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Partnership links military spouses with employers

WASHINGTON -- June 23, 2011 - Defense Department officials are launching a new partnership June 29 that's intended to expand job opportunities for military spouses by connecting them with employers actively seeking to hire them.

Microsoft, Home Depot, Starbucks and the Navy Federal Credit Union are just a few of the nearly 60 corporations and companies that have signed on with the DOD partnership, said Robert L. Gordon III, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for military community and family policy.

When the partnership is launched at the Chamber of Commerce here, Gordon expects 14 more companies will be added to the partnership's roster.

"The design of this program is to bring together those spouses who want to work with a web portal where companies that would like to employ our military spouses can find them," he said.

That web portal is Military OneSource, which also offers job-seeking resources such as resume building. People can call OneSource consultants at 800-342-9647.

The partnership is based on memoranda of agreement to hire military spouses, Mr. Gordon explained. Some 100 job fairs are scheduled, starting in Los Angeles on July 10, with 200 companies ready to offer jobs to spouses.

"Military spouses bring a lot to the table," he said. "They've volunteered and lead different activities on and off our installations. They are skilled, diverse, and know how to operate in a team environment."

Their sense of team focus and strong work ethic are some of the attributes and characteristics employers are looking for in a 21st century work force, he added.

Military spouses have been hit hard by the job market, Mr. Gordon acknowledged, and face an unemployment rate of 28 percent.

Of the military's 1.2 million spouses, he said, 80 percent want to work, but have been held back by multiple moves and deployments. Additionally, a 25-percent wage gap divides military spouses and their civilian counterparts, he added.

Because of those factors, the partnership pinpointed organizations that could offer telework options and portable jobs, he said.

In the course of setting up the program's framework, Mr. Gordon has asked spouses what they would like to see in such a partnership.

"One of them said, 'Don't over-engineer things. We want to look for jobs. We want to be empowered,'" he said. "And that's what we've done. We've devised a program that will bring spouses together with employers who are looking for their skills."

The partnership is aligned with the White House's governmentwide approach to military family support that involves an interagency effort to strengthen families and enhance their well-being and quality of life.