ASAP and USDA Forest Service Partner to Address Gaps in Workforce Climate Literacy

In 2018, ASAP Members began a series of discussions on professional education needs for the climate change adaptation community. It quickly became clear that the group’s most valuable output would be a knowledge and competencies framework for our field. 

After several months, the resulting working group ultimately created ASAP’s Knowledge and Competencies Framework for Climate Change Adaptation and Climate Resilience Professionals (K&C Framework). This framework provides a complete view of the knowledge and competencies needed to ensure that workers in any sector, field, or role are prepared to equitably and effectively integrate climate change adaptation and climate resilience into their work. The K&C framework has been applied in curriculum design for numerous professional education and higher education courses, including Worcester Polytechnic Institute’s Masters in Community Climate Adaptation and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission/Gulf of Mexico Alliance’s Adapting to a Changing Gulf Region online course

Last year, ASAP embarked on its most ambitious application yet: using the K&C Framework to increase the USDA Forest Service’s capacity to respond to climate change by establishing standardized, agency-wide training on climate change and environmental justice. We are thrilled to work with long-time ASAP Member Chris Swanston, who leads the Forest Service’s Office of Sustainability and Climate (OSC). Chris was a member of the original K&C Framework working group and had been envisioning a collaboration with ASAP on a project like this for over a decade. Chris believes, “If we want to have intentional, persuasive, and meaningful climate action in the Forest Service, we have to start with climate literacy.”

Our collaborative project, “Addressing Gaps in Workforce Climate Literacy,” is unique. It combines ASAP’s broad expertise in capacity building for climate change adaptation with the Forest Service’s specific knowledge and focused expertise of climate adaptation within the scope of natural resources. We are fortunate to be able to build on the wisdom and experience of ASAP members as well as that of a broad range of practitioners from the Forest Service workforce.

We have completed the first year of what we expect to be a three-year project. Over three years, we intend to:

  • Analyze the climate literacy needs of key Forest Service staff roles and design holistic training programs to increase the climate literacy of staff in each role.
  • Catalog existing education resources and categorize according to the K&C Framework, assess gaps, and develop new content to address gaps.
  • Monitor learning outcomes and adapt training programs as needed.

The timetable for each phase of the project is as follows:

Year 1: gathering data, analyzing the learning needs for key roles, and cataloging existing resources
Year 2: building learning programs and developing content to address gaps
Year 3: evaluating and making adjustments to learning programs and training content

We are grateful to the Forest Service for their leadership in developing this pilot project and their commitment to ensuring this work is transferable to other contexts. In order to achieve that goal, we will create parallel, public-facing resources at each project phase that other organizations might find useful, with or without real-time guidance from ASAP.

Today, we are excited to release these template resources as an outgrowth of our first phase of the project:

Role Type Analysis

  • This document can be used as one of the earliest steps in the users’ curriculum development to understand the skills and capacities that individuals serving the priority roles in their organizations need or should have. These skills and competencies are based on ASAP’s Knowledge & Competencies Framework

Climate Change Education Resource Map

  • The resource map is a tool for cataloging information during the climate change project planning process. As a template, it is designed to organize objectives, concepts, including specific elements and the range of resources within a given project. This template encourages thoughtful, multi-dimensional examination of project resources.

 These skills and competencies are based on ASAP’s Knowledge & Competencies Framework.

Gaps Analysis

  • The Gaps Analysis identifies training and education gaps within teams, as well as potential areas for individual and collective growth.
  •  The Gaps Analysis is also used to determine gaps in existing resources (identified by initial role analyses) and the current and programming/educational resource map. 
  • This document serves the users of this template best when it’s structured as a big-picture bulleted list of major gaps.

Learning Program Outline:

  • The Learning Program Outline addresses learning and programmatic gaps outlined in the Gaps Analysis. This outline (1) describes the targeted audience; (2) provides a summary of the new or expanded learning objectives for their program; and (3) aligns those objectives with ASAP’s Knowledge & Competencies Framework
  • The Learning Program Outline is also used to create individual or team learning program outlines by aligning learning objectives with specific concepts, skills, and existing resources.
  • The result is an effective learning program outline that will be expanded into a learning program, which is defined as a set of resources that provide comprehensive articulation of the training, titles, descriptions, and learning objectives needed for a particular role type. The learning program has the capability to access existing individual training, resources, and thorough pre- and post-learning evaluation for the program participants. 

ASAP’s Forest Service Office of Sustainability and Climate (OSC) partners have pointed out that organizations should first think about their mission, their staff’s ability to identify climate literacy needs, and which learning outcomes are most critical to accomplishing the mission. It is also crucial that organizational leadership is supportive of staff development and its contribution to optimal outcomes. We acknowledge the support of the Forest Service leadership and the ways it has been instrumental in getting this project off the ground.

These templates are effective tools for organizations to identify current resources that are aligned with their workforce needs, the gaps or deficiencies that should be addressed, and the level of strategy, investments of time, and capital to remedy them. 

These templates can also guide organizations in developing clear learning objectives and applications for training content. Customized platforms for delivering content ensure that workforce efficiency and effectiveness are enhanced by a process that creates immediate, impactful ways to put learning into action.

As Chris shared, “We will succeed if each staff person can help the Forest Service become a climate-positive agency: if every member of the Forest Service workforce understands climate change and how they can make change through their actions and their role in the agency.” 

Contact: Mia Dozier, ASAP’s Training Specialist at