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Job Approval Authority (JAA) is a component of a Technical Quality Assurance (TQA) system developed and administered by the NRCS to enable more people within the conservation partnership of NRCS, SWCDs and BWSR to provide reliable conservation technical assistance and sign-off for federal conservation programs. Other components of an effective TQA system include conservation practice standards, accepted design methods and tools, training, peer review during the development of projects, as well as spot checks of project files and completed practices. BWSR has adopted the NRCS JAA system and Professional Engineer (P.E.) licensure as part of its Technical Quality Assurance system for state programs administered by BWSR.

JAA is based on training, experience, and demonstrated competence for specific job classes and stages of conservation practices, including investigation/planning, design, and construction/application.

Image of individuals using survey equipment
Staff demonstrating survey equipment

Process Steps:

  1. The office and organization of an employee seeking JAA define Priority Resource Concerns and associated priority conservation practice(s) in the employee’s work area for which the employee needs JAA.
     
  2. The employee and their supervisor identify priority training needs in the employee’s Individual Development Plan (IDP) for the priority conservation practice(s).
     
  3. Employee seeks and acquires online, classroom, and on-the-job training, including assisting others who have applicable Engineering JAA (EJAA) or Ecological Sciences JAA (ESJAA) for the priority conservation practice(s).
     
  4. After acquiring adequate experience to demonstrate technical assistance competence for a priority conservation practice, the employee and their supervisor, with the help from training mentor(s), as appropriate, assemble documentation of applicable training, experience, and demonstrated competence for the practice and request JAA for the employee.  The supervisor’s involvement must include employee organization consent for the employee to pursue JAA. JAA requests for employees in field offices are coordinated with the NRCS District Conservationist.  A request for EJAA is made to the applicable NRCS Area Engineer, based on the office location of the requesting employee. A request for ESJAA is made to the applicable NRCS Area Resource Conservationist, based on the office location of the requesting employee. JAA requests that constitute the practice of professional engineering (noted by an asterisk on the EJAA tables) are forwarded to the State Conservation Engineer.  A practice of professional engineering will not be delegated to any non-NRCS employee who is not a licensed engineer in the state of Minnesota.  NRCS may grant JAA delegation authority to other NRCS technical specialists.
     
  5. Based on review of the JAA request with supporting documentation, and consultation with the employee, the employee’s supervisor and mentor(s), as applicable, the NRCS Area Engineer, Area Resource Conservationist, State Conservation Engineer, State Resource Conservationist, or other NRCS Technical Specialist, if applicable, determines the level of JAA to assign to the requesting employee.
     
  6. The employee’s supervisor concurs with the JAA assignment, as appropriate.
     
  7. Employee reviews the applicable JAA ethics statement and agrees to ethics requirements.
     
  8. The assigned JAA is recorded in the applicable JAA database(s). 
     
  9. The employee’s JAA is reviewed by NRCS on a maximum 3-year cycle and validated or modified (potentially including removal), based on the employee’s current qualifications.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1: What’s the best way to understand the purpose of Job Approval Authority (JAA)?

A1: JAA is a component of a Technical Quality Assurance (TQA) system developed and administered by the NRCS to enable more people to provide reliable conservation technical assistance for federal conservation programs. Other components of an effective TQA system include conservation practice standards, accepted design methods and tools, training, peer review during the development of projects, as well as spot checks of project files and completed practices.

Q2: What are the key requirements of JAA?

A2: Conservation technical assistance training, experience, and demonstrated competence for the applicable conservation practice, job class, and stage of the practice. JAA also requires adherence to an ethics statement to only sign off on work for which the person with JAA is qualified.

Q3: How and why does BWSR use JAA?

A3: BWSR has adopted the NRCS JAA system and Professional Engineer (P.E.) licensure as part of its Technical Quality Assurance system for BWSR programs, as indicated in the BWSR Grants Administration Manual, Technical Quality Assurance section, Clean Water Fund Policy, and Erosion Control and Water Management Program Policy.

Q4: How does Engineering JAA relate to the Minnesota statute that requires professional engineer licensure?

A4: Minnesota Statutes Section 326.02, Subd. 3 requires P.E. licensure for the “practice of professional engineering”. The NRCS Engineering JAA chart (MN501 Authorizations) has defined the job classes of practices for which the scope or complexity is considered the practice of professional engineering, as indicated by an asterisk. Job classes of practices without an asterisk are not considered subject to the state professional engineering licensure requirement. Therefore, technicians can receive JAA for the job classes of engineering practices that do not have an asterisk. NRCS historically has coordinated with the Minnesota Board of Engineering, Architecture, Land Surveying, Landscape Architecture, Geoscience and Interior Design (AELSLAGID) regarding the JAA system.

Q5: Are NRCS (federal) employees exempt from state professional engineer licensure requirements?

A5: Yes, in accordance with Minnesota Statutes Section 326.13, clause (3), when working within the scope of their federal employment.

Q6: Can an engineering technician work on a practice with a job class that is considered the practice of professional engineering?

A6: Yes, if the work is done under the direct supervision of a qualified, licensed P.E., or an NRCS employee with the applicable JAA, who will oversee and sign off on the work.

Q7: More generally, can a person without JAA for the job class and stage of a practice work on the practice?

A7: Absolutely, if the work is done under the direct supervision of someone with the applicable JAA, who will oversee and sign off on the work. This type of on-the-job training is necessary to gain experience and demonstrated competence by a person wanting to achieve the corresponding JAA. 

Q8: Are people with Engineering JAA working under the P.E. license of the NRCS State Conservation Engineer?

A8: The NRCS State Conservation Engineer is required by NRCS to be a licensed P.E. and to oversee the Engineering JAA system. The authority to approve engineering work can be delegated to others, in accordance with the JAA system, but only the P.E. can work under his/her license. Others can work under the direct supervision of a P.E., but not under the P.E.’s license. JAA is an assigned/delegated technical certification that enables people to provide and sign off on conservation technical assistance independent of direct supervision, if they are eligible and qualified. (However, peer review is always recommended.)