A movement to extend one benefit of AmeriCorps VISTA and Peace Corps service to other service corps alums.
When AmeriCorps VISTA members and Peace Corps Volunteers finish their service, they are eligible for a year of noncompetitive eligibility when applying for jobs in the Federal government. AmeriCorps State and National members are not eligible for this benefit, though there’s mounting support to change this discrepancy.
Having noncompetitive eligibility status means you can apply for federal jobs posted with a special status (“noncompetitive appointment eligibility”) in addition to federal jobs that are open to the public. Additionally, Federal managers are free to hire you without holding a competition, so hiring and selection processes are expedited for people who’ve already demonstrated a commitment to public service.
With noncompetitive eligibility status, you don’t gain any entitlement to Federal employment but your special status does give federal agencies the option of directly selecting you for a vacant position if you are rated as “qualified” for a particular position by agency personnel specialists. There’s more to it, so read a longer explanation here (free log-in required).
Finally, if you were hired in a Federal position after a term of VISTA or Peace Corps service, you’d also be able to use your year or two of volunteer service toward calculating your benefits like retirement and vacation time.
According to Margot Conrad at Partnership for Public Service, in early white papers in preparation for the Kennedy Serve America Act, a provision allowed for noncompetitive eligibility status to be extended to all former, full-time AmeriCorps members for their first post-term year. Though the provision was popular enough, it wasn’t included in the legislation because including it would have slowed down passage of the Serve America Act, which took a record seven weeks to pass. Currently, draft language exists for legislation that would direct the Office of Personnel Management to extend noncompetitive eligibility to AmeriCorps members, but a bill hasn’t been introduced in the Senate or the House.
Sample legislation text:
Section 1. Purpose.
The purpose of this [Act] is to allow the federal government to benefit from the experience of and investment in AmeriCorps members by allowing federal agencies more flexibility to hire AmeriCorps members for term or career positions.
Section 2. Establishment of non-competitive status for AmeriCorps members.
- AmeriCorps program [members] designated under the National and Community Service Trust Act of 1993 who have successfully completed full-time service, as defined by the Corporation for National and Community Service, shall have non-competitive status for employment in the federal government.
- The non-competitive status described in subsection (a) shall expire one year after the completion of the AmeriCorps [member’s] service
- The Corporation for National and Community Service shall actively market and publicize this noncompetitive status to AmeriCorps [members].
The change could also be made via Executive Order from President Obama — Peace Corps Volunteers and VISTAs were both given the status via Executive Order, so precedent exists for taking this path.
Extending the benefit to AmeriCorps members wouldn’t cost anything, and would make sense for many reasons. AmeriCorps State and National members — like VISTAs and Peace Corps Volunteers — demonstrate a commitment to public service by committing to a term of service. A Partnership for Public Service document “Tapping the Volunteer Pool: Non Competitive Eligibility Status for AmeriCorps Members” (PDF) explains:
The quality of federal programs at all levels depends on a high-performing federal workforce. The federal government, however, is facing a significant recruiting and retention challenge as it seeks to hire 193,000 individuals for “mission critical” jobs by the end of 2009. To remain competitive with the private sector and meet this rising demand for public servants, we propose expanding the federal talent pool by affording AmeriCorps members a streamlined way to join the federal workforce through non-competitive employment status. Tapping AmeriCorps members for federal employment is a win-win scenario, allowing volunteers with a demonstrated commitment to public service to benefit from a simplified hiring process and helping federal managers quickly fill important positions with qualified candidates.
Learn more about the legislative proposal from Partnership for Public Service, an independent nonprofit whose mission is to ensure a public sector talent pipeline for our Federal government.