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Early Career Extension Professional Development Needs Assessment Report



Authors as Published

Authored by Karen A. Vines, Assistant Professor and Extension Continuing Professional Education Specialist, Agricultural, Leadership, & Community Education, Virginia Tech; Adam Cletzer, Assistant Professor and Director of Student Services, Agricultural Education and Leadership, University of Missouri; Donna Westfall-Rudd. Associate Professor, and Undergraduate Program Director, Agricultural, Leadership, & Community Education, Virginia Tech; Joe Hunnings, Retired Director of Planning and Reporting, Professional Development, and Civil Rights Compliance, Virginia Cooperative Extension; Mark Sumner, Information Technology Coordinator, CALS-Information Technology, Virginia Tech; Neal Vines, Director of CALS-IT, Virginia Tech; Lonnie Johnson, Associate Director for Field Operations and Administration, Virginia Cooperative Extension; and Mike Lambur, Retired Associate Director of Program Development, Virginia Cooperative Extension

This publication is available as an enhanced digital version and PDF. 

Virginia Cooperative Extension hired 100 new agents from 2011 to 2014. This study was initiated to determine professional development needs for these early career agents, many of whom are also members of the millennial generation. The hope was that by developing professional development programs to specifically meet the needs of these new agents we may contribute to their career longevity and success. The study consisted of a series of focus groups in which a representative sample of agents hired in the past three years provided information, initially for use in a system-wide electronic survey. However, as the research team reviewed the findings it was determined that there were significant improvements that could be identified and made based on the current findings without support from the system-wide survey. Therefore, the plan for the survey covering all topics was abandoned. What has evolved is a series of recommendations to support career longevity in a collaborative environment, taking into consideration the work-life integration and professional development needs of Extension professionals within Virginia Cooperative Extension. This document serves as a summary of findings and recommendations that have resulted from this process.

Virginia Cooperative Extension materials are available for public use, reprint, or citation without further permission, provided the use includes credit to the author and to Virginia Cooperative Extension, Virginia Tech, and Virginia State University.

Virginia Cooperative Extension is a partnership of Virginia Tech, Virginia State University, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and local governments. Its programs and employment are open to all, regardless of age, color, disability, sex (including pregnancy), gender, gender identity, gender expression, national origin, political affiliation, race, religion, sexual orientation, genetic information, military status, or any other basis protected by law

Publication Date

September 30, 2021