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Chapter IV.-Smith-Lever Personnel

The type and character of personnel are basic in the development of the program of work in any organization. The particular form of organization may be relatively unimportant, methods of administration and of operation may vary widely, but the outstanding qualities possessed by the personnel tend to give an organization the standing that it has in the particular field of endeavor in which it is engaged. That this applies to the Smith-Lever extension organizations is clear from even cursory examination of the character of staff personnel maintained by extension services in the States that have the highest standing and records of achievement as compared with those that are of little reputation beyond local circles. The facts concerning Smith-Lever extension personnel as reported by 43 institutions are summarized in an attempt to illustrate the general status and principal variations of the factors that determine staff character. For convenience of presentation this discussion will be grouped under the two classifications of personnel information and staff management.

Personnel Information

An outstanding feature of Smith-Lever extension workers is their youth. Table 9, which gives the facts about the age and experience of the various groups of extension workers, indicates that 77 per cent of the entire personnel are less than 40 years of age. This is, of course, to be expected in an organized system that is less than 15 years old. Further, work in the county organizations makes severe physical demands upon the workers and requires the active vigor of early life. Perhaps, also, the relatively low salary scale for this work in many States results in its being largely a “ beginner's job, in which losses must be constantly replaced by fresh recruits.

Quite naturally the administrative workers are older and are found concentrated in the range from 40 to 50 years of age, while the specialists, many of whom are recruited from county workers and teachers of agriculture and home economics, tend to fall into the younger age range between 31 and 40 years. With but 7 per cent of the workers above the 50-year mark, it should be expected that this part of the institutional organization for agricultural education would be characterized by a virile, active personnel fired with the spirit of service and imbued with the idea of making real progress in its field of work.

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Table 9.-Staff information regarding extension workers-Age and farm experience, 43 institutions reporting

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Director
State leaders:

Agricultural.
Home.

Club.
Assistant State leaders:

Agricultural
Home.
Club

Men

Women
Specialists:

Agricultural

Home economics
County agricultural agents.
County home agents.
Club agents:

Men..

Women
Assistant agricultural agents.
Assistant home agents.
Assistant club agents !
Editors..

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1 Women,

However, age is but one factor. Several others are important in determining the character of personnel employed in Smith-Lever work. The practical nature of the demands for development of technical skills in farming and home making has tended to stress the need of practical experience in these fields, perhaps to some neglect of demands for institutional training in the science and technique of these professions.

It is to be expected that scientific workers in agricultural extension would be recruited from the occupations with whose interests they are called upon to deal. Administrative authorities thus expect to secure in these workers a background of interest and of experience with the practices and problems of the agricultural and home economic vocations. While farm-mindedness may be a very indefinite term, it has a well-known meaning and sometimes an exaggerated importance among agricultural educators. A sincere interest in and a sympathetic understanding of rural people and of their problems is intended to be covered by this term. Agricultural college administrators seem to agree quite generally that this interest and understanding are best developed by a background of farm experience.

The reports relating to the factor of experience show that threefourths of all extension workers were reared on farms, and that of those engaged in agricultural projects, 98 per cent have had practical farm experience. Of the same groups the replies indicated that 23 per cent owned or managed farms as a method of capital investment or personal activity in addition to their regular employment.

Further study of the reports in regard to other types of experience showed that 28 per cent of the total staff had taught high-school classes and about 8 per cent had had college teaching experience. Within the groups it was to be noted that one-third of those engaged in supervisory and specialists' lines of work reported having had college teaching experience, while a smaller proportion indicated research experience in experiment-station work.

Table 10 presents further facts concerning the training of workers.

It will be noted that the county-agent group contains the largest number with no college training. This is explained by the employment of practically trained men in the early years of county-agent service at a time when the demands for personnel exceeded the supply of college graduates who were otherwise fitted for this special line of work. A bachelor's degree in agriculture or home economics is now a definite requirement for the position of county agent in two-thirds of the institutions, while the others strongly emphasize college training as a requirement. It is also significant

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to note the relatively large number of agricultural and home-demonstration agents who during the past five years have been given leaves of absence for study and have received advanced degrees.

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Table 11 presents the distribution of extension workers as to college training and various types of experience. The percentage distribution is significant. It is apparent that supervising leaders in agricultural extension were selected in the early days of extension work without rigid requirements as to college training, teaching, or research experience.

Specialists in both agriculture and home economics quite generally possess college degrees. Eighty-nine per cent of the agricultural specialists have a bachelor's degree and 33 per cent a master's degree, while 85 per cent of the home-economic specialists have their first degree and 43 per cent their master's. One-fourth of the agricultural specialists have college-teaching experience and about one-seventh have taught in high schools previous to their extension employment. The previous teaching record of home-economics specialists is impressive and partially accounts for their success in local leader training. One-half have taught in high schools and one-fourth in college.

TABLE 11.—Per cent of workers with experience qualifications

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The training record of county workers, at first glance, presents an indication of an inadequately trained staff, but this is partially accounted for by the former emphasis upon practically trained people which carried a very strong appeal to local county boards in the earlier days of the service. It should also be pointed out that many of the agents may have had normal-school training.

Sixteen per cent of the agricultural agents and 44 per cent of the home agents had not received their first college degree, while but 4 per cent of each group had taken their master's work. It is significant, however, that 26 per cent of the farm agents had taught in high school, and 5 per cent in college, while 39 per cent of the home agents had high-school teaching experience, and 5 per cent had taught in college.

These records point to the very grave need of making it possible for the staff to find ways and means of continuing their training while on the job, preferably by leaves of absence for resident instruction.

In connection with the training of extension workers, it is important to note that Smith-Lever extension has progressed to the point of having its technique of organization and operation developed into courses of study as a part of the curricula of agricultural colleges. One-third of these institutions offer courses for credit in agricultural extension, while two-fifths of them include such courses in home economics.

The agricultural extension courses are elective in all the institutions, while in home economics two institutions have included them in the required work.

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