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Help for military spouse employment

DoD to launch program, working remotely is the key

A Joint Base Lewis-McChord military spouse speaks to a representative from Support the Enlisted Project at the Hiring Our Heroes Career Summit on base in 2021. Photo credit: Talysa Lloyd McCall, Joint Base Lewis-McChord Public Affairs

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Next year the Department of Defense will initiate a program which puts military spouses into paid fellowship positions with corporations that will keep them employed past their next PCS move.

More details about the program will be forthcoming, said Eddy Mentzer, the DoD's associate director of Military Community Support Programs, during a Sept. 19 panel discussion at the Air & Space Forces Association's Air Space Cyber Conference.

Not only is this in line with First Lady Jill Biden's work with employers to create more flexible, transferable and remote job opportunities for military spouses, but it addresses the persistent over 20 percent unemployment rate of military spouses.

While the DoD did not provide specific information about the number of how many spouse fellowships will be funded, it did say that the program will be open to employers on the national and local levels. "It's open to anybody that wants to play," explained Mentzer. He added that some employers might employ one military spouse while others may employ dozens. The fellowships will be available for career-ready spouses.

While military spouses have faced challenges in employment and child care, he added that it is a new age.

"We know COVID proved that there are opportunities, much more than we ever anticipated, for remote work," continued Mentzer, "and every one of our leaders understands the challenges."

He pointed out that other organizations have successfully utilized military spouse fellowship programs, to include the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation's Hiring Our Heroes. But now the DoD has, for the first time, Congressional funding for a spouse fellowship program.

The challenge will be to find employer partners who will keep military spouses employed.

Mentzer emphasized that the military spouses not only will transition into full-time employment, but that the corporations keeps the spouse employed over time as the family makes PCS moves.

"We have a focus on these challenges; there's so much more to come," he added.

DoD officials are also looking at the issues military spouses have when they move overseas, where employment opportunities are more limited. The challenges vary from location to location and are related to Status of Forces agreements.

One area where military spouses may see greater employment opportunities is through a noncompetitive hiring authority, which allows agencies to appoint certain military spouses without using traditional competitive examining procedures.

Another issue defense officials are keeping an eye on are "digital nomad" laws, which gives someone the legal right to work remotely while residing away from their country of permanent residence.

Mentzer advises military spouses who are moving overseas and have questions about continuing to work remotely for their employer, to contact the employment readiness office at the gaining installation, as well as the Judge Advocate General's Office.

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