It is said that if you want a thing bad enough to go out and fight for it, to work day and night for it, to give up your time, your peace and sleep for it, that with the help of faith, hard work, and perseverance you’ll get it. Jay Bishop, an Army veteran and current Management and Program Analyst within the Office of Congressional Affairs (OCA) at U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) headquarters in Washington, DC, personifies this mantra magnificently. Bishop explains, “My path to participation in the VA’s Non-Paid Work Experience Program (NPWE) internship wasn’t my first choice upon leaving the military; however, it was the best decision bar none.”
Bishop details the story: “In 2008, after completing five years on active duty in the U.S. Army as a Public Affairs Specialist/Journalist, it was time for me to look beyond life in green. I enrolled in college in Boston, Massachusetts and quickly found myself exploring what the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) had to offer. While my primary focus was on tuition assistance and the VA’s G.I. Bill at first, I quickly turned my attention to another benefit program available to me as a veteran with 20% or more disability conditions: the VA’s Veterans Readiness and Employment (VR&E) program, which provides 48 months of educational assistance and job placement for veterans like myself. I struggled for months to find a more substantial job beyond bartending part-time, so I reached out to the VA program for assistance.”
“After applying online, I was set up with a caseworker in February of 2014. We discussed what I had in the bank as far as experience and education. Continuing my education was ruled out since I already had a degree, so we settled on job placement. Every few days or so I’d get an email from her asking if I’d be interested in this or that. One day, an opportunity from Jeff Jack, CBP’s national Veterans Employment Program Manager, came my way to serve in OCA as a Writer/Editor. I couldn’t have hoped for a better way to demonstrate my skillset and impress CBP with my work ethic, especially since this position fit perfectly in my wheelhouse as a former Army Public Affairs Specialist/Journalist.
“I was super excited to be exposed and to participate in such a unique, niche, and crucial role for such a large agency. The role had me working within an office that serves as the single point of contact to manage communications between CBP and Congress, advise CBP leadership on congressional activities, develop and promote CBP’s legislative program, and support DHS congressional activities as they relate to the agency.
“These internships are labeled “Non-Paid” due to the fact that federal agencies like CBP don’t pay interns salaries; the VA does. Since the VR&E program is a VA benefit for veterans with 20% or more disability status, the internship provided me with financial assistance in the form of the Basic Housing Allowance (about $2,300 per month at the time). This was amazing, and literally three to four times as much as I was bringing a month bartending. That sealed it for me – with that kind of help, that kind of exposure to the workings of the federal government, and the possibility of full-time employment afterward, I quickly seized the chance to come in and interview. Fast forward a few months and my first day with CBP was in August 2014.
I was extremely grateful that I now had a path forward in a meaningful career. I was expecting to be in non-paid status with the program for a year. However, due to my hard work and using the opportunity in a federal setting to demonstrate my proficiency, I was offered a full-time position after only about two months and promptly accepted. That was over five years ago now. I’ve since gone through some title and job series changes along with having been promoted throughout the years from my initial GS-09 up to a GS-13 position within CBP’s OCA, but I am still to this day using the skills and knowledge I obtained during my short tenure as a NPWE internship program participant. The program not only gave me an opportunity to establish myself within the Federal Government, but also gave me the skills, knowledge and experience I needed to succeed in my CBP career to this very day.”
In 2016, Bishop was recognized for his exemplary service to the agency by the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) during their annual awards ceremony by former DHS Secretary, Jeh Johnson, and current DHS Secretary, Alejandro Mayorkas. Jay’s performance in this internship setting is indicative of the exceptional skillset and work ethic of veterans from this national program.
At CBP, we encourage our hiring managers and veterans to use this unique pathway to joining the agency that has yielded a 99% successful hire rate of participants since its rollout in 2014 in a variety of GS series/grades for Entry Specialists, Paralegal Specialists, Management Analysts, and beyond (i.e., IT Specialists, CBP Technicians, Intelligence, Congressional Liaison Specialists, Mission Support Specialists, etc.). Please email Jeff Jack, CBP’s National VEPM, at email@example.com for additional information on how to participate in this program.