ACS program assists spouses seeking employment
SCHOFIELD BARRACKS, Hawaii -- At right, Yolanda Johnson, Employment Readiness program manager, Army Community Service, prepares a newsletter for distribution to newly arrived spouses to Hawaii, with the assistance of Hailey Stout. Thanks to Johnson's help, about 50 spouses, including Stout, have found jobs in the past four months through the employment program.

SCHOFIELD BARRACKS, Hawaii - When it comes to helping the jobless find employment, either on post or off, the woman affectionately referred to as "Ms. Johnson" is the one all Army spouses, here, come to see.

Since being hired as the Employment Readiness program manager at Army Community Service in October, Yolanda Johnson has been the principal source of trust and good advice for hundreds of job-seeking spouses of active duty military personnel.

Since arriving, Johnson estimates she has helped about 50 women successfully find permanent employment since relocating to Hawaii with their husbands.

The Army, Johnson explained, recognizes how important spouse satisfaction is to the overall well being of a family unit. An estimated 55 percent of all Army spouses, in fact, are in the workforce and contribute anywhere from 20 to 40 percent of their families' income, according to a recent report from the Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation Command.

Thus, Johnson views her job as assisting clients - the majority of whom are age 25 or younger -find fulfillment through employment education and training opportunities, in spite of the challenges many face in developing long-term careers due to frequent Soldier reassignments and relocations.

"For me, it's all about empowerment," said Johnson, who hosts orientation meetings, here, every Friday for new arrivals to the islands, as well as quarterly gatherings that focus on resume writing and dress tips for job interviews. "If you can help these people find jobs, that's huge."

In addition, keeping spouses gainfully employed has a positive impact in the retention of military personnel, she said.

"Not everyone wants to be a housewife, so when you empower spouses by giving them the tools they need to find a job, the retention rate among Soldiers is bound to go up," she said.

But those in need of Johnson's help are warned to come in with their sleeves rolled up, prepared to labor unceasingly.

"Finding a job is hard work, and it will often beat you down," admitted Johnson, whose staff includes two assistants.

"Our goal for our clients is to send out 20 resumes a day," she continued. "We don't ever want them to simply look at one job and say, 'That's me!' I mean it could be you, but then again, maybe not. And what you just did by focusing on one job was put all of your eggs in one basket."

Clients are also warned not to be idle during their search for employment, but to remain active by doing volunteer work.

"We'd all like to get paid for everything we do, but that's not possible," Johnson said. "I'll often tell my people to volunteer somewhere while they're out looking for a job, especially if they're the type that needs to get out of the house."

Hailey Stout, one of Johnson's clients, agreed.

"Volunteering keeps you in a professional atmosphere and allows you to network," said Stout, who, through Johnson's assistance, recently landed a full-time job with ACS' Relocation Readiness team. "I used my volunteer experience on my resume, and I'm sure it helped. Instead of looking like I wasn't doing much while unemployed, it showed that I was engaged, and not just sitting around."

To better prepare military spouses for the job market, Johnson and the ACS team have helped form an alliance with about 26 local businesses - including Army Career and Alumni Program, Bank of Hawaii, Starbucks, Servco Inc., Toys R Us, and Dellew Corporation Facilities Management - through the Army Spouse Employment Partnership.

Additionally, the Military Spouse Career Advancement Account, or MSCAA, provides military spouses with up to $6,000 in grant money for college or technical training.

"For us here at ACS, it's all about hope," Johnson said. "And if we can offer our clients a little more hope, then it makes our jobs all the more worthwhile."

To learn more about Employment Readiness and current job opportunities, visit ACS, located at Building 2091, on Kolekole Avenue, Schofield Barracks or call 808-655-4227.

Page last updated Mon February 8th, 2010 at 17:43