WASHINGTON, D.C. – More than 30 companies and organizations joined the Military Spouse Employment Partnership as part of the White House-sponsored Joining Forces effort to help unemployed spouses find jobs.
The newly inducted businesses, which join 129 other companies, were brought into the program at the partnership’s third such ceremony. Inductees at the Washington Navy Yard event represented businesses such as fitness centers, banks, a hotel chain and a major soft-drink company.
The partnership’s members include small and large, local, national and international businesses, officials said.
“We appreciate your patriotism and your understanding that investing in military spouses makes military families, service members and national defense strong,” Charles E. Milam, acting deputy assistant secretary of defense for military community and family policy, told the new partnership members.
“Statistics will show that you’ll be reaching into a rich talent pool,” Milam said. “Military spouses are well-educated; many have degrees in fields such as science, math and information technology, which create innovation in today’s global economy.”
Milam added that the members’ commitment is a key component to military families’ improved quality of life.
The partnership seeks to mitigate the challenges of military life by helping spouses find and maintain rewarding careers despite frequent relocations, said Frederick E. Vollrath, who is performing the duties of the assistant secretary of defense for readiness and force management.
Vollrath reminded the new inductees of the “core tenets” they have agreed to abide by in the partnership:
- Increasing job opportunities while maintaining employment status for spouses who relocate to new duty stations;
- Providing career promotion opportunities for those who help their employer meet its goals and objectives;
- Supporting spouses’ pay equity on par with their training, work experience and credentials; and
- Telling their corporate counterparts about their support and commitment to military spouses.
“We count on you to spread the word,” Vollrath said.
The partnership and its business members are vital to the military community because of spouses’ high unemployment rates and historically low wages, he said.
Despite their hard-to-find skills and high levels of education and training, Vollrath said, military spouses “face a 26-percent unemployment rate and a 25-percent wage gap compared to their civilian counterparts.”
While 77 percent of military spouses, including men, he pointed out their desire to work. Frequent relocation is often a barrier to establishing or continuing a career, Vollrath said. That inability to find and retain jobs because of relocation issues “compromises the quality of life of military families and the readiness of the military force,” he said.
The military spouse is tech-savvy, adaptable and resilient; a strong leader, skilled multi-tasker and a team player who is mature and effective under pressure, Vollrath said.
Only recently, the partnership’s business members have become a large part of a national solution to the challenges of military spouse employment, he added.
Vollrath listed examples such as the Presidential Study Directive-9 report, “Strengthening Our Military Families: Meeting America’s Commitment,” which was published in January 2011 and highlighted the need for the federal government to help develop spouse career and education opportunities.
“But the government can’t do this in a vacuum,” Vollrath said. Therefore, a goal was set to increase those opportunities through public-sector jobs.
“The Department of Defense looked at programs that were working well and leveraged the successful partnerships created under the Army Spouse Employment Partnership,” he said. In June 2011, the program was expanded to add Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force spouses.
In less than a year and a half, the partnership’s hiring figures have been “phenomenal,” said Vollrath, noting that more than 54,000 jobs were posted in October alone and nearly 816,000 vacancies have been posted since June 29, 2011.
Partner members have hired more than 32,000 military spouses during that time, he added. “Today, you join a vibrant, active and focused partnership,” Vollrath told the newest business inductees. “You will provide employment connections that help military spouses find and maintain rewarding careers.”