By Gary Profit
Just like our men and women who serve across the globe in uniform, military spouses in New York make extraordinary sacrifices on behalf of our country. While Congress is exploring legislation that would help military spouses grow their careers, the private sector can act now to provide them with opportunities and support.
Companies in New York can start by offering military spouses meaningful careers for which they are qualified and deserving. Businesses are increasingly helping to bridge the career gap for service members with careers that are not only flexible, but also provide opportunities for professional growth. In fact, veteran unemployment rates hit an all-time low earlier this year, as employers – including some of America’s biggest companies – are realizing the value of welcoming highly skilled veterans into their ranks. For example, military veterans represent nearly 15 percent of Boeing’s national workforce, while Walmart has hired more than 5,200 veterans in New York since 2013. But military spouses are too often overlooked.
In balancing their careers with the demands of military life, military spouses face unique challenges, such as having to frequently move from base to base. The average military family will move six to nine times over the course of their child’s school career, making it crucial that military families have the support and flexibility they need to remain mission ready.
But despite being more highly educated than most working Americans, military spouses can struggle to find jobs because of gaps in their work history or lack of experience. And when they are unable to find consistent employment, the entire American economy pays a price.
Lawmakers are now exploring new ways to address these challenges facing military families. A bill introduced on Capitol Hill earlier this year, for instance, would seek to improve the portability of occupational licenses for military spouses by creating a road map for universal standards instead of having to re-register a small business or apply for a new license in a state each time they move. Meanwhile, a bill passed by the New York State Legislature allows for military spouse employees to take a leave of absence when their spouse is on deployment.
It will be up to the public sector, nonprofit and private sector to come together in developing a road map for how we can provide opportunity and support for military spouses. They are the bedrock that allow many of our men and women to serve their country. By offering opportunity to military families, we can drive military spouse unemployment down to veteran unemployment levels, while improving businesses across the Empire State.
Gary Profit is a retired Army brigadier general who serves as senior director of military programs for Walmart.