CBP’s extraordinarily successful collaboration with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), Non-Paid Work Experience (NPWE) internship program has assisted countless veterans in gaining valuable work experience that has led to their employment in myriad General Schedule (GS) positions across the agency since its inception in 2014. The program is strictly for our non-law enforcement mission support positions designed for disabled veterans who are at various stages of job readiness within the VA’s Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (VR&E) program and have the skills and military experience necessary to step directly into any of our positions of need agency-wide.
Since the beginning of fiscal year 2014, NPWE veterans have interned and been hired into GS-5 through GS-14 positions in a variety career fields (such as, IT Specialist, Management Analyst, Program Manager, CBP Technician, Import Specialist, and Mission Support Specialist). Those positions have been within CBP program offices at headquarters and in field offices including the Office of Field Operations, U.S. Border Patrol, Office of Human Resources Management, Office of Information Technology, Office of International Affairs, Office of Facilities and Assets Management, and many others.
For VR&E eligibility, veterans must receive an honorable discharge, have a VA service-connected disability rating of 20 percent or more, and apply for VA’s VR&E program services that include up to 48 months of additional education. While in the VR&E program, veterans often complete a bachelor’s or master’s degree that prepares them for a specific vocational goal prior to participating in the NPWE internship program or choose to participate in an NPWE internship program directly from transitioning from the military due to their job readiness and fitness for CBP mission support opportunities.
CBP considers NPWE veteran interns as strictly volunteers, and the interns are paid a monthly stipend by the VA during their internship participation. CBP is collaborating with the VA to place more eligible veterans into NPWE internships that may be able to convert into permanent positions with CBP. The internships take place at CBP offices throughout the country and can begin after the host office has interviewed and selected the veteran. Prior to the veteran Entering-On-Duty, CBP’s Hiring Center will complete a Background Investigation (BI) on the veteran.
NPWE participants are able to work full-time work schedules for six to 12 months and receive provisional clearances and full BIs through the Office of Professional Responsibility, depending on the level of access required for their internship. Provisional clearances, which provide CBP e-mail and basic Internet access, take two to three months to complete. The full BI takes an additional two to three months. If the internship requires a full BI, program offices must wait for its completion before the internship begins. However, once completed, the full BI grants the interns the same full system access as CBP employees, which affords host offices the ability to ascertain the full portfolio of the veteran’s skillset and whether they fit in with the team prior to non-competitively hiring them via their veterans preference at any point in the internship.
It is important to note that although these NPWE internships can last for up to 12 months, CBP program offices have used the NPWE internship to hire veterans at the six week-, three month-, six month-, and 12-month point, which is a testament to the tremendous flexibility of using this outstanding internship program for identifying and hiring talented veterans.
According to Jeffrey Jack, CBP’s Veterans Employment Program Manager, “the NPWE program is a win-win situation for CBP and participating veterans.” Mr. Jack encourages all CBP offices to consider hosting an NPWE intern. “Managers appreciate that the program is no cost to CBP, and participants do not count toward CBP’s full-time employees,” he says. “Hiring managers are keenly aware of how attractive the NPWE program can be in identifying high-caliber veteran talent along with the benefit of the expedited BI process that is cut in half using this program as opposed to hiring someone from USAJOBS.gov or directly using their veterans preference.”