How do we solve Military Spouse Underemployment?

- August 5, 2020

Military spouses are 31-53% underemployed! We need to identify the problem with data, upskill military spouses, then set them up with a job!

According to a new Deloitte Insights article "Military spouse unemployment: Exploring solutions to a local problem of national importance." The graphic below highlights some concerning numbers. This problem is attributed to base locations, frequency of moves and the military's high operational tempo.

Who are military spouses?

This is important! It seems obvious, but it impacts families financial stability (requiring two incomes), the ability for the spouse to get personal fulfillment and growth, and lastly the strength of the military family and their ability to stay in the military.

If the military is trying to recruit highly skilled or educated service members, they will need to take care of the highly educated military spouses as well. 67-70% of college and postgraduate degree military spouses have experienced stretches of unemployment.

The Deloitte article is focused on the American military, but research in Canada highlight the same difficulties. The Canadian government - through the Military Spouse Employment Initiative - Casual Inventory- tries to connect military spouses to the following jobs:

  • Administration services
  • Clerical services
  • Language teacher
  • Storesperson
  • Food services
  • Labourer
  • Cleaner

These might not be the jobs that skilled or educated spouses are seeking. Some of these jobs are also difficult to build a career around.

The Military Spousal Employment Network tries to create a network with over a dozen employers across Canada which offer opportunities that may appeal to military spouses of currently serving members. This might be the right direction, especially if the work can be done partially or fully remotely to allow the military spouse to progress in their career.

With the rise of remote work, we might have an opportunity to change this paradigm. Three recommendations from Deloitte that would really help are the following:

  • Ensuring spouses have the tools necessary for successful remote work, such as computers, webcams, videoconferencing software, or even coworking spaces, as well as a strong social support network in the form of others working in the same location.
  • Generating “future of work” data-driven fact sheets and support materials for employers to highlight the quantitative and qualitative benefits of hiring military spouses (especially under alternate working arrangements such as remote work) and drive innovative solutions.
  • Offering job-centric upskilling programs to military spouses to help them gain the necessary skills for in-demand jobs in different areas.

These are areas that WYWM can help. Right now WYWM provides free training and job opportunities to military spouses. The training enables military spouses to work in Data Analytics, Cyber Security, Project Management and Computer Programming. With COVID19 allowing more remote work, now might be the time to network with more companies to create opportunities. Maybe we need to create a better 'pitch' to companies of what military spouses are capable of achieving?

I want to build off Deloitte's insight in Canada. We need a data-driven fact sheet for employers to highlight the benefits of hiring military spouses and drive innovative solutions. With 200+ hours of skill upgrades, military spouses would be ready to be employed for in-demand jobs that can be done from the computer. Based on the fact that military spouses are statistically more educated than the rest on the population, they are likely a missed opportunity for companies in the United States, Canada and Australia.

For the companies considering employing a highly educated military spouses - remember -
"Military spouses help keep families together, allowing service members to do their jobs without the burden of worry. Military spouses are deserving of support in finding meaningful employment, not only for their sacrifices, but to keep military families strong, resilient, and in the fight. It is not just a moral imperative; it’s a matter of military readiness."

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