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By Barbara O’Neill, Ph.D., CFP®

OneOp held a webinar, Spouse Employment and Family Financial Readiness, in April. The webinar speaker, C. Eddy Mentzer from the Department of Defense (DoD), who is a military spouse himself, discussed military spouse career and education opportunities and various employment resources available from the DoD.

Below are ten webinar take-aways that Personal Financial Managers need to know about military spouse employment:

  1. Military Spouse Unemployment- Surveys indicate that a majority (85%) of military spouses want to, or need to, work. However, they face unique challenges. Many employers are wary of hiring them due to frequent PCS moves necessitated by their service member spouse’s career. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, military spouses had an unemployment rate of 22%, nearly six times the national unemployment rate. Similar results were found in 2021.
  2. Military Spouse Demographics– There are nearly 1 million military spouses. Almost half (46%) are under age 30 and 91% are female. A majority (84%) have some college education and 25% have attained a bachelor’s degree. A majority (85%) of military spouses in a DoD survey indicated that they are underemployed.
  3. Employment Challenges (Military Related)- Challenges to obtaining and keeping a job include frequent moves, deployments, isolated duty stations, a service member’s extended duty hours, barriers caused by living outside the continental U.S., and military spouses’ awareness of DoD and other resources.
  4. Employment Challenges (Employer Related)- Challenges include military spouse stigma by some employers, lack of understanding about military culture, missed opportunities for career progression, a need for flexible work-life balance, and licensure portability from state to state.
  5. Employment Challenges (Family Related)- Challenges include childcare, balancing work and family, and lack of extended family support. At times, military spouses may operate as “single parents” (e.g., when a service member is deployed) and need extra flexibility.
  6. Military Spouse Career Lifecycle- There are four lifecycle components that military spouses can go through: 1. career exploration (exploring career skills and interests and creating a plan to reach career goals), 2. education, training, and licensing, 3. career connections (contacting employers and leveraging Military Spouse Employment Partnership resources), and 4. employment readiness (preparation to join or re-enter the workforce).
  7. DoD Spouse SECO Program- The DoD Spouse Education and Career Opportunities program (a.k.a., SECO) assists military spouses at all levels (i.e., new brides to long-term military spouses) with their unique employment and career development needs. SECO is a comprehensive education and career training program.
  8. SECO Program Services– SECO can help military spouses assess their current skills and aptitudes, clarify career goals, explore education opportunities, maximize job search efforts, and learn how to self-market and build networks. The goal of the program is to create a path to achievement for each military spouse client.
  9. Military Spouse Employment Partnership– The MSEP matches hundreds of employers with military spouses. There are more than 540 partners that provide employment opportunities across all employment sectors. Connections work both ways. Military spouses are connected to job opportunities through an online jobs portal. Conversely, employer partners can search for military spouse talent.
  10. MSEP Job Search Tool- The “Search Jobs” link on the MSEP website allows spouses to search and apply for career opportunities with MSEP partner organizations. Spouses can search for available positions by job titles, keywords, job type, location, industry, and MSEP partner.

Copies of the webinar slides and an archive of the recorded video are available on this OneOpPF website.

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