IDP Tool home page

Technical Training and Certification Program logo
Screenshot of Tech Training menu and dashboard icons in eLINK.

These detailed, step-by-step instructions will help you to:

  • Add New Training Requests
  • Annually Update your IDP and Training Requests
  • Generate your Individual Development Plan report
  • View and add completed courses in My Training History
  • View and add Credentials
  • Search Technical Training to find peer-to-peer connections & individuals who have JAA for a specific conservation practice
  • Complete Manager Roles


Users will be able to enter and edit their own data. Managers will be able to enter organization priorities, review staff’s Individual Development Plan (IDP) data or enter/edit the data. Both roles include the ability to generate various reports.

Login to eLINK to get started.


IDP Tool Procedure and Features

The steps below outline the overall process that you should use to complete your IDP. Open the accordion Steps below for more detailed instructions.

While the steps can be followed by NRCS Team Leads/District Conservationists and SWCD managers individually, we highly recommended that you work together to determine and discuss your service area's current technical capabilities, identify potential gaps in technical capabilities, and plan for future technical needs. This approach will allow you to get the most out of this process.

Step 1: Identify Priority Resource Concerns and Practices

  • NRCS TLs/DCs and SWCD Managers should identify priority resource concerns in their county or service areas using local water plans, USDA local working group documents, and other local resources.  
  • Once the resource concerns are identified, NRCS TLs/DCs and SWCD Managers should identify the conservation practices that are regularly used in the county or service area to address those resource concerns
  • Priorities are entered by Organization, so NRCS TLs/DCs and SWCD Managers will need to enter priority resource concerns for the service area separately.  

Instructions for entering priority concerns and practices are included in the Manager Role information below.

Step 2: Determine Capabilities

For each conservation practice listed as a priority in the service area, the SWCD Manager and the NRCS TLs/DCs should identify employees who are currently able to, or desire the ability, to work on the practice. Helpful Hint: Using the Search Technical Training feature, select your service area and Current Credentials to search in your service area. After searching, use the Create Report feature at the bottom of the page to generate a JAA Summary in a printable format.

If there is a gap in the ability of an organization to meet the implementation needs for a priority practice, the SWCD Manager or NRCS TL/DC should identify which staff need training or certification for that practice. The need for training or certification will be entered in the next step, in the employee's IDP.  

Step 3: Complete Employee IDPs

SWCD Managers and NRCS TLs/DCs should consult with individual employees to identify JAA and credentialing goals, and the training needs to meet those goals. Employees will then enter training needs into the IDP Tool under the My Training Needs feature (Managers will also be able to enter this information on behalf of their staff). Instructions for this step are found below.

Employees can enter any non-JAA certifications they already have, as well as training attendance that they would like documented as part of their IDP.

Step 4: Generate & Review IDP

Employees should print out their IDP and review it carefully to make sure it documents existing certifications and indicates which trainings and certifications are desired. 

Helpful Hint: Discuss your IDP with your manager or supervisor. Consider the following:

  • Do your identified training needs match up with the priorities for your organization? 
  • Are there additional professional development opportunities you are interested in? 
  • Your IDP is a great tool for starting these conversations and making sure you and your manager are on the same page when it comes to long and short term professional development goals.
Step 1: Add Organizational Priorities

The Technical Training and Certification Program focuses on prioritizing training needs based on Organizational Priorities consisting of resource concerns and associated practices.

Screenshot of Organization Priorities screen in eLINK

To add a new priority practice and indicate the resource(s) the practice addresses, click on Add New Priority Practice:

Screenshot of Add New Priority Practice button in eLINK.

In the Add New/Edit Priority Practice popup window, begin by typing a priority practice, then select from the autocomplete list. Select one or more priority resources that the practice addresses. You can Save and close the window, or click Save & Add Another to add another priority practice.

