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Portable Careers: The Military Spouse Employment Partnership Program

According to the Department of Defense, unemployment among military spouses is now topping 26 percent. Nearly one out of four military spouses who want a job is currently out of work.

Why? Well, some things are just facts of life in the military. Service members deploy to combat zones, hardship duty stations, unaccompanied tours, embark on long cruises, or vanish to service schools and training exercises for weeks or months at a time – leaving spouses to run the household single-handedly.

And military families can expect to move every 3 years. That’s tremendously disrupting, both for the military family and the community employers who hire them.

It’s also a huge recruiting and retention issue. Drawdown or no drawdown, the military still wants to retain its best members. And a big part of that retention process comes down to making sure that spouses want to stay in as well.

But the job hunt situation is daunting. Even among non-military families, long-term unemployment – the rate of workers who have been out of work for six months or longer – is at its highest rate since the great depression.

And it’s tough to find companies that are willing to invest a great deal in employees who are doomed to relocate within three years. A traditional career – 30 years and a gold watch – is difficult, indeed, for military spouses.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Department of Defense have joined forces to give military spouses a leg up in the workplace: The Military Spouse Employment Partnership Program.

Essentially, the DoD reached out to hundreds of national and global companies who can benefit from tapping the substantial and underutilized pool of talent now sporting dependent IDs.

There are now hundreds of large companies who have expressed interest in going out of their way to hire military family members.

Each participating company has agreed to the following stipulations:

  • Employers will co-sign statements of support with the armed forces
  • Employers will identify and promote career employment opportunities for military spouses
  • Employers will post job openings and corporate HR employment page on Military Spouse Employment Partnership web portal
  • The employer will offer transferable, portable career opportunities to relocating military spouse employees
  • Employers will mentor new Military Spouse Employment Partnership corporate partners
  • Employers will document and provide employment data on military spouses hired

Of these criteria, three are key: First, the employer is specifically required to offer transferrable, portable career opportunities to relocating military spouses. This means the spouse doesn’t have to give up her hard-won job just because of a PCS move.

The second key criteria is the data requirement. Companies that don’t actually hire any spouses under the program don’t get to stay.

The third key criterion is this: Only a company officer at the vice presidential level or higher is permitted to commit the company to the program. This isn’t a program some HR newbie can sign his company up for so he can get a bragging point on a PowerPoint slide and then forget about the program. Each participating company has buy-in at the VP level or higher.

Participating Employers

Some notable examples of participating employers from a variety of industries include:

  • USAA
  • Sears
  • Verizon
  • Lockheed
  • Home Depot
  • Jackson Hewitt Tax Services
  • Starbucks
  • Dell
  • Dish Network
  • Hyatt Hotels
  • Toys R Us/Babies R Us
  • Lowes
  • AT&T
  • Walmart
  • Bank of America
  • Convergys
  • Manpower
  • H&R Block

A full list of participating employers is available online.

Getting Started

To get started, fill out your online profile on the MSEP site. You’ll also find some basic assistance with things like creating a resume, and some cover letter templates you can use, along with some very basic networking advice.

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