When a member of the military travels the world, they often don’t do it alone. Husbands and wives often accompany their spouses on international trips. But while the military member travels with their job, their spouse is left in a situation where they are forced to relocate and reapply for new jobs every few years.
On Oct. 23, U.S. Sen.Tim Kaine met with military spouses, military leadership, and business executives from throughout the region to discuss the military spouse unemployment dilemma.
Carmen Emborski has been a military spouse for six years, with a master’s degree in biology and working on finishing up her Ph.D. this year. And yet, Emborski says finding and maintaining a job as she moves around.
“It’s difficult for military spouses to get into the workforce,” said Emborski. “We move so frequently. We only have one year, maybe a year and a half of experience before we have to leave.”
“It’s really hard for employers to take on someone and train that employee for them to be there for just one year,” said Allison Strouse.
Katy Mills, a military spouse, says her family was forced to relocate eight times in 15 years.
“It’s hard to get anything going for your career,” said Mills. “I taught yoga, but I’m unable to maintain that client base when you move. You have to start over.”
Mills also noted that many military spouses struggle with inadequate child-care options.
“Child care can cost more than you make in your job,” said Mills. “We need to increase the availability of child care. Child care facilities on bases are currently full. There’s a one-year wait at Ft. Belvoir for full care. For hourly care, you need to wake up at midnight and book one month in advance.”
Eddy Mentzer, associate director, Spouse Education and Career Opportunity Program, Office of Military Family Readiness Policy, said resources currently exist to help members of the military preparing for retirement transition into civilian careers.
“We have to move spouse unemployment out of the fine print,” said Mentzer.
Mentzer said in Hampton Roads, another hub of military activity in the region, there are programs that specialize in helping military spouses find employment through remote work opportunities. Mentzer admitted that this doesn’t work for everyone, but that it’s one way the military can begin to help spouses.
Employers at the round-table discussion said that military spouses could be an untapped resource for contractors and corporations based out of D.C.
“In this area, we often fight over the same pool of employees,” said Jerry Calhoun, vice president of Talent Acquisition for Vencore. “We’re learning a lot here today. I’m going to have my managers look for this.”
Other major contractors said they’ve encountered similar problems, and Kaine said working with military-sponsored programs to find employment for spouses could address both problems.
“This area is talent rich with military spouses,” said Kaine. “There’s [relatively] low unemployment in this area, which can be an obstacle for some businesses. Jobs are going wanting. Arlington offers a good opportunity to meet that challenge with a strong local pool of talent.”