Instruction 308-1: Student Volunteer Service Program

Issuance Date: February 14, 2014

Material Transmitted:

Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Instruction 308-1, Student Volunteer Service Program

Materials Superseded: This issuance supersedes Instruction 213-1, Student Education Employment Program and Student Volunteer Employment Program Handbook, dated October 30, 2008


This Instruction provides guidance on establishing a Student Volunteer Service Program (SVSP) and supersedes the Instruction noted above due to the implementation of the Pathways Programs. The Pathways Programs consist of the following student employment programs: Internship Program, Recent Graduates Program, and the Presidential Management Fellows (PMF) Program.

This issuance is effective immediately.  Implementation under this issuance must be carried out in accordance with applicable laws, regulations, bargaining agreements, and Department policy.

/s/John Gill

Deputy Assistant Secretary for Human Resources


308-1-00: Purpose


This Instruction provides guidance for establishing the Student Volunteer Service Program within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The Student Volunteer Service Program (SVSP) offers unpaid, educationally-related training opportunities and work experience to students enrolled in an accredited educational institution.

308-1-10: References

  1. 45 CFR, Part 57 (acceptance of volunteer and uncompensated services for use in the operation of any health care facility of the Department)
  2. 5 CFR Part 308 (volunteer service)
  3. 5 CFR Part 308.102 (volunteer eligibility and status)
  4. 5 U.S.C. 3111 (acceptance of volunteer service)
  5. Guide to Processing Personnel Actions, Chapter 33, Documenting Volunteer Service
  6. 28 U.S.C. 171 (tort claims procedures)
  7. 5 U.S.C. 3110 (employment of relatives; restrictions)
  8. 5 U.S.C. 7903 (protective clothing and equipment)
  9. 5 U.S.C. 7905 (programs to encourage commuting by means other than single-occupancy motor vehicles)
  10. Executive Order 10450 (security requirements for government employment)
  11. Executive Order 11222 (standards of conduct provisions)

308-1-20: Definitions

Accredited - An accredited institution or program is a secondary or post-secondary institution or program that is legally authorized to offer academic programs that lead to a diploma, certificate, or degree, and is formally recognized by an accrediting agency listed as nationally recognized by the Secretary of Education. Verification of accreditation can be completed at the Department of Education’s accreditation database of post-secondary institutions.

Half-time - The definition of half-time enrollment is provided by the school in which the student is enrolled. If that information cannot be obtained from the school, the student should be enrolled in at least six credit hours a semester for undergraduate studies or at least three credit hours for graduate studies, regardless of the type of degree pursued. An individual who needs to complete less than the equivalent of half a course-load in the period immediately prior to graduating is still considered a student for purposes of this program.

Internship Program - The SVSP is authorized under 5 U.S.C. 3111(b), Acceptance of Volunteer Service, and is one of several Federal Internship Programs defined under 5 U.S.C. 3111a.

Participants in the SVSP are unpaid volunteers and remain separate from paid interns serving under the Pathways Program or other internship programs authorized by law.

Student - An individual who is enrolled at least half-time in a high school, trade school, technical or vocational institute, junior college, college, university, or other accredited educational institution.

Student Volunteer or Student Volunteer Intern - A participant in the SVSP.

Volunteer Service - Limited to services performed by a student, with the permission of the institution at which the student is enrolled, as part of an agency program established for the purpose of providing work experience related to the student’s academic program. Such service is uncompensated and cannot be used to displace any employee or to staff a position which is a normal part of the Department’s workforce.

308-1-30: Exclusions

This policy excludes students employed by third-party intern providers [e.g., Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU), Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE)]. Such students are placed in agencies under a written agreement between the third-party intern provider and the agency.

308-1-40: Policy

  1. It is the policy of the Department that the services of student volunteers may be accepted only in accordance with an established student volunteer service program. Volunteer service programs must be conducted under the supervision and control of federal employees.
  2. Program selection must be made without regard to race, religion, color, sex, national origin, reprisal, age (40 years of age or older), disability, gender identity, genetic information, sexual orientation, or parental status.
  3. Student volunteer assignments must not exceed six months in a calendar year, except when the academic program requires one year of volunteer service to satisfy academic requirements. This requirement must be in writing by the academic institution and maintained in the student’s volunteer service record.
  4. A written agreement between the Operating Division and Staff Division (OpDiv/StaffDiv) and the educational institution must be established prior to assigning students under the SVSP. Refer to Exhibit A, Student Volunteer Service Program Agreement, for a sample agreement.
  5. The volunteer service is uncompensated and cannot be used to displace any employee or to staff a position which is a normal part of the agency’s workforce.
  6. Academic credit for the volunteer service is at the discretion of the educational institution.
  7. Students are not considered federal employees for any purposes other than injury compensation, transportation subsidy, and laws related to the Tort Claims Act.
  8. Volunteer service is not creditable for leave.
  9. Federal employee relatives may participate in SVSP consistent with the OpDivs’/StaffDivs’ policy on employment of relatives.
  10. Volunteer students are not eligible for a non-competitive placement into a federal job under SVSP. Students interested in a career with the agency must follow competitive procedures.
  11. The position does not count towards the organization’s full-time equivalent (FTE) ceiling.

