS and asked for these webinars to occur twice a year.