Our Philosophy of Continuing Professional Education in NC 4-H
North Carolina’s 4-H Youth Development program is recognized perennially for its quality of content, delivery and staff. In the 2004 State 4-H Program Review Final Report, the external reviewers rank NC 4-H as one of the top three in the nation. This ranking (both historically and today) may largely be attributed to the highly competent and expert professional faculty at the county level. The NC 4-H Continuing professional education (CPE) model adopted in 2002 emphasizes on-going state level training for county 4-H professionals through focused orientation for newly hired professionals (“pre-service”); in-services conducted throughout the year addressing 4-H Long range Focus Areas (LRFAs) and new program initiatives (“in-service”); the newly developed Youth Development Leadership graduate specialization for professionals’ pursuing advanced degrees and/or formal coursework (“in-service”); and, an eventual one-to-one statewide mentoring program linking tenured 4-H mentors with newly hired 4-H protégés. The entire CPE model is based upon the National 4-H Youth Development Professional Research, Knowledge and Competency (4-H PRKC) model developed first in 1989 that is used nationwide to guide 4-H professional development.
As the primary program and professional resource for NC 4-H, the Department of 4-H Youth Development at North Carolina State University has a long and nationally respected history of supporting its salaried and non-salaried (i.e. volunteer) staff at all organizational levels in pursuing continuous personal and professional development opportunities. Such opportunities encompass both pre- and early-service education (i.e., support by county and district Extension directors, state 4-H district liaisons, the state 4-H specialist for continuing professional education, state level new 4-H professionals’ orientation, county based mentors, etc.) as well as in-service education (Phases I, II and III in-services, study tours, formal graduate coursework, etc.)
As Departmental faculty and staff, we are committed to continuing professional education, and seek to provide quality and timely educational opportunities for all programmatic salaried (and non-salaried) staff based upon needs and assets identified by staff members themselves, subject matter experts, and contemporary societal issues and situations. While focused upon content and process, 4-H Youth Development continuing professional education opportunities seek to nurture lifelong learning in participants, encouraging mastery of Evers et al.’s (1998, p. 5) professional base competencies of:
- Managing Self (“constantly developing practices and internalizing routines for maximizing one’s ability to deal with the uncertainty of an ever-changing environment”);
- Communicating (“interacting effectively with a variety of individuals and groups to facilitate the gathering, integrating, and conveying of information in many forms”);
- Managing People and Tasks (“accomplishing the tasks at hand by planning, organizing, coordinating, and controlling both resources and people”); and
- Mobilizing Innovation and Change (“Conceptualizing, as well as setting in motion, ways of initiating and managing change that involve significant departures from the current mode.”)
Our belief is that North Carolina 4-H Youth Development professionals (e.g., county agents; county program assistants, associates, and project managers; and state Extension specialists, assistants, and associates) are both youth development experts and managers/administrators of community-based educational programs and systems. They are entitled to quality in-service opportunities (both within and beyond county borders) offered at a reasonable expense (both real costs and time away from task) based upon contemporary research and best practices in youth development, that instill in them a commitment to lifelong learning and continuing professional development.