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First employment symposium held for National Guard spouses

By National Guard Bureau | May 11, 2015

WASHINGTON - Like spouses of service members from other services, those of National Guard Soldiers and Airmen may face challenges when seeking employment, especially when Guard spouses are unable to access employment resources that may be available to them.

To assist Guard spouses with accessing those resources, a symposium designed to help spouses of Guard members find employment was held here recently, the first such event geared directly at assisting Guard spouses with finding employment, said Guard officials.

"Although the National Guard is different than the active component - spouses usually won't move every three years to a different location and therefore (be) subjected to credentialing and licensing issues - National Guard spouses since 2001 have been subjected to many deployments just like our sister services," said Jennifer Armstrong, a family readiness officer from the National Guard Bureau Family Programs office, adding that one of the aims of the symposium was to bring greater awareness to the sometimes difficult nature of nature of spouse employment within the National Guard.

With repeat deployments over the past decade-plus, a need for spouses to change workplace habits and schedules has increased, said Armstrong.

"The basic '9-5' job is sometimes unmanageable and unrealistic," she said, adding that the symposium featured a variety of informational aspects for those seeking new employment or other employment possibilities.

"It was an opportunity for employers who specialize in veteran and military spouse hiring to present first hand information on resumes, job placement and expectations for the applicant," said Armstrong.

But it also gave Guard spouses an opportunity to network with other Guard spouses, said Armstrong.

"Information was also presented to the spouses from other National Guard spouses on the challenges of spouse employment," she said. "Other various topics presented to the attendees were on choosing a career, application and resumes, owning a business and developing and enhancing skills and readiness."

As a National Guard spouse with a doctorate in psychology, Dr. Ingrid Herrera-Yee, the guest speaker at the event, knows first-hand how hard it can be to foster a thriving career and how important access to the right resources can be for a Guard spouse.

"We are a National Guard family, but ... we've moved around a lot," Herrera-Yee said of her own experiences.

"That's a challenge career wise and I would take any position I could get wherever we went," she said. "I would always try to get something within my field, such as volunteering with a lot of psychological associations and hospitals or clinics."

Spouses may also have to seek out other opportunities as well, she said.

"I would also volunteer for free at universities and do what I had done when I was an undergraduate", said Herrara-Yee. "Really, anything that I could find in my field I would try to do."

Herrera-Yee said her journey has taken many turns but after 10 years of balancing both career and the multiple deployments of her husband, she said she has been able to use those experiences to find work in her career field.

And that was the end focus of the symposium, said Armstrong.

"Spouse employment is important to us at the National Guard Bureau," she said. "We recognize the enormous sacrifices our military makes on a daily basis to maintain a strong and ready force. That involves the entire family."

Across the 54 states and territories, the NGB FPO is focusing on educating spouses and trying to provide resources for to help increase the spouses' chances of obtaining steady employment and earning wages equivalent to those of their civilian peers, according to Armstrong.

"Additionally, we are advocating our senior military leaders and the public to recognize that spouse challenges exist, but can be overcome despite the perceptions and hardship vulnerabilities that many military spouses have," she said.