BENEFITING: Challenge America
Nine out of ten military spouses want to work yet are either unemployed or underemployed. Challenge America is endeavoring to solve this problem by providing these spouses free aptitude testing and career counseling services. This initiative emulates a successful program run by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, which offers transition support to the narrow population of service members who are either preparing to discharge from military service or are within the first year following discharge from active duty. Extending aptitude testing and career counseling services to this deserving yet disadvantaged population promises to help spouses discover new and rewarding employment opportunities that align with their particular skills, interests, and work-life balance, thereby creating new possibilities to find and secure a rewarding career.
Military spouses cope with multiple challenges that place them at a strategic disadvantage to their civilian counterparts. Foremost among these is the frequency of Permanent Change of Station (PCS) moves. A PCS is an official relocation of service members and their families to a new duty station. It is all too common for military spouses to endure a PCS move every two to three years, forging a employment pattern in their resumes that is often difficult to overcome. The pace, uncertainty, and duration of deployments also places military spouses at a significant disadvantage. Over the last 15 years, deployments have grown more frequent and prolonged, both as a consequence of the multi-front war on terror and the drawdown in force strength. When deployments occur, families often receive very little warning. Because 75 percent of military spouses have at least one child under the age of 18, deployments often require the spouse to take on additional responsibilities at home, responsibilities that either interfere with career goals or postpone them altogether. Extended military deployments are also commonplace. When the service members finally return, a significant percentage exhibit symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder and other service-related disabilities. These challenges almost always interrupt a spouse’s career goals, particularly when the spouse is unexpectedly thrust into a caregiver role.
PCS moves, deployment tempos, and other unique circumstances are difficult challenges to overcome, but they are not insurmountable. To secure a rewarding career, military spouses often need employment opportunities that allow a high degree of flexibility and independence. While these opportunities exist, few military spouses know where to look. At Challenge America, we believe it is critical that the first step on the road to discovery begins with a personalized inventory of interests and skills. Once armed with this aptitude profile, each individual is then equipped to work with a career counselor to explore the employment options that are best suited to their specific financial and intellectual objectives, as well as their unique work-life balance.
At Challenge America, it is our goal to ensure that every military spouse who wants a job can not only find work but satisfying work that conforms to their particular work-life balance. To do so, Challenge America works with a wide range of nonprofit organizations and private consulting partners to provide military spouses the tools they need to secure a satisfying career. This program is already in motion but we need your help to build momentum, so that those who sacrifice so much on our behalf have the opportunity receive their just deserts.