308-1-50: Responsibilities

  1. Assistant Secretary for Administration (ASA), Office of Human Resources (OHR) responsibilities:
    1. Maintains this Instruction.
    2. Conducts periodic reviews of the OpDivs’ and StaffDivs’ SVSP.
  2. OpDivs/StaffDivs Hosting Organization responsibilities:
    1. Designate a representative to serve as a principal contact for the SVSP.
    2. Follow operating procedures issued by the servicing human resources center.
    3. Provide students with a statement of duties prior to beginning their volunteer assignment.
    4. Provide ongoing performance feedback and issue students a performance evaluation upon completion of volunteer service.
  3. Operating Human Resources Offices responsibilities:
    1. Designate a coordinator to serve as principal contact for the SVSP.
    2. Establish operating procedures including recruitment, selection, termination, enrollment verification, tracking, performance evaluation, out-processing, extensions, etc. for the serviced organization.
    3. Provide program oversight.
    4. Ensure SVSP implementation complies with this Instruction and regulations.
    5. Verify student’s initial and continuing eligibility.
    6. Establish and maintain agreements with the educational institutions.
    7. Maintain the official student volunteer service records.
    8. Ensure that the SVSP neither jeopardizes other student employment programs nor contributes to erosion of the position of other employees.
    9. Establish limits for SVSP consistent with this Instruction.

308-1-60: Eligibility

  1. Eligibility Requirements
    1. Students serving under the SVSP must meet the following basic eligibility requirements:
      1. Be at least 16 years old
      2. Be a U.S. citizen, or national, or lawfully admitted to the United States as a permanent resident or otherwise authorized to be employed (as evidenced by documents proving citizenship)Non-citizens may participate in the SVSP provided that:
        1. The student is lawfully admitted to the United States as a permanent resident or otherwise authorized to be employed; and
        2. The agency is authorized to pay aliens under the annual appropriations, although volunteer students do not receive compensation.
      3. Enrolled or accepted for enrollment, at least half-time, in:
        1. a high school or trade school
        2. a technical or vocational school
        3. a junior or community college/2-year college
        4. a four-year college or university; or
        5. any other accredited educational institution including home-school.
      4. Be in good academic standing as determined by the academic institution
      5. Meet personnel suitability, background/investigative, and physical requirements
      6. Meet VISA requirements, if a non-citizen; and
      7. Meet qualifications specified by the hosting office.
  2. Online Courses - Students enrolled or accepted for enrollment in online courses are eligible to participate in the SVSP.
  3. Home-Schooled Students- Students in an accredited home-school or a state-approved home-school curriculum may participate in the SVSP.

308-1-70: Student Verification/ Verification of Enrollment

  1. Verification of student enrollment or accepted enrollment must be provided prior to the effective date of the volunteer assignment.
  2. Verification of student enrollment must be certified (in writing) each term by the educational institution and submitted to the designated agency representative.
  3. Documents showing school enrollment in a previous term does not provide evidence of current enrollment and therefore are not acceptable for verification purpose.

308-1-80: Establishing Specific Qualifications

The hosting office may establish specific qualifications required to successfully carry out the volunteer service.  For example, the hosting office may limit consideration to specific educational fields and/or degree candidates; however, qualifications cannot be so:

  • Narrow that they preclude from consideration students who could perform the duties of the position
  • Specific as to exclude from consideration students without prior federal work experience, or
  • Restrictive that they run counter to the goal of providing students an opportunity to gain valuable experience

308-1-90: Schedules and Duration

  1. There are no limits on the number of hours a student can volunteer per week. Students must, however, receive proper supervision during their volunteer service and their volunteer schedule cannot interfere with their academic schedule.
  2. An intermittent schedule is appropriate only when the nature of the work is so sporadic and unpredictable that a regularly scheduled tour of duty cannot be scheduled in advance.
  3. The length of the volunteer assignment is pre-determined by the hosting office and the educational institution and may not exceed established time limits.

308-1-100: Termination of Volunteer Service Agreements and Services

  1. Volunteer service agreements and services may be terminated at any time by either party. Terminations should be in writing.
  2. A student may not serve in a volunteer capacity after his/her graduation date, unless he/she is accepted for enrollment (e.g., graduate school) and will begin classes within five months.

308-1-110: Number of Volunteer Assignments

There is no limit on the number of times a student may volunteer as long as he/she does not exceed six months in a calendar year, except when the academic program requires one year of volunteer service to satisfy academic requirements.

