FORT MEADE, Md. -- The Army's Soldier for Life Program plans to host an online job fair for all military spouses this Wednesday, as part of the service's push to place more in the workforce.
The inaugural Military Spouse Virtual Career Expo will be held from 12 to 4 p.m. Eastern Time and will allow spouses located anywhere to log in and speak with prospective employers.
Representatives from over a dozen organizations from the federal and private sectors have already signed up and will be available one-on-one in live chat rooms.
Army officials see the expo as another way to alleviate spousal unemployment, which stands at about 24% among active-duty spouses -- almost seven times higher than the national unemployment rate.
"Our military spouses are highly educated, they have credentials, they are motivated and they've got quite a few different skillsets that can be used in the workforce," said Lt. Col. Olivia Nunn, director of communications for the Soldier for Life Program.
Frequent moves prevent many military spouses from continuing their careers as breaks in their work experience may not always read well with employers.
"Sometimes our spouses take their career to the backseat," she said.
High costs in childcare, especially in more expensive areas, may outweigh the salaries of jobs. Deployments and lengthy field exercises of Soldiers can also force many spouses to stay home.
"Those are huge impacts to their life," Nunn said.
Senior leaders published the Army People Strategy last fall to tackle quality-of-life issues, including spousal unemployment.
"When you start thinking of all the components of quality of life, one of those components is our spouses," Nunn said.
One effort has been to reimburse the relicensing costs for spouses who change duty stations with their Soldier to another state.
In May, the Army established a policy to reimburse spouses up to $500 for such costs, including exams and registration fees required to secure a license or certification in the spouse's same profession.
Army Emergency Relief then rolled out a program to provide either a grant or interest-free loan to reimburse spouses up to an additional $2,000 for relicensing costs when they move to a new state.
The Department of Labor also launched a website -- www.veterans.gov/milspouses -- where spouses can hover over a map of the U.S. for more information on how to transfer licenses to a particular state.
Nunn says the upcoming career expo, which is co-hosted by RecruitMilitary, may have flexible job opportunities, making it easier for spouses to attain meaningful work.
"A lot of our spouses are looking for ways in which they could be gainfully employed that meets some of their unique requests," she said.
While the career expo is free for all military spouses, including those of veterans, Nunn encourages them to prepare their resumes and research the organizations ahead of time.
"Register now and do a little bit of the homework piece so you're confident and ready to do the virtual hiring fair," she said.
To register and see the organizations involved, click on the related link below. There is also a link to a Soldier for Life Program podcast that goes more in-depth on the expo.