Screenshot of Add New Priority Practices popup in eLINK

We ask that you consider the priority resource concerns and the conservation practices needed in your area in order to address those concerns. This step encourages users to focus on the skills needed to most effectively assist the clients in their area. TTCP staff will create multiple opportunities based on training needs indicated through this process. Identifying priority resource concerns and practices allows your staff to prioritize training needs, and plan lower priority training for the future when staff are ready to expand their abilities. This process results in prioritized training needs to enter into the IDP tool.

Step 2: Add New Training Requests

Under the My Training Needs tab, select Add New Training Request:

Screenshot of My Training Needs screen in eLINK, with Add New Training Request button circled.
Screenshot of Add New Training Request window, with Practice-Specific selected.

You can enter training requests for any of the categories below (Select Category):

  • Advanced Technical Skills (e.g. Advanced Hydrology)
  • Basic Technical Skills (e.g. Basic Ag & Agronomy)
  • Core Competency (e.g. Water Quality Basics)
  • Other Certification
  • Practice-Specific

The first two categories are directly related to the IDP Skills Matrix, where skill based trainings are listed relative to applicable conservation practices. A copy of the Matrix can be found online: TTCP IDP Skills Matrix

Advanced and Basic Technical Skills: Upon selecting a category, select the desired skill area. Follow the instructions and enter details about your training need need to better describe your specific application of that skill. For example, if you select a Wildlife skill, please tell us which wildlife species you are doing planning for.

Core Competencies: These trainings exist as modules housed on the Core Competency Conservation Training (MNC3) website. Identifying these as training needs is solely for your own use to track training. You may enroll in the Core Competency trainings and complete them at your own pace.

Other Certification: This category could include any certification an individual may have as a goal and request training for it. Provide the name of the certification and the organization that normally grants that certification.

Note: When pursuing Conservation Planner Certification, enter the required course(s) by name. There are five in-person courses required for the Conservation Planner levels. Enter the text exactly for the one(s) you need:

  • Conservation Planning Business Tool Training
  • Conservation Planning Course: Part 2
  • Cultural Resources Training Series Part 2
  • Soil Health and Sustainability Training
  • Working Effectively With.....
  • Introduction to Conservation Engineering

Practice Specific: Training requests are related to approximately 115 conservation practices and  Best Management Practices (BMPs) used in Minnesota, and are subdivided into 3 types: Ecological Sciences, Engineering, and Non-JAA (i.e. practices that do not fall within NRCS's JAA system).

Upon selecting the desired Practice, a table showing current JAA levels (if any) will be displayed at the bottom. Please note that JAA information hasn't been updated since July of 2022. When identifying your training need you have options to select the desired training format(s) as well as the phase(s) of training you are looking for:

  • Classroom/Virtual: traditional presentation formats, small group activities
  • Field: hands on training at a project site
  • Example Project Scenarios: real world projects that you can work through independently or with local assistance
  • On the Job Training (OJT): assistance on an actual project from experienced staff such as a coworker, mentor, or training staff

Saving and Editing Training Requests

The request and save steps in each skill or practice window is the same:

  1. For each skill/practice selected, press Save. You will then see the Successfully Created message.
  2. To begin an additional request, press the Create New Request button.
  3. You can make edits to this request and re-press the Save button.
  4. Select the Go Back button to return to the My Training Needs page.

Once a training request is in the table, you can edit or delete the item using the icons in the Action column. The Last Updated date refers to the most recent save date for that item. Staff are asked to revisit each training request on at least an annual basis to update that you have received sufficient training on that topic (delete the item), or make appropriate changes, and/or re-save the training need to refresh the date signifying that item remains a training need.

Step 3: Annual IDP Review and Update

Updating Training Requests

Although training needs are continually evaluated, users will need to enter or update their information by the annual deadline to be included in the requests for the upcoming year's training opportunities.

Training requests should be updated in the IDP tool annually. Generally TTCP will remove any requests for training dated before January 1 of the current year. There are three options for updating training requests:

  1. Refresh the date if the request is still valid.
  2. Delete a request that is no longer valid or has been met.
  3. Edit a request, including the description, to reflect the specific training you are requesting.