308-1-120: Services and Benefits

  1. Volunteers are considered employees of the federal government for the purposes of the benefits provided for work related injuries or diseases (5 U.S.C. 8101). The procedures applicable to regular government employees should be followed in case of injury sustained while volunteering.
  2. Volunteers are covered by the tort claims provisions of Title 28, U.S. Code.
  3. Volunteers may be provided protective clothing and equipment under 5 U.S.C. 7903 in order to prevent work-related injuries.
  4. Emergency outpatient treatment for injuries sustained while performing assigned volunteer services will be provided to volunteers. Volunteers may also be provided temporary care and treatment in Department facilities under the same circumstances and to the same extent such care and treatment is available to paid employees.
  5. Physical examinations, if considered by the official accepting volunteer services to be necessary for the protection of volunteers or patients, may be administered in Department facilities without charge to the individual. If the services of a private physician are used, the volunteer must pay the cost of the examination.
  6. Student volunteers qualify for transportation subsidy in accordance with 5 U.S.C. 7905.
  7. Student volunteers with disabilities requiring reasonable accommodations should contact their Vocational Rehabilitation Program or their school’s Disability Program Service Office for assistance. Student volunteers are not federal employees and therefore are not eligible for reasonable accommodations provided by the agency to employees and applicants for employment with disabilities.

308-1-130: Documentation and Records Management

  1. Documenting Volunteer Service
    1. Student volunteers do not receive federal appointments.  As such, an SF-50, Request for Personnel Action, may not be used to document volunteer service.  OpDivs/StaffDivs should use other written correspondence (e.g. local form, letter, etc.) to document student participation in the program.
    2. The Official Personnel Folder (OPF/eOPF) may not be used for documenting volunteer service; however a file should be retained for each student volunteer containing:
      1. Student’s name, educational institution, major/field of study, volunteer assignment dates (beginning and ending), and verification of enrollment
      2. Name of OpDiv/StaffDiv, sponsoring organization (office, division, etc.) and duty location
      3. Supervisor’s name, title, telephone number, and email address
      4. Position title
      5. Days/hours of duty
      6. Statement of duties
      7. Total number of volunteer hours provided for the respective period(s)
      8. Final performance evaluation
  2. Records Management
    1. The servicing human resources office/center maintains the official volunteer service record for each student.
    2. The volunteer service record must be maintained for three years after the volunteer assignment is terminated.

308-1-140: Evaluation

Review and evaluation of the SVSP will be included in the periodic human resources evaluations conducted by the ASA, Office of Human Resources.

Exhibit A: Sample Student Volunteer Service Agreement

Exhibit A – Sample Student Volunteer Service Program Agreement

An agreement with the Educational Institution must be signed before the student begins volunteer assignment.

Department of Health and Human Services and Educational Institution
Student Volunteer Service Program Agreement

This agreement is entered into between _______________________ hereinafter known as the “Institution” and the (OPDIV/STAFFDIV), hereinafter known as the “Organization” for the purpose of providing volunteer work experience to the student under the Student Volunteer Service Program (SVSP).

  1. In compliance with the provisions of 5 U.S.C. 3111:
    • volunteer service is with the permission of the Institution in which the student is enrolled.
    • service under this agreement is without compensation by the Organization.
    • students will not be used to displace a federal employee.
    • students must be enrolled not less than half-time at the Institution.
  2. This agreement in no way commits the Organization to offer a permanent position to the student at the end of the volunteer service.
  3. During the term of volunteer service, the student will:
    • determine a work schedule with his/her direct supervisor. The schedule must not interfere with the student’s academic work.
    • notify his/her supervisor when he/she is unable to attend.
    • perform duties in a satisfactory manner and complete all work products assigned.
    • complete attendance and performance records and provide them to his/her program supervisor at the completion of his/her assignment (as reasonably required in order for the experience to be properly credited).
  4. Students are not considered federal employees for any purpose other than compensation for injuries sustained during the performance of volunteer service, transportation subsidies, and Federal Tort Claims provisions of 28 USC 2671 through 2680.
  5. The Organization will:
    • appoint an official to serve as a liaison with the school on matters related to SVSP.
    • ensure that the volunteer student receives specific on-the-job training in the field of their formal curriculum designed for the best development of knowledge and skills.
    • maintain records on student performance and other administrative matters and make available to the Institution upon request.
    • notify the school when the volunteer assignment ends.
  6. A federal supervisor will be appointed during the term of the volunteer assignment and will serve as the student’s direct point of contact for all matters related directly to the student’s assignment.
  7. The Organization agrees that no student will be denied an opportunity or subjected to different treatment under this agreement on the grounds of race, religion, color, sex, national origin, reprisal, age (40 years of age or older), disability, gender identity, genetic information, sexual orientation, or parental status, and that it will comply with the provisions of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (P.L. 88-352; 78 Stat. 252), Department of Education regulations, and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (P.L. 92-318).
  8. Volunteer service agreements may be terminated in writing, at any time, by the Organization or Institution.
  9. Volunteer students may be removed from the program at any time.


Educational Institution Information


Name of Educational Institution


Printed Name/Title of Educational Institution Representative

Printed Name of Agency Representative

Email and Telephone Number

Email and Telephone Number

Signature of Educational Institution Representative

Signature of Agency Representative


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