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APEN 2001 International Conference

Toowoomba, 4th-5th October 2001

Report No:


Title of Topic:

Novice Practitioners – Support, Recognition and Empowerment.

Name of Leader:

Sarah Hood (QDPI) & Graham Harris (QDPI)

Names of Participants:

Sarah Hood, Graham Harris, Peter Wegener, Patricia Maloney, Jeremy Lemon, David Sparks, Penny Loyd

Main points of discussion

Each Person in the group related the support, recognition and empowerment that they received as a novice:

These were:

  • Semi-apprenticeship work under somebody on a series of small projects.
  • A 2-year training course over 3 different locations under a supervisor – well structured with budget support.
  • Moved from a research focus to an extension focus by having to relate research findings to farmers.
  • Had a 1-year program similar to (1) and then told to “go do extension”. Now I am in the role of guiding new extension officers. Guide and protect.
  • 3-day course of core skills training of which a half of the day was extension skills.
  • I was employed under the assumption that I was used to working in remote areas with minimal support what I needed help in I had to go and get it myself.
  • DPI in SA had a one-year “post-grad” that was on the job and then sent out.

The main points of discussion from these experiences were:

  • Short-term projects encourage short-term outcomes and compromise professional development.
  • Supervisory role skills of working with people need to be developed – articulated.
  • Our organisational approaches to new graduates are appalling.
  • The only communication skills we have are how to write a scientific paper.
  • Institutions need to move away from this technical mindset and be aware of where their graduates are going. (Eg Latrobe Uni but is this enough?)
  • APEN has a role in this.
  • The REC has a role as well – that is why they are there.
  • New extension officers need to be involved in setting their learning objectives and be given the opportunities to address them from an organisational point of view.
  • Novice practitioners should be encouraged to write and talk about what they are doing and their achievements.
  • Management outcomes – do they want to invest in this resource to produce a highly marketable product that moves on easily – related to temporary employment?

Major outcomes (what have you achieved from this discussion; how can this make a difference; what else do you need to do?)

  • Extension needs to be in the coursework of undergraduate programs and this needs to be lobbied by employment agencies.
  • Project teams should include a mix of extension expertise/experience.
  • New practitioners section of the APEN conference and newsletter and APEN or another body provide a forum for discussing and facilitating the development of skills for both new practitioners and mentors.
  • Form groups of new extension practitioners as action learning sets (See Sarah Hood or David Sparks).

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