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Another View -- Jim Pisani: National service is a national treasure

October 05. 2017 11:52PM

Congress is back from its August recess and will debate budget appropriations for fiscal year 2018 in the coming months. Thankfully, both the Senate and House Appropriations committees have approved maintaining funding for the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), the federal agency that runs AmeriCorps and Senior Corps, and funds other national service programs. At Timberland, we believe strongly in the power of service, and we applaud this bipartisan support for national service. We hope this support continues to benefit national service program participants and the communities they serve.

The value of national service is undeniable. A recent Columbia University study found that each dollar invested in national service programs returns nearly $4 in value in terms of higher earnings, increased employment, lower spending on government programs and other improvements to community infrastructure. That is compelling math supporting a worthy investment. Any efforts to significantly reduce funding or eliminate national service programs would have a direct negative impact on communities and program participants.

So why does an outdoor lifestyle brand care so deeply about this issue? We’ve seen firsthand the meaningful impact service has on our business and community. This year marks the 25th anniversary of Timberland’s award-winning Path of Service program, which gives employees up to 40 paid hours each year to serve in their community, and encourages them to become proactive agents of service in and out of the office. Corporate service alone, however, is not enough. U.S. national service programs engage 345,000 men and women in intensive service each year, and prepare them for working in values-driven companies such as our own.

That’s why I am proud to announce that Timberland is now recognized by CNCS as an Employer of National Service, which helps connect graduates of its programs with employers, and we have adopted new hiring practices to support this. Beginning Oct. 1, any verified alumni of national service programs will be guaranteed consideration for corporate job opportunities at Timberland, and we will actively recruit national service program alumni for open positions. It is a small step, but we will benefit by bringing these leaders of tomorrow, who share our work ethic and values, into our midst.

Timberland recently joined Voices for National Service, a coalition of champions of service, and supports its mission to preserve funding and strengthen programs promoting national service. We were a founding sponsor and longtime supporter of City Year, one of the nonprofit organizations that inspired AmeriCorps; and today we continue to support national service by outfitting members of the Student Conservation Alliance in our boots.

We have also witnessed the positive impact that national service brings to our local communities. Between 2016 and 2017, the CNCS committed more than $87.3 million to support New England communities alone — and more than $938 million across the country. Just as important, programs like AmeriCorps and SeniorCorps provide a unique opportunity to participants by fostering leadership and other critical skills that set them up for successful lives. These programs empower program graduates to become engaged citizens who contribute to business and society in meaningful ways.

Service not only strengthens our country, but it also develops tomorrow’s leaders. It provides a pipeline to businesses of well-trained and experienced employees who have the passion and skills to solve problems creatively and inspire others to make positive change. In a 2016 survey, 9 out of 10 AmeriCorps alumni reported that their experience improved their ability to solve problems.

As business leaders, we need to support and nurture programs that provide this valuable training and experience. I encourage other businesses looking to strengthen their foundation for the future to show leadership on this issue by supporting Voices for National Service. And, I strongly urge congressional leaders and the administration to continue working together to preserve funding for CNCS and critical national service programs. I extend an open invitation to congressional and business leaders to join me at Timberland’s headquarters in Stratham, N.H., to see the power of service firsthand.

Jim Pisani is global brand president of Timberland, headquartered in Stratham, N.H.

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