By Elaine Sanchez
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON (4/5/12) – First Lady Michelle Obama announced April 4 a new hiring effort intended to deliver thousands of portable, flexible job opportunities to military spouses and veterans in the coming years.
Eleven companies have pledged more than 15,000 jobs for military spouses and veterans, the first lady said, noting the vast majority of these jobs can be accomplished from home.
This commitment will make a “huge difference” for military spouses, Obama said during a teleconference announcing the initiative. “We’re working hard on their behalf because we’re proud of them,” she said. “Having an opportunity to have a decent job … is one of the most important ways we can support these families.”
This new effort will offer spouses thousands of at-home employment opportunities in areas such as customer support and telemarketing, as well as jobs that are physically located near military installations, a White House news release Wednesday. Nearly two dozen contact centers – which offer family-friendly scheduling, growth opportunities and the ability to transfer seamlessly from one center to another – have committed to hiring spouses.
These companies and their job opportunities will be integrated into the Defense Department’s Military Spouse Employment Partnership, the release said. MSEP is an effort in which more than 100 private-sector companies have committed to a focused effort on military spouse employment.
“Whatever comes up in life along the way, these types of jobs will give them the type of flexibility and portability they’ll need to succeed, not just in their careers, but the rest of their lives as well,” Obama said during the conference call.
The first lady noted the value of flexible, portable jobs for military spouses, who must balance work and home life with military-related demands. Portability enables spouses to move without the stress of finding a new job at each new location, the first lady said, noting military families are 10 times more likely to move across state lines than civilian families. And flexible work hours offer a better work-life balance, particularly for spouses caring for children or elderly parents.
Also on the call, Air Force wife Dawn Shaffer, who recounted the employment challenges that drove her to find the at-work flexibility she needed.
Shaffer started out as a veterinary technician, but was unable to find work in her field after she and her husband, Air Force Staff Sgt. Travis Shaffer, moved from Guam to Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo. Wanting time at home with their baby daughter, Shaffer found a job as an at-home customer service professional, which offers her both portability and flexibility. She now provides customer service to some of the largest companies in the world, she said. “I absolutely love what I do.”
Military spouses shoulder a significant burden, Obama said. They move frequently, take on additional responsibilities during deployment – all while balancing the demands of family, careers and community.
But while challenging, a military lifestyle also equips spouses with a vast array of in-demand job skills, the first lady said. They’re able to troubleshoot a variety of situations, manage schedules and deal with changing circumstances – all qualities any employer would value, she said.
“Military spouses often are the most talented and most resilient and most employable people around,” she said. “What we’re trying to do is meet these spouses where they are.”
The first lady’s announcement comes in advance of next week’s Joining Forces anniversary.
Obama and Dr. Jill Biden, the vice president’s wife, launched this national initiative last year to rally the nation in support of troops, veterans and their families.
Since then, they’ve focused much of their efforts on employment issues for spouses and veterans, the first lady said, and have “made strides all along the way.”
The first lady praised the companies that have stepped up to support spouses and veterans.
“Companies are not just telling military families we are inspired by them,” Obama said, “They’re backing it up with meaningful, concrete action.”
Companies’ key commitments include: