Partnership is ‘Win-Win’ for Spouses, Employers
By Elaine Sanchez
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Oct. 11, 2011 The Military Spouse Employment Partnership is successfully connecting highly qualified, job-seeking military spouses with employers who are ready and eager to hire them, the official who oversees the program said today.
The Defense Department launched the program in June with about 60 employers on board, and it has grown to encompass 96 corporate partners who have committed to aiding spouses in finding and identifying portable jobs. The partnership also features an online job search site, http://www.msepjobs.com, and career and education counseling.
The partnership is about finding a good fit for spouses and employers, Robert L. Gordon III, deputy assistant secretary of defense for military community and family policy, said during the annual partners meeting at the Association of the U.S. Army 2011 Annual Meeting and Exposition here.
The nation has 1.2 million military spouses -- 85 percent of whom want or need to work, he noted. Yet, one in four military spouses is unemployed or looking for work, and when they find it they earn, on average, 25 percent less than their civilian counterparts.
Spouses aren’t seeking preferential treatment, Gordon added, they just want a level playing field and the same job consideration as their civilian counterparts.
Meanwhile, companies are seeking skilled, loyal workers with the ability to team-build and organize while working in diverse settings, and “our spouses get that through their experiences,” he said.
Military spouses represent “an unbelievable pool of talent,” agreed Deanie Dempsey, wife of Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who also spoke at the event.
As a 35-year military spouse, Dempsey said she’s seen firsthand the struggles military spouses have encountered maintaining employment and education due to frequent moves. Employers are hesitant, she added, to hire someone who may be moving in a year or two. But they would be missing out to bypass a military spouse, she said.
Spouses are “dedicated, they’re patriotic and resilient,” she said. “If the last 10 years has proven nothing else, it’s proven that for our spouses.”
Over the past 10 years, spouses have juggled households, kids, careers and education -- and done so singlehandedly during deployments and separations, Dempsey said.
These spouses have a “wealth of experiences,” she added.
Dempsey cited Army spouse Tiffany Smiley whose husband, Army Capt. Scott Smiley, was blinded in a car bomb attack in Iraq in 2005. When it didn’t look like her husband would be able to continue service, Tiffany stood by her husband and supported his choice to stay in the Army. He became the Army’s first active-duty blind soldier and the couple went on to have two children, she said.
“Wouldn’t you want to have someone like that on your side?” Dempsey said.
As for the partnership, “I truly believe it’s a win-win situation for employers and for the spouses,” she said.
Gordon recalled a day early in his tenure when an employer came into his office and said he loved military spouses because they were “highly skilled and cheap.”
“That’s not how it’s going to be,” he said.
But the DOD can’t do it alone – it will take a community to level that playing field, he said, noting that 70 percent of the military community lives in the civilian community.
“When we think about solutions to empower our military community to be the very best they can be, it’s not just about DOD, it’s about working on this together.
“Our spouses deserve it, and so do our employers,” he added.