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United States Department of the Interior

FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE 
Washington, D.C. 20240

February 20, 1998
Memorandum
 
To: All Service Employees 
From: Director /s/   Jamie Rappaport Clark
Subject: Continuous Learning Policy
Attached is the Fish and Wildlife Service Policy on Continuous Learning, adopted by the Directorate at its December meeting.  As discussed in the policy and in the accompanying Questions and Answers, it is the goal of the Service that every employee be provided appropriate continuous learning experience, with an annual goal of a minimum of 40 hours for permanent full-time employees.

In addressing our natural resource responsibilities, the Service has witnessed an increase in the amount of work we do, and in its complexity.  Responding to these demands requires excellence in science as well as in priority-setting, advocacy, presentation, management, and many other skills and abilities.  The Continuous Learning Policy recognizes that Service employees are the agency’s most important asset to accomplish our mission, and that a well-trained workforce that continues to develop and learn provides the agency greater efficiency and effectiveness in addressing our resource conservation mission.  I am very proud of the employees of the Service, and I am proud that our organization establishes the commitment and priority for continuous learning, as a benefit for the Service and each person working within it.


Attachment
 

 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Policy on Continuous Learning

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is committed to excellence in accomplishing the mission of fish and wildlife conservation and in providing service to the American people.  The challenges faced in addressing this mission are increasing due to accelerating and competing demands on the Nation’s natural resources.  The employees of the Service are th the agency’s most important asset to accomplish our mission.  Continuous learning enhances the ability of Service employees to identify, adapt and respond to changing needs, so it is critical to mission accomplishment.  Therefore, it is the policy of the Service that continuous learning is one of the agency’s highest priorities.  It is the goal of the Service that every employee be provided appropriate continuous learning experience, with an annual goal of 40 hours for permanent full-time employees.

Continuous learning enhances an individual employee’s knowledge, skills and abilities to respond to increasing complexities of fish and wildlife conservation, and the need to work more closely with the public.  Continuous learning may take many forms, and includes a full range of opportunities to meet organizational and employee development needs.  This may include classes or programs that have traditionally been emphasized as training opportunities, video- and/or audio-tape training, computer-based or correspondence courses, conferences and workshops, shadow assignments, details to other positions, and on-the-job training, among other learning opportunities.

The high standards of skill and knowledge for the Service’s workforce can only be attained through collaborative efforts the employee and supervisor in an environment supportive of continuous learning.  Supervisors and employees are expected to work together to identify learning goals and development needs.  Supervisors will assist in finding learning opportunities to meet identified needs, permitting time for learning, and providing opportunities for employees to apply new or enhanced skills on the job.  Supervisors are to ensure that selection and assignment for learning opportunities are done fairly.  Employees will be responsible for diligently applying themselves in continuous learning situations, and for seeking opportunities to use new skills on the job.  At a minimum, supervisors and employees are expected to discuss and plan for learning opportunities in conjunction with performance reviews.

 Questions and Answers about the Continuous Learning Policy

Why is the Service implementing this policy?

The Service established the continuous learning policy because it benefits the organization.  By becoming a “continuous learning organization” the Service establishes itself as a leader in the field of training and employee development, and fish and wildlife conservation professionalism.  A well-trained workforce that continues to develop and learn provides the agency greater efficiency and effectiveness in addressing our resource conservation mission.

Organizational mobility is increased, because continuous learning opportunities provide a means to accommodate organization needs.

The Service also established the continuous learning policy because it benefits employees.  A continuous learning policy is an investment in the workforce, because it ensures that employees have the knowledge, skills and abilities to continue to move forward with their jobs and their careers.  This policy establishes the commitment and priority of the agency to help employees keep up with technologies and ways of doing business, as well as to prepare employees for increased responsibility and new challenges and opportunities.

What is a “continuous learning” experience?

Because the intent of the policy is to foster skill development and enhancement in order to address the agency’s mission, continuous learning includes a full range of opportunities to meet organizational and employee development needs.  This includes classes or programs that have traditionally been emphasized as training opportunities, and also includes many other approaches to learning, from sources inside and outside the Fish and Wildlife Service, such as: seminars, conferences and workshops; on-the-job training; details; rotational assignments, and cross-training; coaching or mentoring sessions; video- and audio-tape training; correspondence courses or self study; college courses, etc.

Why is the annual goal 40 hours?

Forty hours of annual training is becoming an industry standard for organizations that address workforce development, and in many cases companies are setting much higher annual hourly requirements or goals.  The Service adopted the industry standard because it reflects the priority placed on continuous learning for the benefit of the organization, and it also reflects what is reasonably attainable based on Service practice: statistics kept by NCTC for 1996 show the average training hours per employee to be 33.3 for the year (37 hours for employees in professional series).

Is 40 hours the maximum?  Does mandatory training count in meeting the goal?

The goal is a minimum of 40 hours per year.  Many Service employees may already exceed 40 hours of training annually in order to keep up skills or certifications, but this does not foreclose additional opportunities for continuous learning.  Mandatory training is applicable in meeting the goal, as is all continuous learning that bears on advancing job performance skills and workforce improvement.

What about non-permanent or less-than-full-time employees?

Supervisors are expected to provide all employees with an appropriate continuous learning experience commensurate with their job responsibilities.

What is the NCTC’s role in this policy?

The National Conservation Training Center is a valuable asset for the Service in the agency’s effort to become a continuous learning organization, and a leader in conservation professionalism.  NCTC specializes in identifying training needs and developing programs to address those needs, and can serve as a resource for training programs for assessing training needs.  Employees and supervisors are encouraged to consider the array of courses and programs offered by NCTC in considering continuous learning opportunities, but nothing in the policy requires that the annual goals be met through NCTC programs or any other particular source.

What is required for documentation or tracking?

The Service will develop performance measures pursuant to the Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA), for reporting on the annual training hours by employees.  Requirements and methods for tracking and reporting training will be kept to a minimum.  NCTC will be the repository of all information.

Individual Development Plans have succeeded in helping supervisors and employees identify, describe and document continuous learning needs and accomplishments.  IDPs are highly recommended, but not required.

Is the goal of 40 hours per year now in effect, or is this “phased in?”

The Service has included employee training hours (including continuous learning experiences) as a reportable component of the Government Performance and Results Act, and GPRA performance measures are phased in over the next three years (GPRA Annual Performance Goal 4.1.1. indicates that the Service will achieve 32 hours or training per employee per year for Fiscal Year 1998, 36 hours for FY 99, and 40 hours for FY 2000).  However, the policy of 40 hours of continuous learning per employee per year in now in full effect.

How will implementation of this policy be funded?

No new funds are required for implementation of this policy.  Many of the continuous learning approaches require little or no funding to implement.  Because continuous learning is an agency priority, providing for opportunities needs to be addressed and budgeted for within available funds. 



For additional information regarding this Web page, contact Krista Bibb, in the Division of Policy
and Directives Management, at Krista_Bibb@fws.gov 
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