DOD Program Lifts Barriers to Military Spouses' Employment

Kathy Gurchiek By Kathy Gurchiek November 11, 2016
DOD Program Lifts Barriers to Military Spouses Employment

Molly Vester, senior consultant of client services for DirectPath in Birmingham, Ala., understands the challenges military spouses have in finding employment. She lived in three different cities during her husband's three and a half years of Army service.

"During his training, I lived in Nashville," she told SHRM Online in an e-mail. After that she moved to El Paso, Texas, where he was stationed.  When her husband deployed to Afghanistan, Vester moved back to Nashville and later to Birmingham to be close to family and to take advantage of better employment opportunities. She returned to El Paso when he returned from Afghanistan.

During those moves, she used the Department of Defense's (DOD's) Military Spouse Employment Partnership (MSEP) program to search for jobs.

"Having a career is often one of the many things that military spouses sacrifice when supporting their loved one's call to serve. Frequent relocations, deployments and the demands of active duty garrison life are barriers to employment that can [make getting a job] seem unreachable," she said in a DirectPath news release.

[SHRM members-only toolkit: Becoming a Military-Ready Employer]

MSEP is open to spouses of service members from all branches of the military. It partners with organizations to provide employment resources—career counseling, job listings, and resume and cover letter templates—for men and women who register with the program. MSEP is open to spouses, DOD civilians and family members.

Since its founding in 2011, MSEP has facilitated the posting of more than 5 million jobs in its career portal. More than 300 partner employers have hired 95,000 military spouses, according to the DOD website.

MSEP is part of the DOD's Spouse Education and Career Opportunities Program, which the department says aims to reduce the significant unemployment rate and wage gap that military spouses often experience. Army Community Service centers operate MSEP in conjunction with the Employment Readiness Program.

MSEP partners commit to recruit, hire, promote and retain military spouses in portable careers. The more than 300 partners include:

  • AT&T.

  • Amazon.

  • Bank of America.

  • Citibank.

  • CVS Pharmacy.

  • Geico.

  • Lockheed Martin.

  • Starbucks.

  • The Home Depot.

  • Verizon.

  • Wal-Mart.

"Companies are looking for hard-working, highly skilled and educated, dedicated employees; military spouses are a perfect fit," said Eddy Mentzer, military spouse and associate director in the DOD's office of family readiness policy, in a news release.

Employers looking to be an MSEP partner are vetted on their financial stability, the employment opportunities they offer, their opportunities for portable employment, and whether they have a global presence near military installations.

Additionally, they must sign a statement of support for the MSEP, identify career opportunities for military spouses, post vacancies, maintain employment of military spouse when military families relocate, participate in an annual meeting with MSEP partners and the military service, and mentor incoming corporate partners.

While Vester's job search through MSEP was unsuccessful—she was unable to find a position that was a good fit—she is an advocate for the program.

When she learned in 2015 that DirectPath was looking to hire more benefits educators, she thought those positions would be a good fit for military spouses. She suggested that the organization, which employs more than 300 people and works with employers to help them understand health care compliance and explains organizations' benefits to their employees, join MSEP. The company became an MSEP partner in October after undergoing a lengthy application process that included multiple interviews with DOD representatives. Vester's role now includes recruiting military spouses at DirectPath. 

She urged HR professionals to visit the MSEP website to learn more about the initiative.

"It's well-worth their time and effort," she said.
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