When you can’t even use your real address for a resume, you have a problem.
That was just one of the takeaways from a recent roundtable for military spouses held mid-February in Lakewood with Sen. Patty Murray, D-Washington, in attendance.
Recent data and anecdotes given at the roundtable highlight how the challenges of keeping dual-income families functioning when connected to the military.
According to a report published last year by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Hiring our Heroes program, the military spouse unemployment rate remains four times the current rate for all adult women and three times higher than the rate for women ages 20-25.
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Military spouses often face taking jobs that don’t match their education or training because of frequent moves or managing a household while their spouse is deployed.
The spouses also often wind up taking part-time or seasonal work when they preferred full-time or permanent work. Or, they might give up looking for work altogether when the available jobs don’t pay enough to cover child care.
Those with degrees were hit with the biggest challenge for employment, according to the Hiring Our Heroes report, facing the highest rate of unemployment and most difficulty finding meaningful work given the frequency of moves and relocations to areas not close to urban centers.
At Murray’s roundtable, military spouses shared the barriers to employment they had encountered.
Perhaps the most jarring example offered at the session: Being advised to change addresses and resumes to not reveal they live on post when sending in applications.
One told of simply changing “Fort Lewis” in her return address to “Lakewood” and receiving more interest from potential employers with just that change alone.
“No military family should have to choose between financial security and serving their country,” Murray told attendees. “We can't afford to lose good people who want to serve because their spouse can't find work.”
Other issues brought up by those at the roundtable:
▪ Not knowing what was available to them in employment placement assistance.
▪ Seeing a job opening pulled after it was discovered a top applicant was a military spouse.
▪ Hearing that they may not really need work if they already were married to a high-ranking military official.
One of the spouses, Maggie Connors, a financial adviser, described at the roundtable of repeatedly hearing in past interviews for jobs in the banking industry: “How long are you going to be here? When are you leaving?”
When she would give a time frame to the potential employer, “All of a sudden I was under-qualified for the job,” she said. “And it happened again and again and again.”
The Lakewood roundtable included representatives from Joint Base Lewis-McChord Personnel and Family Readiness Center, WorkForce Central, Pacific Mountain Workforce Development and Camo2Commerce — a program offered through a partnership between WorkForce Central and Pacific Mountain.
Raul Armendariz, a spouse who attended the Lakewood forum, was happy for the chance to meet with Murray and hoped real changes would result.
“Oftentimes, military spouses are lumped into transitioning veteran programs,” he said. “Though this does provide some help in the short term, it does not address the long-term issues of unemployment and underemployment we military spouses deal with over the course of our career.
“I'd like to see companies welcoming military spouses as an added value to the company, just as they do for veterans, and not a risk.”
The Lakewood session came on the heels of a proposed bill, the Military Spouse Employment Act, introduced earlier in February by Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Virginia, along with Murray and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-New York.
The bill aims to boost spouses’ competitiveness in the job market, support business entrepreneurship on installations, expand educational opportunities, increase access to affordable child care along with counseling and transition assistance.
Following the session, Murray, in a statement provided to The News Tribune, said: “Going into the conversation I knew military spouses faced much higher rates of unemployment and underemployment, but hearing their experiences firsthand really drove home just how much more our country needs to do to better support them, from connecting them to potential employers, to combating the stigma of what it means to be a military spouse, to making sure they have adequate child care.
“I look forward to taking what I learned in Lakewood with me back to Congress to advocate for policies that help military spouses get the support they need to have a fulfilling career that matches their education and ability.”
▪ Camo2Commerce: New services include the Spouse Workforce Ambassador Program, which will provide eight to 12 military spouses an introduction to the public workforce system in the coming months. Also this summer, Camo2Commerce is developing short-term industry certification programs with businesses or schools, focusing on the areas of health care, child care, hospitality and financial services as a path for career progression opportunities for spouses. http://camo2commerce.com/
▪ WorkForce Central: http://workforce-central.org/
▪ Pacific Mountain Workforce Development: http://www.pacmtn.org/