CBP’s Veterans Internship Program: A Hiring Manager’s Perspective
Jeffrey R. Jack serves as U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP’s) national Veterans Employment Program Manager (VEPM). In this role, he directly assists transitioning service-members and veterans in securing careers across the agency. One of these innovative strategies he’s implemented and oversees is CBP’s successful collaboration with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), Non-Paid Work Experience (NPWE) internship program. NPWE interns considered volunteers for CBP’s purposes and are paid a monthly stipend from the VA while they intern in strictly 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. These individuals have the skills and military experience necessary to step directly into any of our critically necessary roles. Jeff routinely engages CBP hiring managers, nationwide, regarding the success of the NPWE internship program.
Donna Hart, Assistant Center Director, Enforcement Consumer Products & Mass Merchandising Center, is a hiring manager who has recognized the value of this program since 2014. Donna has passionately implemented the NPWE internship program to meet her veteran hiring needs and explains, “When the Centers of Excellence and Expertise stood up in 2016, the Atlanta Field Office was provided an overview of various hiring initiatives to Consumer Products and Mass Merchandising (CPMM) Center managers. One of the programs discussed by Jack was the NPWE internship program. This volunteer program was appealing because it offered us additional import specialist staff, able to perform mission tasks, yet who did not count towards our authorized, on-board staffing levels.”
“One of the major benefits of the NPWE program is that interns can come on-board with a provisional or completed background investigation. When a vacancy becomes available, we have the ability to recommend the intern for the position. Filling the vacancy through the NPWE program takes only a few weeks. Starting the hiring process through USAJOBS, when the vacancy becomes available, takes months.”
“This program was an excellent option for our large ports with a high volume of trade work. In the Port of Long Beach, we have had two very successful interns. Our first intern started in June of 2017. He received training and was mentored by an on-site supervisory iport specialist. He gained experience through working closely with the local import specialist, as well as CBP officers, to learn the trade processes. When a vacancy became available, he was recommended for a permanent position.”
“In January of 2019, CPMM requested a second intern through NPWE in Long Beach. He also quickly became an asset to the team and was recently selected for a permanent position. Due to the success of the program, the CPMM has recommended interns for Miami as well as Queens, New York. CPMM would recommend the NPWE program to any office that has mission tasks that can be accomplished by interns.”
Donna’s strategic usage of the NPWE internship program is a testament to how this program can meet CBP hiring managers’ needs across the agency in our non-law enforcement careers due to the incredible talent level and skillset of participating veterans. Since the beginning of fiscal year 2014, NPWE veterans have interned, and been hired into, GS-5 through GS-14 positions in a variety of 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.
Individual success stories provide insight into just how attractive these NPWE internships are both for CBP hiring managers and veterans. Take Than Naing, a United States Marine Corps combat veteran and double Purple Heart recipient, who interned in 2015 and landed a position as a Management Analyst in CBP’s Office of International Affairs and now currently serves as a management analyst within CBP’s Office of Information Technology in Washington, D.C. Then there’s the powerful journey of Nina Scierka, a ten-year U.S. Coast Guard veteran, who used the NPWE internship to secure a position as a CBP technician and has since been promoted to her current role as an entry specialist at the CBP Centers for Excellence and Expertise for Apparel, Footwear and Textiles in Charleston, SC. These are but a couple of veteran success stories that speak directly to the invaluable benefits these internships afford veterans and hiring managers. NPWE interns have used this program in landing full-time employment, but have also progressed to higher paying positions and roles of responsibility in their careers due to the value the agency places on these tremendously talented individuals.
According to Jack, “the NPWE program is a win-win situation for CBP and participating veterans.” He 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 employee allocation,” he says. “Hiring managers are keenly aware of how attractive the NPWE program can be in identifying high-caliber veteran talent, and the benefit of the expedited background investigation process.”
To learn more about participating in the CBP Veterans Internship Program, as either a CBP hiring manager, a transitioning service-member from any branch in the military, or a veteran seeking a career within the agency, please contact Jeffrey R. Jack at email@example.com.