FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- It’s hard enough nowadays to find employment when the playing field for job seekers is level, much less when the turf is uneven. Military spouses are used to dealing with adversity and additional hurdles when it comes to job hunting. Over the years, they have dealt with unnecessary challenges and obstacles, mainly due to the frequent moves that their military families are required to make.

Sometimes it’s difficult for a military spouse just to get a foot in the door, because employers are not always willing to work with someone who at some point will be moving on to the next duty station. When military spouses go looking for employment, they just want to be treated like any other job seeker. They want a fair shot at the job based on their qualifications, history and experience " nothing more, nothing less.

Spouses are not expecting entitlements or looking to receive special treatment; they are simply hoping for opportunities. It is a tough economy as unemployment rates continue to soar. According to the latest figures, South Carolina’s unemployment rate is 10 percent, slightly more than the national average rate of 9.2 percent.

But there is good reason to believe the future will shine a bit brighter for military spouses seeking employment. Just recently, the Department of Defense launched a program with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The program has about 80 employers committed to opening their doors to military spouses seeking work, so that they get a fair shot at any job openings.

That’s a very positive step in the right direction, considering that roughly 25 of those employers are located in Fort Jackson’s area and work very closely with our Army Community Services Employment Readiness Program specialists, according to our ERP manager.

Here on Fort Jackson, spouses can receive a variety of education and employment assistance through our Employment Readiness Program. ERP provides two types of direct services " core and intensive. With the core services, people who are looking for short-term assistance, such as resume help or training, are best served. The intensive services are geared for those people who are seeking more individualized assistance with their employment searches. The ERP provides the intensive services to at least 250 spouses per month and has helped many spouses become employed.

Job searching workshops are held bi-weekly, and the job seeker receives individual guidance for resumes and job searching. There is also an employment resource center that operates as an office while the person is developing a job-search strategy. The center has a computer area for job searching and for job skills training such as Microsoft Word and other useful electronic office programs.

Job training skill classes vary from week to week. In addition to computer skills, classes are available for customer service, time management, grammar and basic sales. There are library and communications areas, as well as a place where job seekers can get labor market information such as listing of major South Carolina employers, salary information and county employment profiles.

Other assistance is also available, such as information on work-from-home opportunities and small business setups.

I would advise any spouse who is in the job market to check out what ERP has to offer. Good preparation is a key component to success. That applies to just about everything we do here.

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