Lydia Burt, a military spouse, has been at Fort Bragg for six months and despite her best efforts, has been unsuccessful in landing a job in her career field as a paralegal.
Like many spouses, Burt left a job she loved when she and her Family had a permanent change of station to Fort Bragg. As a former Department of the Army civilian, Burt said she feels discouraged about job prospects because of the federal hiring freeze but is open to broadening her options.
On Feb. 2, she attended the Hiring Our Heroes Fort Bragg Military Spouse Career Event at Iron Mike Conference Center.
“My daughter pushed me to come to the job fair, so I figured I’d give it a shot,” she said.
Hiring our Heroes, a U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation program, is a nationwide initiative to help veterans, transitioning service members and military spouses find meaningful employment opportunities.
Bonnie Amos, ambassador for Hiring Our Heroes, said she is a cheerleader for military spouses and helps them understand the benefits and opportunities available through the program.
“I’m passionate about spouses gaining great employment that offers them mobility and upward movement. The military spouse unemployment rate is 25 percent in the nation and we have to do something about that,” she said.
Some employers might feel that hiring a military spouse is not beneficial because they relocate often, Amos said. Hiring Our Heroes is trying to dispel that myth.
“As evidenced by this job fair and the many employers that are participating, word is getting out that (military) spouse employees are the best,” she said.
Elizabeth O’Brien, director of the Military Spouse Program at Hiring Our Heroes, said employers can rely on technological advances such as remote-based opportunities. She also explained many companies, like Starbucks, offer military spouses the ability to transfer within the company in the case of a PCS move.
About 50 employers were at the Fort Bragg event, all of which must have jobs available, O’Brien said.
“We make sure the employers (at the job fair) are a right fit,” she said. “About 85 companies applied to be a part of the fair.”
One of the companies at the event was Coca-Cola Consolidated. “There’s a level of dedication, loyalty, flexibility and knowledge that comes from a military spouse,” said Mitchell Covington, talent acquisition recruiter. “They are a jack-of-all-trade and that’s what we need.”
In addition to holding hiring fairs, Hiring Our Heroes has a host of online tools for military-related job seekers such as resume building, how to give a 30 second elevator pitch, how to dress for an interview and how to interview, explained Amos.
One of the newest tools is My Career Spark, which allows users to create a storyline-style resume of their career history as well as their skills and value. It allows military spouses who may have had breaks in their career fill it with information about their skillset.
Hiring Our Heroes will be back at Fort Bragg from April 26 to 27 for a hiring fair and transition summit for military service members, veterans and spouses. Visit www.uschamberfoundation.org/event/fort-bragg-transition-summit-2 for details.
“Statistics show if we are able to get a spouse employed before the service member transitions out, it impacts the service members decision on which job they take, which then impacts the retention rate,” O’Brien said. “Our culture has changed. Spouses right now are getting degrees and want to work and if they don’t feel they’re being fulfilled, service members are more likely to get out (of the military).”