Resource Assistants Program

Partners

The United States Forest Service Resource Assistants Program is a rigorous and immersive, paid internship for individuals interested in Forest Service careers. Resource assistants are engaged by partner organizations and work under the supervision of Forest Service staff to complete mission-critical work that demonstrates leadership, critical thinking, and strategic communication.
 
Through collaboration, training, and mentorship, resource assistants gain the tools to launch their natural and cultural resource careers. After completing a minimum of 960 hours of satisfactory work as an RA and obtaining a post-secondary degree (associate degree or higher), RAs may become eligible for the RAP noncompetitive hiring authority through a 2-year certificate of eligibility.

Program Objectives

Engage

Engage highly motivated candidates through internships under the supervision and coaching of Forest Service staff.

Instill

Instill stewardship values in the next generation of natural and cultural resource management professionals through career exploration and professional development.

Expand

Expand and enhance the capacity of the Forest Service to accomplish mission-critical work and high-priority projects.

Attract

Attract and retain a diverse and inclusive workforce to support the Forest Service’s mission to “sustain the Nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations.”

Roles and Responsibilities

The RAP partner:

Conducts outreach and recruits a diverse pool of applicants for selection by Forest Service staff; provides ongoing program support, such as paying stipends, coordinating travel and training logistics, managing administrative records, and tracking RA progress; is required to contribute a minimum of 25 percent of the cost of the partnership; and submits quarterly tracking and performance reports.

 

The Forest Service supervisor:

Defines work done by RA, selects the candidate, selects the candidate, provides supervision and coaching to maximize RA experience, and makes connections with other Forest Service staff to engage with RAs to enhance their development.

 

The RA:

Performs work that contributes to accomplishing the Forest Service’s mission and priorities; adheres to agency and office policies, procedures, and rules; develops professional goals and applies critical feedback to improve performance; and may acquire eligibility to apply for qualifying, permanent General Schedule (GS) Forest Service positions on USAJOBS after completing the RAP.

How It Works

Recruit

Recruit

Onboard

Onboard

Engage

Engage

Transition

Transition

Recruit

Recruit

Recruitment is a collaboration between the Forest Service unit and the partner organization. The Forest Service must initiate the process, but organizations should outreach to Forest Service units as needed to communicate capacity for partnership.

Establish supplemental participating agreement (SPA) with the Forest Service unit. Partners contribute a minimum of 25 percent of all costs related to the agreement as required.

Work with the Forest Service unit to identify supplemental costs such as housing or commuting stipends
RA SPA Template

SPA template

Minimum Standards:

– $350.00 weekly stipend, full-time; $200 weekly stipend, half-time

– $1,250 travel/training allowance, to be used for Forest Service-approved, work-related travel and training

– Worker’s compensation insurance

– National Agency Checks with Inquiries (NACI) background investigation
All RAs must undergo a NACI background investigation. Note that funding for the NACI should be identified but not included as a budget item charged to the partner organization. The Forest Service must cover this cost directly.

Flexible Options:

– Higher weekly stipend as appropriate

– Housing allowance

– Education awards and/or bonuses

– Health benefits

– Specialized training

– Transportation to and from work site

– Uniform
Uniform funding should be identified but not included as a budget item charged to the partner organization. The Forest Service must cover this cost directly. More information on uniforms available to Forest Service staff on the RAP SharePoint.

Conduct outreach and recruit quality applicants for position.

Consider the desired skills and qualifications when identifying outreach methods. Partner organizations are advised to conduct the first round of interviews and pass 3-5 applicants to the Forest Service unit for final selection.

 

Make offer to selected RA.

Once the Forest Service unit has identified the desired candidate, make the offer of employment and work with the RA and the Forest Service unit to identify a start date.

OnboardOnboard

Onboarding is the process of integrating new individuals within the work environment. The partner must establish the RA in the organization and prepare for all necessary recordkeeping and reporting.

Establish RA file with resumes, position description, and timesheets.

The partner organization is responsible for tracking hours worked and amount paid to RA each month and cumulatively.

 

Coordinate timekeeping and recordkeeping.
 
Develop system to distribute stipend, travel, and training allowance.

Provide orientation (materials and/or webinar) to familiarize RA with organization systems and mission, including timesheet submission practice and schedule, accumulation of paid leave time, and professional development training opportunities.

EngageEngage

Engaging the RA includes providing program support and training, as well as meeting all Forest Service reporting requirements and keeping in touch with the Forest Service supervisor and national program staff

Provides professional development support and training

Examples: Regular webinars, personal coaching, notification of training or travel opportunities.

Record RA time and distribute stipend, process travel, make training arrangements.

Travel and training should be for Forest Service-approved professional development related to RA position.

Submit quarterly performance and tracking reports as required.

Participant tracking spreadsheet: (Due quarterly) Cumulative list of all RAs engaged by the partner, with running total of hours worked. 

Performance report: (Due biannually) Overview of performance metrics and outcomes for the past 6 months. 

Due dates:

  • January 15, 2018: Q1 reporting due: Participant tracking spreadsheet
  • April 15, 2018: Q2 reporting due: Participant tracking spreadsheet AND performance report
  • July 15, 2018: Q3 reporting due: Participant tracking spreadsheet
  • October 15: Q4 reporting due: Participant tracking spreadsheet AND performance report
Tip:

If working with a sub-grantee, all reporting should be consolidated and submitted under the main partner organization. Collaboration with the sub-grantee should ensure that all necessary data for reporting requirements are being collected.

If an individual has served multiple terms as an RA, record cumulative hours worked and note term number in “Notes” section of spreadsheet.

Tracking Spreadsheet

Tracking Spreadsheet:

Performance Report

Performance Report:

Transition

Provides professional development support, training, and recommendations to assist RA in transition upon completion of RAP requirements.

Finalize RA file with updated resumes and signed certificate of eligibility.

Certificate of completion: Statement certifying the number of hours an individual has worked as an RA with the partner organization. The certificate of completion must be printed on partner letterhead and signed by an organization representative.

Certificate of Completion

Template

Certificate of Eligibility Sample

Sample

Certificate of eligibility: Certificate certifying an individual is eligible for the RAP noncompetitive hiring authority, including successful completion of at least 960 hours as an RA and the earning of an associate degree or higher. The certificate of eligibility must be printed on Forest Service letterhead and signed by a Forest Service line officer. Certificates of eligibility are valid for 2 years after the date they are signed. Certificates of eligibility may be issued before the individual has completed their term of service, as long as at least 960 hours have been completed. In this case, the certificate would be valid for 2 years after the date signed, not the RA’s last day.

Certificate of Eligibility

Template

Certificate of Eligibility

Sample

Calendar

Resources:

Overview

RAP Guide

RAP Guide

RAP Partner Guidance

Partner Guidance

RAP Nonceompetitive

RAP noncompetitive hiring authority FAQ

Recruit

RA SPA Template

SPA Template

Onboard

PDF

Policy Guidelines

Engage

Tracking Spreadsheet

Tracking Spreadsheet

Performance Report

Performance report template

Transition

Certificate of Completion

Certificate of completion sample

Certificate of Completion

Certificate of completion template

Certificate of Eligibility

Certificate of eligibility sample

Certificate of Eligibility

Certificate of eligibility template

RAP Nonceompetitive

How to utilize the RAP noncompetitive hiring authority