In 1995, the National Leadership Council of the National Park Service adopted a ten-year plan for the training and development of its employees. The Employee Training & Development Strategy (1995) defined 16 career fields in the National Park Service and over 225 competency descriptions were developed. In addition, it identified the Universal Essential (now Universal) Competencies. These competencies apply to all employees in all career fields.

The Strategy spells out the mission and six goals of the training and development program. The mission is to provide for the professional growth and continuous learning of all NPS employees by providing them with a comprehensive, mission-focused training and development program. Mission Goal 1 is to conduct training needs assessments for all career fields. The Government Employees Training Act (GETA) requires agencies to conduct training needs assessments in order to provide a realistic basis upon which to plan, program and direct training and development activities toward the achievement of organizational and program goals.

The National Park Service (NPS) training community entered into a cooperative agreement with the Eppley Institute for Parks and Public Lands at Indiana University to conduct training needs assessments for several of these career fields, including the Universal Competencies. The Survey was conducted during the winter of 1998 1999. The final report was completed in April 1999.

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