2016 is going to be your year – yes you, military spouse.
While the unemployment rate of veterans is in decline, the number of military spouses out of work has remained steady at 30 percent. Hiring our Heroes (HOH), an initiative founded by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to help military-affiliated job seekers, is expanding efforts to get spouses into meaningful career paths by declaring 2016 as the Year of the Military Spouse.
The HOH Military Spouse Program – launched in January 2012, has been actively supporting military spouses for the last four years. Leaders recognize more needs to be done to improve spouse unemployment rates. Among the areas they are looking at is an underemployment rate as high as 90 percent, according to a 2013 survey conducted by the Military Officers Association of America.
Amy Weaver, manager for the HOH Military Spouse Program, says that throughout the next year the spouse program will build upon the work of the past four years and bring a renewed focus to the unique challenges military spouses face.
“We are working with a vast network of employers and strategic partners who have also taken this new focus to heart and are actively working with us to develop and improve programs […] for connecting military spouses with fulfilling career options,” Weaver said.
What exactly will the program offer to spouses?
For starters, it will host hiring and career development events throughout the country – open to all active duty, veteran, guard, reserve, and gold star spouses. The HOH website also offers digital tools such as Career Spark, a resume building tool designed specifically for military spouses. Additionally, the program is merging with a non-profit foundation called In Gear Career, which offers a grassroots approach to networking through monthly professional development workshops and events on select-military installations across the country.
Though this program aims to provide ample resources through several different avenues, spouses need to do more than merely attend events to successfully fulfill their career goals. Weaver emphasizes the importance of preparation when seeking employment.
“A spouse who has developed a career plan and done their research will be most successful in finding meaningful employment,” Weaver said. “The need to know ahead of time what employment they are seeking, identify the skills they bring to a new position, and pinpoint the type of company they want to work for.”
She recommends spouses utilize the free MyHOH.org account; it will direct them to all digital tools HOH offers and provide information on upcoming hiring events and programs.
By establishing 2016 as the Year of the Military Spouse, the program is determined to get spouses back to work.
“…While we know the unemployment rates experienced by military spouses won’t disappear overnight, we believe that by working with our network of military spouse-friendly employers from the public and nonprofit sectors, and continuing to provide best-in-class resources for military spouses, we can begin to chip away at those numbers,” Weaver said.
Author’s note: As a military spouse struggling to find meaningful employment myself, I strongly urge other spouses to utilize the resources provided by Hiring Our Heroes. Though landing a job is not guaranteed, at the very least military spouses can build their professional presence in the corporate community and learn to market themselves effectively. Military spouses carry many unique talents which are extremely valuable in the career force. The HOH Military Spouse Program can help them highlight those talents and set them in the right direction.