Defense Department officials and U.S. Chamber of Commerce leaders on Wednesday joined Jill Biden in launching the Military Spouse Employment Partnership to connect husbands and wives of service members from all military branches with long-term career opportunities. The program aims to match the skills of military spouses who want to work with the needs of businesses nationwide.
Under the initiative, 72 companies will target jobs for military spouses and offer employment that can continue when service members are relocated. The spouse employment effort, an expansion of an Army program, also provides a digital recruiting system to match spouses with job openings.
More than a quarter of military spouses are unemployed and looking for work, and those who do work earn 25 percent less than their civilian counterparts, according to the partnership.
Military husbands and wives are turned away from jobs because they are overqualified or because service members must move regularly, said Deborah Mullen, wife of Adm. Mike Mullen, outgoing chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The federal hiring preference for military spouses is difficult to navigate, she added.
"Surely these challenges can be overcome," Mullen said. "The key to success is constant engagement and improvement."
The partnership is part of the Obama administration's Joining Forces initiative, announced in April, which combines the efforts of government agencies, businesses, nonprofit groups and media organizations to improve the lives of military families. The national initiative, championed by Biden and first lady Michelle Obama, focuses on the employment, education and wellness of military personnel and their families.
"We are taking a major step forward in achieving that goal," said Biden. "If you are looking for hard-working, highly skilled, dedicated employees, our military spouses are precisely the employees you need."