Michelle Obama is working to expand opportunities for military families.

Michelle Obama is working to expand opportunities for military families. Norm Shafer/AP

Companies commit to flexible jobs for military spouses, veterans

Partners in first lady’s initiative pledge to open about 15,000 positions.

A new Obama administration initiative aims to provide more flexible, portable employment for military spouses and veterans through partnerships with 11 customer service, health care and telecommunications companies.

The effort, launched through first lady Michelle Obama and Jill Biden’s Joining Forces initiative, makes an estimated 15,000 new jobs available near military bases, specifically targeting service members’ families who must frequently move.

“We’re trying to meet these spouses where they are,” Obama said during a conference call Wednesday. “These jobs give them the kind of flexibility and portability that they need to succeed.”

According to Joining Forces, military families are 10 times more likely to move across state lines than their civilian counterparts, making telework jobs with flexible hours particularly valuable both to families with children and to homebound or disabled veterans.

Companies involved in the new program include call centers at Hilton Hotels, customer service providers such as Arise Virtual Solutions, and work-at-home marketing and communications companies like Agility Marketing.

The jobs component of Joining Forces is among the “most robust” parts of the one-year-old initiative, the program’s executive director, Brad Cooper said.

Cooper said the positions range from entry to midlevel and training depends on the company. Participating firms must provide regular updates on progress meeting their hiring targets for the program, he said.

Dawn Schaeffer, a military spouse who relocated from Guam to Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri, said she switched from a career as a veterinary technician to a more flexible job with Arise Virtual Solutions -- a company that is part of the initiative. The job allows her to work flexible hours and is stable should her husband be relocated again.

Employees in her company complete a 30- to 90-day certification process, Schaeffer told reporters. Hourly pay ranges from $9 to $16, but employees can work as many hours as they want, she said.