August 21, 2013 – It has been almost a decade since the RAND National Defense Research Institute released data showing military spouses have fewer job opportunities, reduced access to post-secondary education and earn lower salaries than their civilian counterparts. Federal initiatives and community partnerships with companies willing to set aside bias against hiring military spouses (because they are subject to frequent relocation) is helping overcome these negatives.
First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden have been instrumental in Joining Forces, a White House initiative dedicated to connecting servicemen and women and their spouses with the resources they need to find jobs at home. This includes facilitating the implementation of portable licensure that would travel from one state to another with fewer financial and administrative constraints. For lawyers, nurses, educators and other career-credentialed military spouses, these interstate compacts eliminate barriers to working and increase earning potential.
Interstate Credential Accommodation
While not every state is participating today, more than two-thirds (35 states) have committed to expediting applications, providing temporary licenses or issuing endorsements. Only 11 states supported portability measures in February 2012. The goal of Joining Forces is to get all 50 states on board by 2014 by establishing the foundation for national portable credentials in many industries that include manufacturing, medical, education and other skilled labor sectors where shortages create opportunities for veterans and their spouses.
It seems ironic that military personnel can get TV, Internet and phone service in every room of their home in a matter of days, and yet it can take weeks or even months to gain access to work after a transfer to new duty station. Even more ironic is the fact that Washington, D.C., was not among the first to jump at the opportunity to support portable licensure and certification endorsement for military spouses. There is still much to do to overcome barriers in our nation’s capital and beyond.
Preparing to Enter the Workforce
The psychological challenges that come with frequent relocation and the disruptive nature of military service demand support services. Being isolated from friends and family in new surroundings is overwhelming, especially for spouses of new service personnel and younger spouses. Education resource centers on base provide guidance about educational opportunities and financial assistance programs available. In addition to base services, state boards of health, education and licensing offices are valuable resources for information on temporary credentials and expedited applications for military family members. Every state has unique licensing requirements for individual industries.
In the past spouses felt they should sacrifice their career and educational goals in order to support the active duty military family member. With advances in technology that make online learning more accessible, federal initiatives like Joining Forces and organizational movements like the nursing compact, portability is reducing those burdens.
Resources for Families
The National Military Family Association provides a chart detailing which states currently participate in portability efforts to support military spouses finding work as they prepare for a move. The National Council of State Boards of Nursing tracks and reports progress with expanding national licensure for nurses that allow multi-state certification and give nurses privileges to practice across state borders. Information about becoming a substitute or semi-permanent teacher is available from the National Education Association (NEA). Many states are struggling to fill teacher vacancies. Prospective teachers can find articles and other resources on the NEA website.