Officials Extend Spouse Career Advancement Initiative
By Barbara A. Goodno
Special to American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May 15, 2008 Career and training opportunities for military spouses just got better, as the Defense and Labor departments’ career advancement demonstration project has been expanded to include all active-duty military spouses, along with four additional career fields.
“In the first days of the demonstration project, we began hearing from spouses who -- based on the ranks of their spouses -- were ineligible,” said Leslye A. Arsht, deputy undersecretary of defense for military community and family policy. “They explained quite articulately that all spouses have an overwhelming need for the program.”
The career advancement demonstration project, announced in November, helps military spouses at 18 installations in eight states get the education and other credentials needed to pursue careers in high-demand, high-growth occupations.
The expansion, made in late April, came at the right time for Sonya Martinez, 36. When she and her husband, Marine Gunnery Sgt. Donovan Martinez, were married 16 and a half years ago, she was a student with an interest in a career in bio-chemical research. She knew she needed a transportable career and focused on clinical lab work. It’s been a career path she said she’s enjoyed.
Today, she’s enrolled in the rigorous clinical lab scientist training program, and she's within one year of receiving her license as a clinical lab scientist. While pursuing this credential, she also works full time as a clinical lab specialist, where she performs laboratory work to identify, diagnose and treat diseases.
Last month, she said, a Navy wife told her about the career advancement opportunity; she checked into the program and was accepted right away.
Participating in the program will be a tremendous step toward her career goal, she noted, as the licensure will allow her to specialize in blood banking for critically ill children and supervise the lab.
Because education always has been a priority for them, she and her husband put many other desires on hold, she said. The career advancement account and the financial assistance it offers has given them valuable stability and will enable them to fulfill another long-standing wish. “They made it possible for us to buy a house and go to school at the same time,” she said.
Arsht said most military spouses -- 87 percent according to recent surveys -- would like to further their education and develop a portable career, but see the cost of education as a roadblock to further education or training. This was true for Tangeray Mayhorn, 27, of Fort Carson, Colo. She has one year left in social work studies and is preparing for a career in hospital social work. Her husband, Glenn, is an Army staff sergeant.
“I’ve always wanted to be a hospital social worker, but didn’t know how I was going to make this last year money-wise,” Mayhorn said. “I heard about the program from a friend and applied right away. I was approved on the spot.”
Mayhorn will attend courses this summer and in the fall. She said the financial support for books and tuition will go a long way. She encourages other military spouses to look into career development options.
“Your career can travel with you and will relieve the stress that comes with a move,” she said. “You won’t have to worry about what your next job will be.”
Micaela Ayala, 33, at Fort Lewis, Wash., agrees. Her husband, Army Spc. Edgar Ayala, enlisted in the last year. At the time, she said, she didn’t realize it would mean a positive career move for her, too. She said she’s always wanted to work in the field of medicine, but for financial reasons it was never an option before.
“We just couldn’t afford it,” Ayala said. “There’s just no way I’d be able to go to school. I’m really grateful for this opportunity.”
Now, she’s enrolled in a certified nursing program and is excited about the upcoming coursework. She started a phlebotomy course last week.
All three spouses say enrolling in the program was much easier than they expected.
“I heard about the program on the news and went to the joint briefing to get more information,” Ayala said. “I talked to a counselor, set an appointment and then completed the paperwork. The whole process was really quite smooth.”
The career advancement demonstration project is available to spouses at military installations in California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Maine, North Carolina and Washington. Military spouses can receive grants of up to $6,000 for education, training and licenses or credentials costs over a two-year period. The grants cover the costs for tuition, fees, books, equipment, and credentialing and licensing fees.
In addition to careers in education, health care, information technology, construction trades, financial services, the demonstration project now includes specific in-demand occupations within human resources, business and management, hospitality management and homeland security.
Since the program began in January, more than 1,000 military spouses have enrolled in career development programs. Arsht said she wants to be sure that other military spouses are aware of -- and are able to use -- this new resource.
“Military spouses are a large, untapped talent pool. They are motivated, dedicated and high-energy -- just what the work force needs,” she said. “Their career aspirations, too often, are put on hold because the military lifestyle simply gets in the way. We want to change that. These education and training opportunities are a strong step in the right direction.”
To be eligible for the program, The military spouse’s sponsor must be on active duty and have at least one year remaining at his or her current duty station. The spouse must have a high school diploma, GED or some post-secondary education. Training must be completed within two years and lead to a license, certificate or degree. Prerequisites and remedial coursework can also be included.
The career advancement demonstration project is available at the following installations:
-- In California: San Diego Metro and Camp Pendleton;
-- In Colorado: Fort Carson and Peterson Air Force Base;
-- In Florida: Jacksonville Naval Air Station, Eglin Air Force Base, and Hurlburt Field;
-- In Georgia: Fort Benning;
-- In Hawaii: Hickam Air Force Base, Naval Base Pearl Harbor, Schofield Barracks, and U.S. Marine Corps Base Hawaii;
-- In Maine: Naval Air Station Brunswick;
-- In North Carolina: Fort Bragg and Pope Air Force Base; and
-- In Washington: Fort Lewis, McChord Air Force Base, and Naval Station Kitsap
Information is available in person at installation education centers, by telephone and online. Career counseling for military spouses is available through Military OneSource at 800-342-9647, or online at militaryonesource.com and www.caa.milspouse.org.
(Barbara A. Goodno is a senior program analyst in the Defense Department’s Office of Family Policy and Office of Children and Youth.)