Competency Development for Entry-Level Public Parks and Recreation Professionals


  • Amy R. Hurd


competencies, Delphi technique, entry-level employees, public parks and recreation, management, employee effectiveness


Competencies are the skills, knowledge, and personal characteristics needed for successful performance in a job. There are several means of implementing competencies into an organization such as (a) identifying training and development needs for employees; (b) infusing hiring criteria including job descriptions, interview questions, and screening benchmarks; (c) establishing employee appraisal standards; and (d) aiding in career self-management. Competencies can also play a greater role if the agency becomes competency driven. Becoming competency driven means competency implementation at all levels of the organization including the board, valuing training and development by providing necessary resources and by viewing competencies as the cornerstone of human resources management and organizational goals, objectives, and strategic planning.

Competencies have been prominent in the market (commercial) and nonprofit sectors for some time, but research on public-sector competencies, and in parks and recreation in particular, is limited. Studies in parks and recreation have focused on chief executive officers in public agencies, commercial and resort recreation entry-level employees, public park and recreation board members, entry-level public employees, and recreational sports professionals. Although there is little consensus on a single competency model, there are several similarities that span the profession.

The purpose of this study was to determine the competencies needed by entry-level employees in public parks and recreation agencies. To do this, a Delphi technique was used to collect data from entry-level professionals who had less than 5 years of experience in the field. Sixteen jurors participated in three rounds of the Delphi process, which resulted in the Entry-Level Competency Framework (ELCF). The ELCF had three levels of specificity, with the broadest level being the five general competency categories, under which were 15 primary competency areas and 53 specific competencies. The most important specific competencies included (a) the ability to communicate clearly with customers, (b) the ability to listen to staff and customers, (c) the ability to deal with the public, (d) the ability to communicate clearly with staff, (e) knowing how to act professionally, and (f) the ability to manage multiple tasks. Although further research is needed to test and refine the ELCF, this is a starting point for what skills, knowledge, abilities, and characteristics professionals need to be successful in entry-level positions in public parks and recreation agencies.





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