An opportunity to connect

WASHINGTON, DC—The USDA Forest Service Volunteers & Service program hosted the inaugural Resource Assistant Program professional development meeting, Connect!, Aug. 7–9 in Washington, DC.

Almost 100 current resource assistants traveled from across the country for unique opportunities to make valuable connections with the agency mission and programs and with each other. The three-day event featured workshops, facilitated roundtable conversations and other activities led by Forest Service employees and other experts, including those from our sister lands management agencies. Connect! also marked the beginning of a special virtual hiring event targeted for eligible resource assistants and other Public Lands Corps participants.

Connect! was designed as a collaborative meeting point to encourage resource assistants to begin and/or advance career exploration and preparation through resume development and branding, to establish new networks and contacts with Forest Service employees and with other resource assistant, and to share their meaningful experiences and significant contributions on various agency projects. The event was developed through collaboration with partners and other Forest Service employees, namely through the Enterprise program.

Highlights of the event include:

  • Kick-off remarks from Leslie Weldon, Deputy Chief, National Forest System, and Stephen Graddick, a young social advocate and entrepreneur and founder of Graddick Brands.
  • Keynote remarks and a Resource Assistant Program Networking Ice Cream Session, hosted by Lenise Lago, Associate Chief.
  • A panel discussing diversity & inclusion in the workplace that highlighted various viewpoints, including Forest Service employees, Resource Assistant Program partners, and other experts.
  • Remarks from Tina Terrell, Acting Associate Deputy Chief, Business Operations, and Michiko Martin, Acting Director of Recreation, Heritage, and Volunteer Resources.
  • A closing charge by Jordan Clark, Greening Youth Foundation, and Acting Deputy Director, Recreation, Heritage, and Volunteer Resources, Merlene Mazyck.

The Resource Assistant Program is a rigorous internship that emphasizes engagement of current students, recent graduates and underrepresented populations, among others, in paid internships under the direct supervision of Forest Service employees. The program develops the next generation of Forest Service professionals through leveraged partnerships and shared stewardship.

Resource Assistants are a high-quality pipeline and pool of applicants with the background, experience, and qualifications necessary to flourish in Forest Service positions at a minimum GS-05 level and above. After completing a minimum 960 hours and obtaining a post-secondary degree, they are eligible to apply to for Forest Service positions for up to two years.

As of June 2018, the Forest Service has engaged 445 resource assistants in paid internships in conservation, natural and cultural resources, environmental management, research and development and other career opportunities with land management agencies, across all deputy areas. Resource assistants collectively contributed approximately 340,000 hours of service, the equivalent of 188 full-time employees. The Resource Assistant Program continues to attract and nurture top talent poised to flourish in careers with the Forest Service and beyond—participants are extremely diverse and most have already earned higher education degrees.

For more information on the Resource Assistant Program, please visit the program's website.