AAAA Family Forum / By Denise Lewis and Judy Konitzer
Our Army is the largest branch in our Armed Forces, and traditionally has the most spouses who are affected by unemployment. Many of the barriers to spouse unemployment are frequent moves, remote duty stations, deployments, Soldier availability due to scheduling, childcare, and COVID uncertainty. Among military spouses, a staggering unemployment statistic discloses unemployment (24%) and underemployment (31-51%), with these rates at a hold for years despite hundreds of millions of dollars spent by the US Department of Defense to address the issue and a complex network of nonprofit support.
As our military spouses transfer along with their service members, they leave their jobs and focus their attention on moving and realigning their family in the new location. The stress of the move, coupled with the loss and career interruption the spouse experiences can detract from the Soldier’s effectiveness and mission readiness, and ultimately overall retention rates. Employing the Army spouse provides an increased quality of life for our Army families and in some cases, financial stability as the family encounters obstacles in both their civilian and military life.
Military Spouse Jobs founder and President Deb Kloeppel understood the unemployment disparity for Army spouses and created a “targeted” nonprofit outreach campaign within its organization exclusively for Army spouses called Arm-Me-Up. Its honorary advisor, Mrs. Maria McConville, understands Arm-Me-Up’s clear and empowering mission, and her wisdom, advocacy and support has been a vital addition to the campaign.
Some hurdles in employment for Army spouses include:
Employment Gaps – Many employers express that if candidates have over a year gap in employment, applications could be “red flagged.” In some industries any significant gap hurts chances of employment, especially if the industry has seen changes in technology or procedures.
Skill and Education Gaps – Military spouses are one of the most educated groups of individuals, however, with current degree programs structured the way they are and the transfer from school-to-school that spouses encounter during their service member’s tour, they face three identifiable problems: 1) A college degree does not guarantee proficiency of skills sought by some companies. Applicants are judged by education, experience, and skills required by the employer. Skill sets can be taught, but many applicants are not thinking of the skills they lack when applying for a job, and many do not even understand the skills mentioned in the job description or know if they really possess these or not. 2) Education with no hands-on experience is a disadvantage when competing for a position. 3) Some applicants lack basic English and math literacy thus possibly lacking proficiency in written and oral communication. They may require assistance in these areas to be competitive with other job seekers.
License Transfer Difficulties – Transitioning to a different state often requires large fees and additional education requirements.
Access to Long-Term Yet Flexible Employment – With transferring between duty stations being a fact of military life, it can make this difficult to obtain.
The mission of Arm-Me-Up Careers Campaign is to find new opportunities and resources to empower Army spouses, whether active duty, retirees, veterans, widows, or caregivers. Job seekers will be assisted by Career Specialists with resume development, career, and industry training, and personalized one-on-one job placement support to connect you with the job you qualify for and richly deserve. Our highly qualified and trained employment expert RecruiterConnect™ Specialists are military-affiliated and credentialed in job placement services. They seek one-on one with corporate recruiters from partnering companies to expand employment opportunities for Army spouse applicants.
Since the campaign started in early 2021, Arm-Me-Up has assisted over 700 Army spouses with job placement. Military Spouse Jobs representatives will be attending the 2022 Summit in Nashville and look forward to seeing you there.
Visit www.militaryspousejobs.org, www.spousenation.org, and www.MilitarySpouseJobs.org/Army-Spouses for more information about their vast array of programs geared to improving spouse employment opportunities.
Denise M. Lewis, MSML is the outreach coordinator for Military Spouse Jobs Arm-Me-Up Career Campaign.