FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- The military lifestyle poses unique challenges for Army family members seeking employment, but Fort Rucker’s Army Community Service Employment Readiness Program stands ready to assist.
Employment readiness exists to provide military family members the skillset, the toolset and the mindset for finding employment, according to Sarah Pakizer, ACS specialist who runs the program on post.
“Like all installations, Fort Rucker has mid-career and retiring servicemembers. Their spouses have career needs, including income, personal fulfillment and ‘my turn to build a career.’ As the home of Army Aviation, we also have a significant population of new servicemembers and families who are here for a short time, but who are committed to 10 years in the Army. These servicemembers are at the beginning of their Army career, just as their spouses are in the beginning of their careers, as well,” Pakizer said.
Although employment readiness doesn’t find people actual jobs, it does prepare them to locate and be competitive for the opportunities that are out there, she added.
Through her work with the program, she seeks to ensure servicemembers and family members know about the employment resources available to military spouses; that spouses engage with resources according to their interests and capacities, whether that is through online resources, in-person with her, or through the classes the program offers; and that clients who work with her are satisfied with the information they receive and the skills they acquire through employment readiness.
The following is a question-and-answer session with Pakizer about the program.
Q: What services are offered through the program, and who can take advantage of them?
We offer classes, resource referral, and one-on-one employment support.
For one-on-one specialized support, ACS is really focused on supporting family members. Our classes are open to all military ID holders.
Transitioning active-duty servicemembers are better served by the Transition Assistance Program. The Alabama Career Centers is a great resource for veterans. We all work together on employment and work together, but we all have specialized skills or knowledge in the different populations.
This fall, the civilian personnel advisory center is working with us to present information about the federal hiring process. This is an amazing opportunity to learn from the people who actually facilitate federal hiring.
The director of the local Small Business Development Center recently presented a small business class. She did a great job breaking down the steps to start a business. They provide one-on-one support in the initial phases of small business ownership.
In my current resume workshop class, we are taking on the role of human resources and evaluating resumes for a job opening. Participants have given great feedback about what they learn from looking at the resume from the other side of the table.
I have a list of over 50 resources, or tools, for military spouse employment. I can assist spouses in identifying the right ones for their situation. One-on-one, I can also assist with resumes, interviews and other aspects of employment readiness. Not everyone wants to be employed while they are at Fort Rucker, but they can continue developing their employability.
There are a few misconceptions about employment readiness. The first is that we perform resume writing services. We will teach you how to write a resume, we will assist you in tailoring and editing a resume, we will help you identify experiences that are a good match for a job, but we won’t write the resume for you. When military spouses feel comfortable writing and revising resumes, it’s one less barrier to employment.
The second misconception is that we are an entry point into federal employment. Military spouse preference has changed over the last few years and is now done at the individual application level. There’s not currently a program at ACS or CPAC where you can post a resume and have hiring managers select you.
Q: Are there any military-endorsed sources of assistance external to the local program that military spouses can take advantage of to help further their career or employment goals, and if so, what are they and how can people access them?
There are a number of services targeted at military spouses. In addition to the in-person support I can provide, both Military OneSource (https://www.militaryonesource.mil/) and Hiring our Heroes (https://www.hiringourheroes.org/career-services/military-spouse-resources/) target the military spouse population.
Military OneSource has the Spouse Employment and Career Opportunities. They offer career counselors, free access to flexjobs.com, LinkedIn Premium for free, the potential for a $4,000 grant through MyCAA (My Career Advancement), and promotes their military spouse hiring partners. Sometimes they offer pilot programs – most recently free access to Udemy or an opportunity for Google certification. Most military spouses should get connected with OneSource.
Hiring Our Heroes also offers pathways for spouses. They have resume assistance, virtual job fairs and hiring partners, as well.
Hiring our Heroes also sponsors a local Facebook networking group for spouses (https://www.facebook.com/groups/ftruckermspn) – this can be a good source for support, as well as local job opportunities.
Q: What’s your take on the employment environment in this area and for military spouses -- what should they expect out there?
Spouses I’ve spoken to are overwhelmingly interested in employment on post or remote employment. There are several Directorate of Family, and Morale, Welfare and Recreation opportunities on post, and these are filled as new employees are needed.
For other federal opportunities, spouses should set up an email alert through USAJobs (https://www.usajobs.gov/) to be notified of new opportunities. Fort Rucker is a small installation. When federal employment opportunities open, there is frequently significant competition.
There are also a number of contractors on post, and many of these openings get filled through word of mouth.
Spousal employment rarely matches national employment news, but the pandemic really expedited the accessibility of remote work, and lessened the impact of resume gaps – both of these are favorable for spouses.
Several employers in the Fort Rucker area have reached out to me indicating a strong desire to hire military spouses. Families who are moving into the area should consider spousal employment opportunities and needs before selecting where they live. Some considerations include the commute, child care availability and local pay scales.
Q: Is there anything else you would like to add?
As a military spouse, you may need to adopt a different perspective toward your career. There will be times that you will be disappointed. It’s OK to be disappointed, but try not to be discouraged. Put the ball in play: volunteer, network, attend a virtual job fair, visit MilitaryOneSource, pursue education. Talk to an employment readiness specialist at ACS here or at your next duty station. You are serving and sacrificing for the military in your own way, and that shapes your career.
For more information on employment readiness and what it offers, visit https://rucker.armymwr.com/programs/employment-readiness or call 334-255-3161.