First Friday military spouse employment event Jan. 10 Published Jan. 9, 2020 By Staff Sgt. Magen M. Reeves 325th Fighter Wing Public Affairs TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- Organizations affiliated with Tyndall Air Force Base have partnered with the Bay County Chamber of Commerce and the Panama City Beach Chamber of Commerce to host a First Friday event held Jan. 10, 2020, from 7:30 a.m. to 9 a.m. at Florida State University Holley Center, Panama City, Florida.First Friday events are monthly membership meetings of the Chamber of Commerce, but this particular event is estimated to have higher attendance than normal because it is a combined effort between multiple organizations and is open for public attendance, specifically military spouses.“Approximately 300 community and business leaders will attend the event and it includes networking and a community program of interest,” said Maria Goodwin, Career Source Gulf Coast director of workforce services and communications. “The program for the January 10th event will focus on the importance of hiring military spouses and will highlight resources for military spouses along with success stories from local military spouses.”“The event is designed for business and community leaders and military spouses,” Goodwin continued. “The intent is to showcase the valuable skills and characteristics that military spouses bring to the workforce and then connect them with resources and employment opportunities.”The benefit of utilizing the First Friday platform to hold a sort of modified job-fair is to help streamline the process for military spouses who are either searching for a career move or who are struggling with unemployment.“The unemployment rate for military spouses is estimated to be 24 percent, which is significantly higher than the national unemployment rate at 3.5 percent and the local Bay County rate at 2.8 percent,” said Goodwin. “As a military friendly community, concerned community members have developed a task force to address the issue.”According to the 325th Force Support Squadron’s Airman and Family Readiness Center’s staff, 92 percent of military spouses are women, 57 percent participate in the labor market compared to 76 percent of the general population, 34 percent have some college education of which 40 percent have a four-year degree and 15 percent have an advanced degree, and 34 percent of employed spouses work in occupations that require licenses or certifications. A 26 percent wage gap experienced is currently reported by military spouses.“An outreach campaign promoting the benefits of hiring military spouses to employers is planned and will be launched at First Friday on Jan. 10,” Goodwin continued. “The January First Friday is special because it is the kickoff of this effort and it’s the community’s way of showing their support to military spouses in a public setting.”Employment for military spouses has historically been a critical component of mission success for military installations, with frequent long-distance moves in conjunction with a permanent change of station (PCS) being a deterring factor for employers to hire an individual understanding that military moves are often times not permanent.“Moving frequently makes it difficult to get hired or grow a career,” said Aimee Bright, a former active duty military spouse who remains involved with the Tyndall Spouses Club, is a Key Spouse member and currently pursuing employment locally. “The US Chamber [website] reflects this as the number one struggle.”“Challenges I have faced [include] employers knowing that I would be moving in the future and not wanting to hire me because I wouldn’t be in the job for longer than two the three years,” Bright continued. “I know of many spouses who have faced this same challenge; some were discriminated against simply because the zip code on their resume or application was the same zip code as base housing.”In addition to military spouses struggling with local employment because of service affiliation, they also have to face and overcome challenges that a potential employee in the civilian sector may not have.“Other challenges include finding a career where you can stay employed and advance despite moving frequently, the differences in licensing between different states, and finding employers that understand and offer some flexibility in work schedules during deployments, temporary duties (TDYs) and exercises,” said Bright.According to the A&FRC, on average, military spouses seek new employment every one to three years based on the military member’s orders, which may lead an employer to believe that individual will leave sooner than later. However, Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows military spouse employment tenure is mostly in-line with the general population with the average tenure for an employee in the general workforce being four and a half years.Many spouses will often times fulfill volunteer roles instead of paid roles because of the hiring stigma.“One need for me was that I wanted to feel like I was doing something meaningful outside of our home,” Bright said. “I turned to volunteering in order to fulfill that need. I made the goal to make whatever I was involved with better than I found it.”“However, volunteering your talents and skills is not a luxury all military families can afford,” Bright continued. “Not having a second income is a real challenge for many military families. This can impact an active duty member’s family’s decision to stay in the military.”“If a military spouse cannot find employment or is underemployed, then it can become a financial hardship for the family,” said A&FRC staff. “Lower salary may mean childcare becomes an issue, or a spouse takes on a second job to make ends meet, often resulting in a strain on home life. The emotional impact on an underemployed spouse can weigh heavily on all members of the family. Although spouses may not be active warfighters, the support they provide ensures their loved one can stay focused on their critical missions.”According to the A&FRC, nearly 70 percent of married service members reported that a spouse’s ability to maintain a career impacted the decision on whether or not to remain in the military by a significant extent.The A&FRC offers multiple programs and services to help navigate employment with spouses which are permanently available including education and job training grants, resume writing courses, interview skills seminars, job search techniques and tools, federal employment information and resources, and a spouse reimbursement for occupational state re-licensure or re-certification program.Service members in any branch of service or duty component, such as active, reserve, or Guard, are highly encouraged to promote their spouse to attend the First Friday event. Attendees are also encouraged to share the news with those around in an effort to have a significant, positive impact result from the event.“It is so important to change the narrative because military spouses have a lot to offer employers,” Bright said. “We bring diversity, perspective, flexibility, creative solutions, dependability and adaptability to the table. There have been a lot of national spouse employment initiatives recently and I’m excited to see the Bay County Chamber (and partners) step up and help tackle the issue of spouse unemployment and under employment. To see our local chamber take action shows their commitment to our military families in Bay County.”According to the 325th FSS A&FRC, underemployment is currently reported at 31.6 percent.Military spouses are dependable, reliable, resilient, and have a strong work ethic and being able to work within the community is another way that the spouse can contribute not only to the family but to the community as a whole,” said Carr.In addition to the Airman & Family Readiness Center assisting military spouses with employment assistance, Gulf Coast Career Source can also help.The event is scheduled to last one and a half hours, but is projected to be a great opportunity for anyone affiliated with military installations and for local employers to attend.“Attending the event is a win-win opportunity for both military spouses and employers,” said Goodwin. “Military spouses who attend the event will have the opportunity to network with many of the movers and shakers in the business community. In addition, they will be able to learn about valuable employment and training resources available in the local area. On the flip side, businesses will get the chance to meet with talented and qualified military spouses and learn about the many benefits of hiring them.”For more information or for spouses seeking employment opportunities contact the Airman & Family Readiness Center at 850-283-4204.