Summer 1986 // Volume 24 // Number 2 // Feature Articles // 2FEA6

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Promotion from Within Anyone Qualified

Training program creates a pool of potential administrators.

Joe D. Pittman
Associate Professor, District Supervisor
Ohio Cooperative Extension Service
Ohio State University - Columbus

Lydia Bruny
Assistant Professor, Chairman and Home Economist
Ohio Cooperative Extension Service
Ohio State University - Fairfield County

In the past, Ohio middle-management positions were filled by county agents or state and district specialists who had been identified as strong program personnel interested in administrative roles. Such hiring practices moved teaching personnel into administrative positions with only limited knowledge of administrative procedures. As most authorities in personnel management and selection point out, an excellent educator doesn't necessarily make a good administrator. To increase the chances for success, the Ohio Cooperative Extension Service (OCES) initiated a Supervisor-In-Training (SIT) program, which was created to train a pool of people from which future supervisors could be selected.

The need for this program was intensified by the fact that three of the five district supervisors were eligible or soon to be eligible to retire. Also, OCES had recently reorganized from 10 supervisory areas to 5 supervisory districts. This reorganization doubled the supervisory responsibilities, which overloaded the supervisory staff.

In June, 1984, an OCES Administration Task Force, made up of a district supervisor, supervisorin-training, state leader in personnel, and the director of OCES, began developing plans for the program.


The objectives of the SIT program were:

  1. To identify potential candidates for middlemanagement roles, assess the needs for training, and provide formal/informal educational experiences to meet these needs to establish a pool of potential administrators.
  2. To provide present supervisors with additional help until reorganization was completed with county chairpersons assuming more supervisory responsibility.
  3. To enhance the leadership and management ability of 8-10 OCES field faculty per year, regardless of whether they became district supervisors or remained in their original positions as county/ district faculty.


Soon after the task force was organized, trainees were selected from a slate of candidates who applied or were nominated. The OCES administrative group members rated the candidates and, using a nameless profile, final selection was made. Through this process, the list was narrowed from 37 to 10 candidates. Names and geographical locations were attached for the final balloting. Two trainees from each of the five Extension districts were selected to establish a good cross-section of program training (agriculture, home economics, 4-H), position (county agent and specialist), and gender.

The final 10 candidates included 6 men and 4 women of whom 6 were county agents and 4 district specialists; 4 agriculture, 4 home economics, and 2 professionals in 4-H.

Each of the five district supervisors was assigned two trainees. The agents held a 50% appointment in their previous program assignment (county agent or specialist), and a 50% appointment in the training program as administrators.

Attempts to maintain programming levels in the counties were enhanced by the employment of half-time program assistants to the county agent with money made available from state funds. This part-time employment assured clientele and officials of a full program without additional cost to the county. District personnel in the training program assigned leadership responsibility of some specific programs to county agents within the district.

SIT Learning

The training process consisted of two profiles: education and assistance. SIT learning experiences were identified by district supervisors and assistant directors from lists of items they submitted to the task force. These experiences were classified as objectives to be done in blocks of time.

First Phase

The first phase, which lasted three months, was devoted to becoming familiar with the organization. During this time, reporting systems for agents were reviewed. Annual report of results and Plans of Work were reviewed for completeness. Monthly statistical and expense accounts were scrutinized to identify special problems.

Personnel development focused on the agent selection process and in-service training. Other personnel concerns addressed early in the program were performance evaluation, promotion and tenure, and counseling techniques and styles. Most administrative processes were ongoing, and the total concept was achieved over time. Trainees were involved with these processes as they related to administrative decision making, financing at all levels, program development, implementation and evaluation, affirmative action, employment opportunities, working with committees, and management of the district office.

Second Phase

The second block of time (4-9 months) addressed the same items as the introductory block, but with a higher level of involvement. In personnel development, the trainee was involved in agent selection. This was a step beyond the first phase in which the trainee studied the hiring procedure. By the second phase, the trainee was ready for involvement in the total process: working with the advisory committee to determine the needs of the county, determining candidate qualifications, participating in interviews, and appointing the agent. The trainee then worked closely with the new agent to help with an orientation plan.

Also, during the second phase, to increase decision-making skills, trainees participated in monthly administrative cabinet meetings, and represented the district supervisor at Extension and nonExtension functions. Public relations skills were achieved by providing leadership in legislative activities and developing communication links with media and organizations. Program development was addressed through involvement in pre-program planning and reviewing plans for implementation and evaluation procedures.

Third Phase

The third phase completed the skills needed by administrators in OCES. It summarized program efforts and accomplishments, implemented and evaluated personnel development plans, and developed administrative decision-making procedures.

In this phase, trainees counseled assigned county agents on all matters and concerns and ensured that all faculty understood the mission of CES. They helped agents write position descriptions. At this time, a six-month formal evaluation was completed.

Public relations concerns were addressed as trainees developed an annual public relations plan for the district office, counseled county chairpersons on their public relations role, and visited county fairs, 4-H camps, and other major program activities. Conducting compliance reviews, managing the support staff at the district office, and reviewing grant proposals completed the tasks in this phase.

During the three phases discussed, trainees also enrolled in selected graduate coursework, seminars, and state-planned, in-service training that were identified through an assessment process. This included participating in the North Central Regional MidManagers Conference, Minnesota Summer School, and other workshops in and out of state.


The assistance profile of the training program permitted the trainee to function as a supervisor. Each trainee was assigned specific counties working as a supervisory leader to that county's staff. However, the district supervisor of the trainee retained total responsibility of that county, while the supervisor-in-training functioned as the psuedosupervisor.

Trainees helped the district supervisor by reviewing and approving expense accounts and requests for leave. They also counseled county agents on teaching objectives, program development, committee structures, and conducting program reviews. The activities the trainees helped with were directly related to the learning experiences identified in the time phases. As more administrative theories were studied and as they completed the second and third phases of the program, more responsibility for leadership and decision making was given to the trainees.

The program has been very effective to this point, as informally evaluated by OCES administration and the trainees. From his personal observation, the director of OCES indicated that the program has succeeded beyond expectations. The personal and professional growth of the 10 original supervisorsin-training was measurable visually as well as quantitatively, and supports the original decision to use scarce resources for this program. Individual comments from the supervisors-in-training suggested that the program has been even more beneficial than they originally believed. Also, some of our earlier skeptics now support the program. In all, an allocation of scarce resources to a relatively expensive, but highly cost effective, program that builds both personal and organizational strengths has been successful.

District supervisors were impressed with the program and the progress made by the trainees, saying they wish they'd had the same training.

The majority of the SIT's said they now understand the complicated role of the mid-manager and the skills necessary to perform that role. Most felt the program will help them be a better agent or specialist even if they don't have the opportunity to become a mid-manager. Those who are county office chairpersons felt the program has really helped them to perform that role.