As we move into the member recruiting phase of VetsWork I have received a number of emails and phone calls with a common question at their core: Am I right for VetsWork? The conversations and email strings are based on a wide range of personal circumstances. From discharge status to age. From educational level to financial circumstances. There are many variables, but I thought it would be a good idea to paint a picture of a VetsWork AmeriCorps Intern.
First, some specific requirements that need a little explaining:
Veteran: “A person who served in the active military, naval, or air service, and who was discharged or released therefrom under conditions other than dishonorable.” section 101 of title 38,23 United States Code
The issue of discharge under the General designation is handled on a case-by-case basis. We’ll start with your DD214 documentation and work through any issues that may be identified on that document. We want to put you in a good position and will do our best to make sure that we deliver quality members to our sponsor sites.
Age: 21 -35: This age range aligns in particular with our Federal partners and proposed legislation which would provide U.S. Military Veterans in this age range with non-competitive hiring status with federal agencies for 120 days following completion of a term with a public land service corps. This legislation is still in process and has not been approved. In the meantime, our Forest Service partners already have the authority to offer the noncompetitive status.
Demonstrated Interest in an Environmental Career: We’re looking for veterans who have a deep connection to the environment and who want to transition from their military career to one caring for our natural resources. We are looking for a broad range of education, experience, and motivation. From a Masters Degree in Wildlife Biology to a simple passion rooted in childhood fascination with the natural world. There is an equally broad range of opportunities for those who want to pursue this passion.
There have also been a number of questions related to individual or family circumstances. A lot of them boil down to personal choice. And there are some difficult choices to make. We have built VetsWork as a pathway to a positive career change. It is not a career all by itself. It is an internship. It includes a living stipend, but at approximately $1,100 per month (pre-tax), it really is an internship and not a formal employment option. It is a chance to get specific training with agencies that are typically difficult to break into, build professional connections, and obtain a competitive edge that is so valuable.
So here are some things to think about:
Pay: AmeriCorps offers a living stipend of about $1,100 pre-tax per month. We do have some sites that have free or reduced cost housing available, but not all will have this option. It can be a lean year if you are also supporting a family. We help with obtaining food stamps and childcare costs if you qualify.
Location: Many of our placements (not all) are remote or located in rural communities. You may have to relocate for the year. This means potential housing costs (as noted above) and all that is involved in a one-year move. These locations are amazingly beautiful and provide ample opportunities to feed your passion for the outdoors, but the locations can add a level of complexity to your decision-making process.
Career Prospects: VetsWork has a number of components that give you an advantage over others trying to enter this exciting career field. It allows you to get direct on-the-job training and build applicable skills. You will be working directly with decision-makers within the agency. You will build a professional network. As mentioned above, you may also have non-competitive hiring status. This would mean that, once you have completed your service term, you can be placed administratively into a position within a federal agency. You will have had 11 months to demonstrate your skill and worth to the agency. This does not mean you are guaranteed a position. There is no obligation for any agency to hire you. That depends on you, the needs of the agency, and the availability of funds to fill a position. You will, though, be ahead of the competition for potential positions.
I hope this gives you some things to think about when considering if VetsWork is right for you. We want two things for our program. We want to support veterans as they transition from their military career to a civilian life and we want to continue our overall mission of connecting people to the natural world in a meaningful, sustainable, and healthy way. Let us know if you think you’re right for VetsWork. We have our current jobs posted at www.mtadamsinstitute.com/jobs. Check us out. And spread the word.