The U.S. Department of Labor has unveiled a new website for military spouses, which brings together resources from across the federal government to help them navigate occupational licensing and credentialing regulations when moving from state to state.
For women and men married to active duty service members, deployments and frequent moves mean their career paths are constantly interrupted, and good jobs are harder to find. Transferring occupational licenses is another challenge, with regulations varying widely among states.
According to the new website, veterans.gov/milspouses, many states now have laws to make it easier for military spouses relocating from out of state to carry their occupational licenses to a new state.
The site allows military spouses to use an interactive map and license finder tool to learn where to apply for an occupational license in a new state. Users can search by occupation, job title, license name or state agency.
Colorado Springs experts agree military spouses are a valuable untapped resource, and a number of organizations are focused on educating employers, expanding opportunities for military spouses, and helping both groups connect.
“I would say Colorado Springs is actually one of the more veteran- and military-spouse friendly communities … so I don’t think it’s a very dire situation, but the same challenges that military spouses face everywhere [also] happen here,” said Lindsay Teplesky, who, as deputy director of the Hiring Our Heroes Corporate Fellowship Program, helps transitioning military members and spouses find civilian jobs.
A military spouse herself, Teplesky points to her own experience as an example.
“I’m a licensed clinical social worker by trade so every time we move, I have to get a new license if I want to work in that field — and not all the states are very friendly for that,” she said. “That’s one of the challenges that all of us face who have any kind of professional licensure.”
Finding jobs and careers that are transferable or portable is a real challenge, according to Special Assistant to the Mayor Katie Lally, who serves as military community relations liaison and the co-chairwoman of the Military Spouse Career Committee.
“Spouses may have to start all over again every time they move, and there is an innate hesitancy to mention that our spouse is serving our country for fear we won’t get hired,” she said. “That’s a shame. So, the primary challenge is the [employer] education piece. Statistics show that the average length of employment in our country is about four years. If … an employer can get three extremely productive years from a talented military spouse, what would hold you back?”
Lally said Colorado has a commitment to occupational licensing reform for military spouses, and the MSCC this year worked with Rep. Terri Carver to submit and pass House Bill 18-1095, which exempts military spouses who are educators from the state reciprocity requirement to have three consecutive years of teaching in a single prior location.
Carver said Colorado has joined a consortium of states in the National Conference of State Legislatures and, led by the Department of Regulatory Agencies, is working to streamline licensure processes, expand reciprocity and standardize licensing criteria.
“A state like Colorado where we also have a demand for skilled workforce … to be able to ease these bottlenecks and have those with great qualifications be able to participate in our labor market — that is a win/win for our local economy, in El Paso County but also statewide,” Carver said.
In May, Colorado Springs was designated by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce as the nation’s third Military Spouse Economic Empowerment Zone. MSEEZ is a grassroots effort to combat military spouse unemployment and underemployment, promoting collaboration among local business, civic and military communities to establish employment networks.
As low unemployment makes hiring more challenging, military spouses represent “an untapped pool of candidates” for local companies, said Pikes Peak Workforce Center Executive Director Traci Marques.
The Pikes Peak Workforce Center has a military relations specialist, as well as a Military, Veterans and Spouses Coalition which partners with nonprofits and businesses to help transitioning service members, veterans and spouses find meaningful employment.
At Fort Carson, the fellowship program allows for spousal participation. Partnering with PPWFC’s Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act grant allows “displaced homemakers” (those who have lost their last job through no fault of their own — often because of a military move) to qualify for federal funding for a paid internship.
Mt. Carmel Veterans Service Center recently launched a MilSpouse Career Program where spouses can access career counseling services, skills training, career readiness workshops and employer events. Mt. Carmel also provides services to spouses and veterans under the House Bill 16-1267 Veterans Service to Career Pilot Program and its Veteran Reintegration Program.
Learn more about employment and resources for military spouses in the July 6 edition of the Business Journal.