As part of VA’s mission to end Veteran homelessness, the National Cemetery Administration and Homeless Veterans Community Employment Services are providing the opportunity for Veterans experiencing – or at risk of homelessness – to work at cemeteries across the country. The Cemetery Apprenticeship Program trains Veterans to be caretakers at VA national cemeteries, performing a variety of grounds, equipment, and building maintenance duties.
The apprenticeship program started in 2012 as a pilot at a handful of VA cemeteries, but has since expanded to additional locations across the country based on yearly needs and availability. Veterans who successfully complete the yearlong program are guaranteed full-time permanent employment at a national cemetery. They also have the option to pursue employment at other federal facilities. Cemeteries that have openings for apprentices work with local VHA homeless program staff to identify candidates. VA continues to provide supportive services and health care during the Veteran’s apprenticeship.
A Program Helping Veterans Thrive
At Dayton National Cemetery in Ohio, Army Veteran David Lowe found great success through the apprenticeship program.
In 2015, Lowe was experiencing homelessness, but he was persistent in searching for a job despite the many obstacles he faced, including not having a phone or vehicle. He was even turned down for many jobs because he didn’t have a car. But Lowe didn’t give up.
In late 2018, while receiving assistance from VA’s HUD-VASH program, Lowe learned about the Cemetery Apprenticeship Program and submitted his application. He has done nothing but flourish since being accepted. He was even promoted to a higher position at the cemetery after completing the apprenticeship year.
Lowe encourages other Veterans to maintain the same level of determination he had when looking for a job. Regarding his work performance, many describe him as an excellent employee who is always smiling while holding his co-workers to a high standard.
“Keep trying and have patience – strive for excellence and continue to follow up with people,” Lowe said. “During the apprenticeship, it was great to hear other Veteran success stories that gave me hope.”
VA is dedicated to helping Veterans who are experiencing or at risk of homelessness secure and maintain employment to increase their housing and personal stability. The ultimate goal is to help Veterans return to healthy, productive lifestyles in their own communities.
- Interested in hiring Veterans? Click here to find local Veteran employment coordinators.
- Visit VA’s Homeless Veterans Community Employment Services webpage to learn more about employment initiatives and other programs for Veterans experiencing homelessness.
- Veterans who are homeless or at risk of homelessness should contact the National Call Center for Homeless Veterans at 877-4AID-VET (877-424-3838).
Michael England, an Army Veteran and also former homeless Veteran, is the community employment coordinator at the Dayton Veterans Affairs Medical Center, where he has worked the past 10 years.