Begin by selecting the My Training Needs tab, and select the pencil icon to edit a specific training need.

Screenshot of My Training Needs grid in eLINK, displaying last updated date of each request.

Update your existing training need using one of the three options.

IDP Tool Update Training Need
Step 4: Generate IDP Report
Screenshot of Generate IDP Report button in eLINK, located on the My Training Needs page.

The Generate IDP Report button (or Generate Staff IDP Report for managers) is available on the My Training Needs tab. The report will summarize all documented practice specific and skills related training needs and show existing JAA for the individual. The report can be downloaded into an Excel spreadsheet and is formatted for easy printing.

My Training History


Screenshot of My Training History screen in eLINK

The My Training History section is designed to help you track any professional development trainings you have attended. The section is divided into two tables: TTCP Trainings and Other Trainings.

TTCP Trainings

A record of your attendance at a TTCP sponsored training, when sign in sheets are used, should appear in the table within a week or two after a course is complete - no input is necessary on your part. However, you will need to review this table periodically to ensure accuracy.   

If you enter attendance prior to a trainer entering it, and both show up in the table later on, you may delete the one you entered. You cannot delete attendance entered by a trainer. Please contact one of the session trainers if you have issues.

If you wish to track any other TTCP Trainings, where sign in sheets are not used (e.g. Tech Talks), you will need to enter that information on your own.

Other Trainings

You can use this table to track any non-TTCP training courses you've attended.

On the right side of the table, by each course listing, you can edit or delete that line. Choosing edit will allow you to see and modify the course hours and edit the other fields. Training history is on the honor system. Trainers try to be consistent in the number of course hours assigned for purposes of tracking Continuing Education Units (CEUs), so we recommend not changing these values. Trainers keep sign-in sheets for each of the sessions hosted; contact a technical trainer if you need of a copy.

Screenshot of Add New Training screen in eLINK

Managers or staff may enter a new training record to document attendance at a training session. Follow these steps to add a new training request.

Press the Add a New Training button.  The Common Courses box uses an auto-populate feature to display commonly entered courses.

  • Currently, this option only contains the four Conservation Planning in-person courses. 
  • For all other training courses, use the Enter Course Name field to type in the name of the course.
  • Leaving the TTCP Training box unchecked places the record into the Other Trainings table. 
  • The check box for TTCP training should be used if you’d like to enter your completion of TTCP trainings. Checking this box will place the training record in the TTCP Trainings history table.
  • Make sure to choose the correct Category that ties your training to a skill in the IDP Skills Matrix.

Select the Add button to create the training record.  You will then see a Successfully Created message.  Select a Category from the pull-down, as all asterisk fields are required fields and need to be populated. 

  • If your training record does not fit into one of the IDP Skills Matrix categories, we recommend using the closest one such as Other Certification or Practice-Specific to complete the training history record.
My Credentials

The My Credentials tab provides a snapshot of training related credentials.  There are three sub-tabs within the My Credentials tab. The first two, Engineering JAA and Ecological Sciences JAA, are read-only tables. The data contained in these tables is imported from the official MN NRCS JAA database. Please note that while inputs should occur twice a year the last time this information was updated was July 2022. So if you’ve recently received JAA, the table may not contain your updated JAA levels. Staff can run a report to get a summary of their currently imported JAA levels in the Search Technical Training screen. However, MN NRCS maintains the official Job Approval Authorities.

Screenshot of user's Engineering JAA credentials in eLINK.
Screenshot of My Training Needs screen in eLINK, with Add New Training Request button circled.

The third category of credentials is the Non-JAA & Other Certifications tab. Items in this table are entered by users and can be edited or deleted. Choose the Add Credentials button to create new credential records. Upon entering information, press the Add button to record the information in your credentials’ table, or click the Return to My Credentials button to exit the window.

The pull-down options for Select Type are Non-JAA and Other (i.e. Other Certifications). Non-JAA refers to common practices where the NRCS JAA charts typically do not apply. Choosing Non-JAA will allow the Conservation Practice pull-down to show practices from the IDP Skills Matrix in the non-JAA category. The Certification Title can be left blank. Enter the Certifying Organization. For example: if your SWCD Board granted you authority to sign-off on a practice, list your SWCD Board's full name. Include a Date (e.g. board meeting date) when that occurred for accurate records. The Skills Matrix can be helpful in completing this portion of the IDP.

If you choose the Type Other, you can record any other credentials/certifications you have. We encourage you to record Conservation Planner status (e.g. Apprentice Conservation Planner) here. Certifications for any FOTG conservation practices, where you would normally get JAA (not common), could be inputted here too. You should enter the conservation practice in the Certification Title box (e.g. “PS 412 up to 100 cfs”).

MANAGERS ONLY: To add new credentials for your staff under the Non-JAA and Other Certifications tab, you will need to use the Select Staff pull-down and click the Show button, even if you have done that on a previous tab. The Add Credential button will then appear and their current list of credentials will be displayed.

Search Technical Training

The Search Technical Training feature allows you to look up and create reports for individuals or multiple staff, even across multiple organizations. Use any of the filters to narrow down to a group of individuals or individual you’d like to include in a report. Note: selecting more than one filter behaves as an “and” and limits results. 

Search Technical Training feature in the IDP Tool

Select which filter category you’d like to use:

  • Current Credentials
  • Desired Technical Skills
  • Training History

Based on your selection, you’ll need to provide additional information to further narrow the search (e.g. Desired Technical Skills/ Basic Technical Skill/ Basic Hydrology). 

Press the Search button to view all staff meeting your search criteria. 

Then choose the report you wish to run for those staff using the Generate Report pull-down. 

Press the Create Report button to generate an Excel spreadsheet report. The report may contain more information than you need, but you can sort and filter the results in Excel.

Here are the reports and report descriptions:

  1. JAA Summary: returns all JAA in the My Credentials sections for the selection.
  2. Training Needs Summary: returns all training requests in the Desired Technical Skills section for the selection.
  3. Training History Summary: returns all training attendance records in the Training History section for the selection.
Manager Roles: Add/Edit Organizational Priorities, Enter/Update Technical Training Requests for Staff

Follow these steps to add a Priority Resource Concern for your organization:

  1. Select your main resource concerns in your organization’s boundary (e.g. county). Add as many resource concerns as you would like. Upon closing the window, all resource concerns selected will refresh and be displayed in the table.   
  2. To add practices, select the Add a New Priority Practice button. The first pull down will display your priority resource concerns. Note that the Priority Practices list is not restricted based on your resource concerns. 
  3. To choose a practice, type the practice code or start typing the practice name. The auto-populate feature will display the closest matches. 
  4. Click on the practice you want to add and press the Add button. Continue adding as many practices as you would like. Upon closing the window, all practices you selected will be displayed in the table. You can edit and delete practices directly within the table using the icons in the Action column on the right.

Follow these steps to add Technical Training for your staff:

  1. Go to the My Training Needs tab. Choose your Organization from the pull down and select Go.
  2. Choose a staff member from the Select Staff pull down, and press Show. Press the Create New Request button.
  3. Select the desired skill/practices and press Save. You will then see the Successfully Created message.
  4. To add another training request press the Create New Request button and repeat step 3.
  5. When complete make sure to press the Save button. Select  the Go Back button to return to the My Training Needs page.
  6. Complete this process as necessary for additional staff.
Additional Resources & Contacts

Additional Resources

The additional resources below can help you get started and develop your individual development plan. This section will be updated periodically with the latest helpful materials.

Video Guidance

Other Resources

Contact us

  • Have a question about a specific course or a series of courses? Email TTCP staff
  • Having account or system usage issues? Need to reset your password, or need help unlocking your account, or help entering data? Contact