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Training Team

Main photo for the Training Team.Overview

The Training Focus Team is a multidisciplinary coalition formed to address training needs within the Soil and Plant Science Division (SPSD). It is the responsibility of the Training Focus Team to review current training offerings, make recommendations on new and improved courses and means of delivery, and to expand training efforts outward from the Division to NRCS and partners, as needed. The core goal of the Training Focus Team is to create and maintain comprehensive training plans for all disciplines within the Division. The Focus Team serves as an advisory panel for the SPSD Training Coordinator. It is also our goal to include intra- and inter-agency partners (e.g., State Soil Scientists, Resource Soil Scientists, Area Conservationists and University professors, federal partners) to broaden the scope of training opportunities and to provide feedback.

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  • Maintain and update training curricula for all career trajectories within the SPSD.
  • Receive and review proposals for new or modified training opportunities.
  • Review existing courses to identify information/training gaps and incorporate materials to meet evolving needs.
  • Work with NCSS partners to provide guidance and advice on training priority areas.
  • Advise SPSD Training Coordinator on individual course development to fit within training curricula.
  • Advise SPSD Training Coordinator on development of web-based courses.
  • Pursue the possibility and identify likely sources of distance education for division staff to obtain advanced degrees in their specialty areas.
  • Coordinate to extend training opportunities to other entities (states, centers, NCSS Partners) and to incorporate their training opportunities into curricula when possible.
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Co-Leads: Luis Hernandez (Northeast Region, Amherst, MA), Kevin Norwood (Central Region, Indianapolis, IN), Cynthia Stiles (Southwest Region, Davis, CA)

Core Members: Russ Almaraz (Southwest Region, Davis, CA), Samantha Carrillo (Tucson, AZ), Ben Hannibal (National Headquarters, Washington, DC), Adrien Metcalf (NSSC-KSSL, Lincoln, NE), Kendra Moseley (Southwest Region, Davis, CA)

Ad Hoc Members: Joseph Brennan (North Central Region, St. Paul, MN), Lance Brewington (Laurens, SC), Suzanne Kienast-Brown (NSSC, Bozeman, MT), Johanna Pate (CNTSC, Fort Worth, TX)

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The Training Focus Team supports several sub-teams that support the primary specialist areas within the SPSD and our National Cooperative Soil Survey (NCSS) interest areas. Sub-teams are presently tasked with reviewing training, maintaining/modifying specialist curricula and identifying core courses for personnel involved in specialist area activities. There are presently sub-teams for Administrative Specialists, Ecological Sites Specialists, GIS Specialists, and Soil Scientists (including both MLRA and Resource Soil Scientist tracks). We are looking to add a sub-team for Physical Science Technicians who work in the Kellogg Soil Survey Laboratory, which might include introducing and executing training for field staff to become more familiar with lab protocols.

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Developed a proposal process for ideas to be brought forward and facilitated by the team – several proposals have been processed to date.

Completed a review of all existing courses (including retired courses) for application into new curricula and potential revision to include updated materials.

Completed a thorough review and vetting of Specialist Curricula course lists, incorporating suggested changes and additions from external reviewers.

Developed a list of immediately available virtual resources for training in collaboration with SPSD Training Coordinator: Immediately Available Virtual Resources for Training (PDF; 202 KB).

Compiled and released curricula for each specialist area within the Soil and Plant Science Division to all NHQ staff, regional directors, and state soil scientists.

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Proposed Activities for FY21

  • Work with Training Coordinator to develop and implement a Quality Assurance / Quality Control process (PDF; 119 KB) by which all training materials are reviewed on a five year rotation.
  • Continue to work with the Ecological Sites Team to develop and deliver more ecological sites training.
  • Assist with delivery of technical training to NCSS cooperators.
  • Provide updated timeline for new/updated course development, including milestones for proposal, development stages, strategic planning, rollout, delivery and follow-up.
  • Continue with proposed changes for fundamental field-based SPSD courses: Basic Soil Survey, Soil Science Institute, Soil Geomorphology Institute.
  • Evaluate novel ways to provide support for advanced degrees for SPSD employees.

Long Range Projects

  • Continue to assist SPSD training coordinator in individual course development and/or modification to fit within training curriculum.
  •  Deliver more training to NCSS partners as per their needs – develop more interactive partnerships to take advantage of collaborative training activities.
  • Work with collaborator Universities to expand training options for NCSS staff.
  • Continue with material update and review.
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Contact if you are interested in serving on the Training Focus Team

Participants in Soil Correlation training apply NCSS guidelines to resolve soil survey problems that arise with classification and correlation of soils and ecological sites.