The latest unemployment figures for military spouses stands at a monstrous 26 percent. TWENTY SIX percent. And compared to our civilian counterparts, job for job, qualification for qualification, the wage gap has been noted to be up to 42 percent in some jobs. So, as you can imagine, in the latest survey by Blue Star Families, employment issues ranked in the top 5 as a concern for military spouses.
“Forty-nine percent of spouses felt that being a military spouse had a negative impact on their ability to pursue a career, while only eight percent felt that it had had a positive impact.” Out of those unemployed, over 60 percent wanted to be working.
When the Chamber of Commerce decided to establish Hiring Our Heroes, they knew they had to include spouses. They hired long time military family advocate Laura Dempsey (no relation to the current Chairman of the Joint Chiefs) and she has been working very hard ever since. She has seen a huge emotional response from spouses who have become accustomed to being ignored when job hunting; and who have been historically unable to find positions when they move, yet again, to a new post.
As she said, most of the spouses are used to being included in programs as “and spouse.” And that spouse can be a deciding factor in their service-member’s decision to either stay in or get out. Even now, while we are shrinking our military, the need for the management level, the need for that experienced NCO or Captain isn’t going away. If Sgt Jones’ spouse has a degree (and loans) and a career that has been interrupted time after time, that spouse is probably going to have something to say about getting out now or staying in. If PFC Smith’s spouse needs to make some extra cash after another move – will she be able to?
Vivian Greentree, PhD., Blue Star Families Director of Research and Policy, will be presenting the project “Making Volunteerism Work for You” at the Hiring Our Heroes Spouse Fair at Fort Hood, Texas. Many military spouses, who cannot find a paying job, will volunteer their knowledge and hours upon hours of time. They run groups, they raise thousands of dollars for programs, they give millions of hours a year to military and nonmilitary programs.
When asked what she was most excited about, Dr. Greentree told me “What is so great about recent strides in military spouse employment — both by the DoD , through MSEP (Military Spouse Employment Partnership), and through the Chamber’s Hiring Our Heroes hiring fairs is that it is changing the way we talk about military spouses and employment. Military spouses are seen as assets with real skills and experience to bring to the table.”
As veterans are given resume writing lessons, to translate that military jargon into corporate terminology, spouses need to translate their volunteerism into job skills. The problems we have when we attempt to keep our career moving forward, as we move from post to post, state to state, or country to country, are also being addressed; corporations who have stepped forward and promised to make a difference are assisting spouses who are employed at one location to find a position in their company at the subsequent location. The problems of transferring licenses, tenure and transferability of schooling are also currently being addressed.
When I asked Dr. Greentree what she sees as a difference with Hiring Our Heroes and other new spouse employment initiatives, she observed “Other resources, to date, have either been in a certain sector, or a certain education level, a certain branch, or hourly or executive level only. But none were comprehensive and addressed the needs of all the different spouses, given their differing backgrounds.”
That’s the difference. At the upcoming Fort Hood Hiring Our Heroes fair, more than 1,000 spouses have registered. There will be resume workshops, presentations, workshops, makeovers and networking opportunities. As Hiring Our Heroes begins their second year, and the military shrinks as demanded under the Budget agreement, these spouses will need to be ready to support their families.
Photo from Chamber of Commerce Hiring Our Heroes