WASHINGTON, D.C. (AFNS) --
As the wife of the Air Force Chief of Staff, Suzie Schwartz has the opportunity to meet with Air Force families stationed all across the country and around the world. And when she does, one issue that comes up time and again is spouse employment.
During a recent interview, Schwartz said a relatively new program called the Military Spouse Employment Partnership is addressing the career challenges husbands and wives of active-duty military members face.
"The MSEP is really just about helping spouses find jobs," Schwartz said. "It's teaming up spouses who need jobs with corporations and organizations that have jobs ... and offering résumé services and interview skills."
MSEP is an initiative derived from the Army Spouse Employment Partnership. In January 2011, Presidential Study Directive Report-9 identified the need for a "unified federal approach to develop career and education opportunities for military spouses." Based upon the success of ASEP, Defense Department officials expanded the program and opened it to spouses of Airmen, Sailors and Marines.
Spouses of any active-duty member can now take advantage of the initiative through the MSEP Career Portal on the Military OneSource Web site at https://msepjobs.militaryonesource.mil/
According to MSEP reports, approximately one out of four military spouses is unemployed. Since MSEP's launch on June 29, 2011, more than 394,977 jobs have been posted by MSEP partners on the Web portal, and 20,529 military spouses have been hired by the program's partners.
"The saying goes that you enlist an Airman and you keep a family," Schwartz said. "We can't just give lip service that we care about these families. We really want to provide them some assistance.
"We're not saying that we're going to find them a job for sure," she said. "We're saying we're going to ease some of those speed bumps and make it just a little bit easier because we want to keep these families."
A unique career obstacle that many spouses face is relocating with their active-duty husband or wife. According to MSEP officials, 77 percent of military spouses want or need employment opportunities, but find it difficult because of frequent relocations. That includes those who move to remote and overseas locations where family members are allowed to accompany the service member.
"We move at the drop of a hat," Schwartz said. "If we were to network to find a job, that's six months maybe that you've wasted, and we don't have that (kind of time). Many spouses actually need that money, and they don't have that connection in the local community.
"That's kind of what (MSEP) offers -- some of that networking and assistance that you would have if you were living in a community for 15 years," she added.
The program falls under the umbrella of Michelle Obama's and Dr. Jill Biden's Joining Forces initiative and is backed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, she said.
As a military spouse herself, Schwartz said the efforts the Defense Department is making to improve the quality of life for families by assisting spouses who seek employment makes her "heart happy."
"I remember the days of going (on job interviews) and people would actually look to see if you had a military decal on your car before they would interview you," Schwartz said. "This program actually brings tears to my eyes because I would have given anything to have someone help me find a job. Now we're not just talking about it; we're really doing it."
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