A program of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation
Military spouses who live in Southern Maryland say they are celebrating after a recent hiring event hosted by Hiring Our Heroes (HOH) and Military Corps Career Connect (C3). The event, a military spouse hiring reception, gathered career-minded military spouses and employers from the area into one room, resulted in multiple job offers and a renewed optimism within a community that has struggled for years to find meaningful employment.
Melanie Kramer is the Veteran Navigator at C3, a role that gives her a lot of insight into the local market conditions. Kramer reports that Naval Air Station Patuxent River is an extremely difficult landscape for spouses seeking employment; most positions advertised are low paying and are either in retail or food & beverage industries. She also says many other positions are with Department of Defense contractors and even entry-level roles in those organizations require military security clearances, something many spouses do not have.
“I think there is an assumption that spouses in this area are not qualified,” says Kramer, and “that is absolutely not the case. Spouses here are extremely qualified, educated, skilled and most importantly, they are motivated. They just need a company to give them the opportunity.”
United States Navy spouse Brigitte Heckathorn has lived in Pax River for three years and says her job search prior to the networking event had been unsuccessful.
“I had applied for positions and never heard anything back. I went to local job fairs and was always overlooked because I did not have the hands-on experience employers were looking for,” says Heckathorn. “During the HOH/C3 event, I connected with two companies that were interested in what I had to offer. One of those companies asked me to come to their offices for an interview and I was offered a position the following week!”
Days after the event, Heckathorn accepted a position with one of the companies in attendance as a Cybersecurity Solutions Engineer.
Navy spouse Jocelyn Hafeman also accepted a job offer from an attending employer. Hafeman says not all hiring events are the right fit for military spouses.
“We often find ourselves preliminarily excluded from consideration, due to our itinerant lifestyles and our resumes, which are made eclectic out of necessity,” says Hafeman. “Having the opportunity to attend an event where all of the employers were specifically interested in hiring spouses removes all of those impediments.”
Pax River employers say they are also happy to be connecting with a great pool of talent. Ray Wernecke, a director at Booz Allen Hamilton, says he was able to connect with candidates who had great credentials, education, and experience ranging from cybersecurity to statistics, project management, and scheduling, and more.
“This event highlighted our desire to continue recruiting from military spouse channels and forums – this is an underemployed, underrepresented population of talent that we will continue to foster as we look for a diverse group of candidates to help us support our clients’ missions here and across the nation,” says Wernecke.
Wernecke went on to say hiring events focused on military spouses are needed.
“The events highlight a pool of talented professionals who have not only great credentials and experience but also have the resilience, adaptability, and ingenuity bred from their high operational tempo of the military lifestyle. These events are essential in making the connection between qualified military spouse candidates and local employers that need and value their unique qualities.”
The Pax River Military Spouse Hiring Reception is one of four being hosted in the state of Maryland this summer. Along with employment opportunities, the events are also a way to let eligible military spouses and veterans know about the HOH’s national resources as well as local resources available through C3. The local programs are made possible due to a $4.3 million Department of Labor National Dislocated Worker Grant awarded to Anne Arundel Workforce Development Corporation (AAWDC).
Along with the free training and certifications that C3 provides, C3 and Hiring Our Heroes have collaborated on a pilot Corporate Fellowship Program for military spouses and veterans which allows companies to “test drive” candidates in roles for 6 weeks at no cost to the company. To date, over 100 military spouses and veterans have been placed in fellowships with close to 50 host companies.
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A Program of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation