Last week, DoD’s Military Spouse Employment Partnership (MSEP) hosted its annual conference welcoming 76 corporations, government agencies, nonprofits, and universities committed to hiring and retaining military spouses. The additional organizations bring the total number of MSEP partners to more than 610 organizations.
MSEP was established in 2011 following the release of Strengthening Our Military Families: Meeting America’s Commitment, a White House report highlighting the need for a unified federal government approach to developing career and education opportunities for military spouses. MSEP creates employment connections that provide actively recruiting companies with direct access to a talented, highly educated pool of military spouses seeking career opportunities. Since its official launch in 2011, more than 249,000 military spouses have found employment through MSEP.
At the event, Patricia Barron, deputy assistant secretary of defense for military community and family policy, referenced previous comments from Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, who said “our people and our readiness remain inextricably linked.”
MOAA appreciates DoD’s efforts to enhance employment opportunities for military spouses; however, the other side of the equation is incentivizing businesses to hire spouses who experience frequent moves. This was part of a multipronged approach used to address veteran unemployment in 2010 and must be implemented for the spouse community, as well.
For the first time, a service secretary attended the annual MSEP induction ceremony: Adm. Michael Gilday, chief of naval operations, and his wife, Linda, joined the opening ceremonies, demonstrating their commitment to addressing the continued high rate of military spouse unemployment.
Linda Gilday encouraged spouses to “remain strong, keep going, and continue focusing on your professional goals.” Throughout her husband’s naval career, Linda has successfully maintained her own career – she’s currently serving as deputy program director for Naval Sea Systems Command’s Shipyard Infrastructure Optimization Program – and is proof of the possible.
Eddy Mentzer, DoD’s associate director of military community support programs, expounded upon opportunities for MSEP improvements. Starting this year, MSEP partners will be issued a partner engagement score, a move designed to ensure partners remain active in the MSEP portal, report military spouse hires, and more. The newest MSEP partners will be the first to receive engagement scores, and beginning in January 2024, hires reporting will be mandated for all enduring MSEP partners.
Last year, a Joining Forces initiative encouraged the federal government to be the “employer of choice for military families.” Among the list of new MSEP partners are the Department of Justice, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency – all federal agencies who are committed to hiring military spouses. MOAA is pleased to see increased support from these government agencies and encourages hiring managers to consider remote telework opportunities, when possible, to provide spouses with careers on the move.
One of the best pieces of advice delivered during the MSEP event came from USAA representative Chryssy Johnson, who encouraged the new inductees to “not just be military friendly, but to be military ready.” Military spouses seeking careers need employers who are both. Employers who understand the challenges presented by military life and work with military spouse employees to develop best practices will benefit from the talent and dedication spouses bring to the organization.
Closely related to the MSEP initiative, the Spouse Education and Career Opportunities (SECO) program will roll out the Military Spouse Career Accelerator pilot in January 2023. Similar to SkillBridge, this pilot will provide paid fellowships for military spouses, ideally leading to employment opportunities. Companies and organizations interested in hosting a military spouse fellow can begin applying later this month, and spouses seeking the fellowship opportunity will be able to apply in December.
[FREE RESOURCE: Download MOAA’s Military Spouse Employment Guide]