Nearly five years ago, at the height of the veteran unemployment crisis, Hiring Our Heroes was founded on the simple concept of connecting veterans with companies that valued their skills and military service. Over the years, the program has expanded its efforts from initially offering traditional hiring fairs to now including a wide array of resources for military families and employers at every stage of veteran hiring. In addition, we have also connected more than half a million veterans and military spouses with new careers.
And these efforts, along with those of our partners, have made a difference. We are happy to see that veteran unemployment has declined precipitously over the years to a current rate that is below the overall national average.
But as we celebrate these successes, we also know that there is more work to be done to support military families. While the veteran unemployment rate has dropped, the rate for military spouses has held steady at nearly three times that of their civilian counterparts, hovering at nearly 30% for some spouse groups.
This situation is not something that we can ignore, and it presents us with an opportunity to help solve the problem.
Starting this month, we are making this year the “Year of the Military Spouse” throughout our organization. Capitalizing on the great work that has been done thus far in our program, we will make 2016 a year of renewed focus and energy in the way of supporting our military spouses. Just as we have in the past, we will continue to work aggressively to address the unique challenges that military spouses face.
Research shows that military spouse employment is a top concern of today’s service members and their families, and it is viewed as one of the top three obstacles to financial security for service members. For many active duty service members serving today, their spouse finding employment is a factor in the decision to remain active. As a result, supporting military spouse careers goes beyond a moral and economic imperative – it is an issue of national security, allowing our military to retain top talent for longer commitments.
With that at the top of our minds as we forge ahead in this renewed effort, we’ll be working with our network of committed employers, our team of military spouses, and experts in the field of spouse employment to develop and improve programs, resources, and best practices for connecting military spouses with fulfilling career options — and connecting employers with the largely untapped talent pool that military spouses represent. A great example of this is the planned expansion of our presence in our networking opportunities for military spouses across the country.
Throughout the year, Hiring Our Heroes will be sharing updates on our military spouse-focused work in 2016 — we have exciting projects in the works already — but to start, we’re excited to announce that we are merging a fantastic military spouse career non-profit organization, In Gear Career, into the Hiring Our Heroes team. In Gear Career’s network of professional development and networking chapters, located at a number of military installations around the world, will enable Hiring Our Heroes to provide additional career development and networking opportunities, with other spouses and with committed employers, at a grassroots level year-round.
Stay tuned to see what other great developments are in store in 2016, Hiring Our Heroes’ Year of the Military Spouse.