Virtual Summit December 2nd, 2020
Military spouses are some of the most qualified and dynamic job seekers, but so often face unique barriers on their path to employment that other groups do not. PCS moves, inability to transfer licenses from one state to another or lack of childcare resources are only a few challenges that military spouses navigate while trying to make themselves competitive candidates for the roles they are after.
For the past 18 months, ACP has worked closely with Second Lady Karen Pence and her team to push for progress regarding military spouse employment issues. Mrs. Pence has worked tirelessly with state legislators, corporations and non-profit organizations alike to shed light on the issues facing spouses and more importantly, how companies can learn from one another to find creative and innovative solutions to employment challenges.
On December 2nd, ACP was delighted to host Second Lady of the United States Karen Pence and more than 35 leading companies for a third business summit focused on military spouse unemployment solutions. More than 100 participants attended the virtual summit, including corporate executives, senior military spouses, nonprofits and government agencies.
The convening was a continuation of a conversation that started in May 2019, when ACP hosted an in-person summit at the White House to open lines of communication between these different cohorts. Business leaders came together to hear directly from spouses about their challenges, and then formed working groups to address the challenges and share insights. For this third convening, companies moved from brainstorming into action, and presented Mrs. Pence with their commitments for the upcoming year and the progress made since the first summit. While all companies had unique policies in place, there were a few that stood out as especially effective and common across companies:
- Participation in MSEP (Military Spouse Employment Partnership)
- Self Identification of Military Spouses
- Mentorship – both internal and external
- Specific training, onboarding and recruiting practices
- Internal Military Spouse groups
- Remote work opportunities
These specific initiatives are great ways to ensure effective, long-term solutions to military spouse employment. The first item, participation in the Military Spouse Employment Partnership is a shared feature of many of ACP’s partner companies, including Amentum, HCA Healthcare, Johnson & Johnson, Travelers and United Health Group. MSEP partners are corporations and non-profit organizations that have pledged to support MSEP’s mission of providing education and career development support to military spouses through skill-building courses, training, mentorship and other customized programs. Since MSEP’s launch in 2011, it has had a role in hiring over 140,000 military spouses. ACP is excited to officially be joining MSEP as a partner and continuing to provide mentoring opportunities to active duty military spouses nationwide.
Several companies at the convening discussed self-identification of military spouses within the company as a challenge. Many spouses feel uncomfortable self-identifying as a military spouse due to stigma around frequent moves––something that Second Lady Karen Pence acknowledged in her closing remarks, saying that many military spouses are hesitant to self-identify that way because it has often been perceived as a deterrent to hiring managers as opposed to an advantage. Companies are hoping to make spouses feel comfortable that if they self-identify, they can be accommodated accordingly. For example; gaps on a military spouse applicant’s resume, or holding a series of different positions for shorter lengths of time, won’t be scrutinized as firmly as a traditional candidate’s. This practice is an important step in changing the way corporations think about hiring military spouses.
Because military spouse employees will at times be dealing with specific stresses that are unique to their own lifestyle, it has become clear that adapting how military spouse hires are onboarded and trained is very important. Some of the types of programs that are available to military spouses on top of specialized training sessions are fellowships, internships and certification programs that are customized to fit the experience of our nation’s military spouses. Other companies with a more robust military network introduce their new military spouse hires to more senior military spouses who are employed within the organization, so they not only have someone to learn from within the company but also someone who shares similar experiences to them.
Other companies highlighted their internal military spouse networks which create a community of support for their military spouse employees emotionally, as the stress of taking care of a family while also caring for a spouse who is deployed or perhaps wounded in battle is a burden that can and should be shared with other people who understand. It’s an important tool in not only retaining employees but also to show them that they’re valued in the greater company community. Retention of military spouse employees is a key aspect of creating long-term military spouse employment solutions.
Perhaps one of the most notable and relevant shifts that companies are making is a consequence of the adaptation we’ve all had to make in the face of COVID-19: remote work. One of the biggest problems that military spouses face is the inability to bring their job with them when they move because up until recently, companies seldom offered remote work opportunities to any employee, not to mention military spouses. Now, more and more companies are open to offering remote work––a godsend to military spouses who may need to be able to work remotely if they are going to keep a job amidst a PCS.
During the virtual summit several companies discussed new plans to offer remote work opportunities to military spouse employees moving forward. Implementation of this practice specifically is going to make a great impact on the job stability of military spouses nationwide. The ability to take a job anywhere in the world is a luxury not many could enjoy in the past, but in light of how the pandemic has shaped the way we understand how we work, remote positions are becoming more and more common. It is exciting to see that companies are adapting the way they work in a way that benefits all employees across the board, but especially those whose careers rely on the ability to work remotely.
ACP was proud to bring together such a dynamic group of business leaders for this virtual summit, and is pleased to see the collaboration, networking and sharing of best practices between the group. ACP is incredibly thankful to Second Lady Karen Pence for her unwavering support of the military spouse community and the initiatives ACP’s partner companies are taking to provide solutions for military spouse employment. ACP is grateful to the more than 35 partner companies that attended the virtual summit and looks forward to continuing to work together to provide valuable mentorships to active duty military spouses and searching for solutions to combat the challenges military spouses face when searching for meaningful employment.
American Corporate Partners (ACP) is a national nonprofit organization focused on helping returning veterans and active duty spouses find their next careers through one-on-one mentoring, networking and online career advice. Click here to learn more about ACP: link
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