By: Terri Moon Cronk
WASHINGTON, May 1, 2013 – The Defense Department is committed to helping military spouses find jobs and offers resources for education, training and networking, the department’s spouse employment and career opportunities program manager said.
With Military Spouse Appreciation Day coming up May 10, Meg O’Grady told American Forces Press Service, she wants spouses to know what the program offers.
It includes avenues such as the Military Spouse Employment Partnership, comprising more than 160 employers who hire military spouses as a priority, networking through social media, an e-mentoring program, and participation in Hiring Heroes and the Joining Forces initiatives, she said. And program counselors are available on installations to support spouses throughout their employment life cycle, she added.
“DOD is committed to improving the quality of life for military families, and we know military spouse employment is a large part of that,” O’Grady said. “[Employment] contributes to the resilience and financial stability of the family. And most importantly, if a military spouse is stable in a career, the spouse has created a cushion of security when the service member transitions back to the community.”
Enhancing spouse stability and military family quality of life also aids retention, she said.
“If a spouse has a career that allows him or her to move throughout the service member’s career, they’re more likely to support retaining the military career,” she explained.
“As part of the [MSEP] partnership, we’ve focused on a specific sector of nonprofit partners who advocate for military families,” O’Grady said. “Three are Blue Star Families, the National Military Family Association of America, and the Military Officers Association of America.”
The MSEP also has hired more than 43,000 military spouses in the past 12 months, O’Grady noted, and in November, some 30 more companies will join the partnership of more than 160 strong.
O’Grady added that the partnership also will produce a new resource — the Spouse Ambassador Program.
“It formalizes the part of the partnership what those partners are already doing, which is spreading the word about the resources, tools and services,” available for spouse employment through SECO and the MSEP, she said.
The ambassadors provide information about the programs to other military spouses, in addition to spreading the word in communities and to employers who want to hire military spouses, she said.
“They provide a connection for us,” she added.
Joining Forces, an initiative launched by First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, is an important partner in hiring spouses, O’Grady said.
“We provide them with all our information to disseminate to military spouses. … They provide a big connection for us and spread the word on our programs and services,” she said.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Hiring Our Heroes Military Spouse Program is another of DOD’S most-active partners, O’Grady said.
“We have partnered with Hiring Our Heroes to provide opportunities to military spouses to find careers, … not only in military communities, but all over the United States,” she said. This new effort with the chamber is expected to help support networking and career fairs for spouses, she added.
“We also know networking is a very important way to find information and careers,” O’Grady noted, suggesting the MilSpouse eMentor Program, and the Business and Professional Women’s Foundation.
“Through the Business and Professional Women’s Foundation, a spouse can find a mentor who will take her through the process of exploring a career, help her find the training and education that’s necessary for [that] career and actually help her look for a [career] opportunity,” O’Grady said.
She said social media also has become a popular networking tool, so MSEP has set up accounts with Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
“Through social media, we’ve networked with our 160 partners, so spouses can find information about [the companies] and opportunities that are offered,” she added.
Of the many job fields open to military spouses, O’Grady said, allied health care is one at the top, yet other career choices includes information technology, education, child care, retail, engineering and executive-level jobs.