Seeking to chip away at a roughly 21% unemployment rate for active-duty spouses, the Defense Department is holding a series of free virtual events through the end of May aimed at helping military spouses find jobs. 

This month’s series of activities comprises a three-day symposium dedicated to career development and employment preparation that ran May 14-16; a series of webinars, mock interviews, and one-on-one resume reviews taking place today through Wednesday; and virtual hiring fairs May 29-30, according to Patricia Barron, deputy assistant secretary of defense for military community and family policy.

“[As service members] go about the business of serving our nation, the military spouse goes about the business of supporting them and supporting the family,” Barron told reporters during a virtual roundtable Monday. 

“However, I can tell you that many, many military spouses … [also] want to have a career of some sort or be employed in some way.”

Seeking to build upon previous years, the theme for this month’s series of spousal employment events is “Even More in ’24.”

“The sessions include a more robust series of employment-dedicated events than we have had in previous years,” Barron said. “And they’re really designed to advance that unique career goal that a military spouse might have through connections and also networking opportunities.” 

Hosted by the DOD’s Spouse Education and Career Opportunities, or SECO program, this year’s symposium focused on bolstering military family readiness by concentrating on the support of spouses.  

“What we try to do through this symposium is … [not only] equip spouses with the tools and resources that they need; but most importantly, [provide] the connections that they are going to need to get a job so they can provide that really important second income.” 

Specifically designed and dedicated to career development and employment preparation, some topics at this year’s symposium included tips for building a strong resume, networking, mastering remote work, negotiation tactics and more.  

Barron said SECO develops tools for each year’s symposium by relying on feedback from the previous year’s participants. 

“We do a lot of analysis of the kind of comments we get after we do a symposium, and we think … ‘What else can we provide? What is it that our spouses really want to hear?’ And that’s what we’ve done: we’ve added some of those elements to this particular symposium,” Barron said.     

After a series of mock job interviews and one-on-one resume reviews this week, participating spouses will get to participate in virtual hiring fairs next week that connect spouses with hiring managers and representatives from more than 700 employers. 

In addition to this month’s series of events supporting spousal employment, Barron also pointed to other DOD programs that are helping spouses find new employment or maintain their current employment.  

Barron highlighted the Military Spouse Career Accelerator Pilot program — which provides spouses with paid 12-week fellowships at employers across various industries and locations — as being a great success, noting that spouses who participated in the program’s first year had an approximately 83% success rate in gaining permanent employment. 

“It’s just been a great program,” Barron said. “And to sustain it throughout the years would be phenomenal.”  

In terms of military spouses being able to maintain their current employment, Barron spoke about an amendment Congress made to the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act in January of last year that allows spouses to maintain their professional licensing despite moving from one jurisdiction to another. 

Barron said that, while many states are still trying to figure out how to implement the new law, if there are interstate compacts involved between the state the spouse is licensed in and the state they relocate to, then the spouse should be able to maintain their license. 

“If there’s an interstate compact in that state already for that career field, it takes precedence over that particular law,” Barron said. “And we’re very connected to seeing how we’re progressing with those compacts.” 

Barron gave credit to Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III for making the care of DOD personnel and their families one of his top three priorities.

“He focuses on this quite a bit,” Barron said. “He’s not just talking the talk; he’s walking the walk.”    

Spouses interested in exploring resources provided by the SECO program can visit https://myseco.militaryonesource.mil/portal/.

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