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Agricultural Research Service

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Training Guide
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Training and Planning Guide for ARS Secretarial/Clerical Personnel


Table of Contents   Preface
Program Establishment
Training Options
Objectives for Levels of Performance
ARS General Information
ARS-Specific Systems and Programs
Office Professional Curriculum
Training Resources



In 1995, the National Secretarial Advisory Council initiated action to develop a Training and Planning Guide for ARS Office Professionals. This Guide was prepared with the goal of helping ARS management and office professionals identify strategies for building a bridge from the traditional secretary to the modern office manager or executive assistant that are required in the modern office environment.

This Guide will serve as a reliable tool for ARS office professionals in developing meaningful training plans designed to assist them in achieving their professional goals.

Responsible for formulating this Guide are:

Kay Carr, SAA
Carmela Carrick, NPS
Libby Fouse, PWA      
Marcia Jenkins, MWA
Olga Lee, NPA
Angie Marchetti, AFM
Elaine McGuire, BA
Mary Silva, NAL
Joyce Smith, NAA
Michelle Snowden, OA
Anne Steele, SPA
Cecelia Stortzum, HRD
Genevieve Swartzberg, MSA
Toni Walls, HRD

Responsible for revising the Guide in 2007 were:

Sandra Ball, NAL
Patricia Berry, HQS
Patricia Coyle, NAA
Debra Duckworth, SAA
Drusilla Fratesi, MSA
Barbara Hodges, SPA
Elizabeth Jackson, NAL
Shelia Jackson, SAA
Wendy Jacobs, BA
Veronica Laird, PWA
Heather Lewandowski, MWA
Sharon Peterson, NPA
Rhonda Sampson, OCIO

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The Secretarial Review Task Group, in its report Stepping Into the Future, recommended that ARS establish a Training and Planning Guide for office professionals. By memo dated April 1, 1994, Dr. Essex E. Finney, Jr., Acting Administrator, established the ARS National Secretarial Advisory Council and issued a charge to the Council to develop a training program. The National Secretarial Advisory Council changed it's name to the National Advisory Council for Office Support Personnel and then redefined it to the National Advisory Committee for Office Professionals in 2003.

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To build a bridge from the traditional Secretary to the modern Office Manager or Executive Assistant required in the 21st century and for ARS office professionals to be recognized for the professionalism and training excellence.

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The National Council established a subcommittee to analyze, evaluate, and identify suggested training areas for office professionals. The information provided in this brochure is the result of this subcommittee's efforts and should serve as a beneficial tool for supervisors and office professionals in developing meaningful Individual Development Plans (IDPs).

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Program Establishment

The guidelines outlined on the following pages are provided as a means for identifying training areas and can be used in developing and IDP for office professionals.

An IDP is a written schedule or plan (Form ARS-48) which describes your particular goals for the future. It is a tool to aid you n systematically planning for training in order to accomplish your career goals.

Specific guidance on the types of training classes to be taken to meet these needs, and vendors available to provide these classes, can be obtained by contacting the Employee Development Staff of the Human Resources Division.

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Training Options

Formal Training

  • Instructor-led workshops
  • Government/private sector
  • Conferences/seminars

On-the-Job Training

  • Detail/rotational assignment
  • Mentor/coach
  • Shadowing a subject-matter expert
  • Project/taskforce/committee
  • Cross training
  • Studying manuals/bulletins
  • AgLearn

Self-Development Activities

  • Independent reading
  • Audio/video cassette programs
  • Public speaking (i.e., Toastmasters)
  • Community/civic activities
  • Professional associations (i.e., Professional Secretaries International)

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Objectives for Levels of Performance
  • To acquire an overview of the office professional occupations
  • To enhance interpersonal communication skills
  • To assist management in applying state-of-the-art office procedures
  • To acquaint participants with office professional functional knowledge
  • To develop, process, and recommend improvement to the administrative process
  • To be able to write clear and logical reports and correspondence
  • To be able to analyze office procedures
  • To interpret difficult assignments
  • To present well-developed briefings
  • To furnish guidance and information on the administrative process to top-level agency personnel and other government agencies

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ARS General Information
Introduction to
  • Become familiar with ARS/Unit Mission
  • Become familiar with USDA/ARS/Unit Organization/Management Officials
  • Become familiar with location of ARS'/Unit offices, programs and personnel
  • Learn ARS Regulations and USDA Guidelines for Processes
  • Become familiar with commonly used forms
  • Program-Oriented Training (includes a basic overview of work being conducted in the Unit

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ARS-Specific Systems and Programs

ARIS (Automated Resource Information System)          

  • Management Unit (Work Incoming/Outgoing Agreement, 416/417; Work ARS 115; Post-Doc Application; Annual 421 system; FTIS; Reference Tables)
  • Agency Retrievals (Active 416/417; 421; Active 115; Briefing Packet; Reports Menu; Post-Doc Program; Inventions/Patents; Mission Statements
  • Miscellaneous Files (Mode Code; Strategic Plan; Active Project Report)


  • ARMPS (Annual Resource Management Plan System)
  • Understanding the ARS budget process
  • Understanding the Federal budget process


  • ARS correspondence procedures


  • Awards (Form AD-287-2)
  • Training (Form SF-182)
  • Personnel action requests (Form SF-52)
  • Research Position Evaluation System (RPES)


  • Purchasing guidelines
  • Purchase cards/PCMS responsibilities
  • CATS
  • IAS
  • Obtaining specifications, statement of work, sole source justification statements


  • Inventory
  • Property forms
  • Property policies and procedures

Office of Science and Quality Review (OSQR)        


  • Accident forms preparation
  • ARS safety policies and procedures

Time and Attendance

  • T&A policies and procedures
  • STAR


  • ARS travel policies and procedures
  • NFC on-line system
  • Foreign travel

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Training Resources


Fred Pryor Seminars:                        1-800-780-8476

Graduate School, USDA Training Centers:              

  • Atlanta, Georgia -- 404-331-3488
  • Chicago, Illinois -- 312-353-2919
  • Dallas, Texas -- 214-767-8245
  • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania -- 215-597-2527
  • San Francisco, California – 415-281-7025
  • Washington, D.C. – 202-314-3300

Learning Tree International:            1-800-843-8733

Skillpath Seminars:                            1-800-873-7545      


The Employee Development Staff of the ARS Human Resources Division is available to help you evaluate vendors, determine the appropriate level of training for you, develop training courses to meet your specific needs, and direct you to contact persons in other training institutions.


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Revised July 25, 2007

Last Modified: 5/30/2014
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