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Researchers to Companies: Hire Military Spouses for Their Resilience

Going back to work

The value of military spouse employees has largely gone unrecognized, according to a new report that looks to build a business case for companies who are considering hiring military spouses.

The report, developed by the Institute of Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University, examines data from a series of studies on military spouse employment, and uses it to present 10 positive spouse employee characteristics such as resilience, adaptability and resourcefulness.

"Outlining a business case that demonstrates military spouse strengths is a first step in helping corporations, businesses, hiring managers and human resource professionals understand why hiring military spouses is an advantageous component of a talent diversity strategy," the report says. "As a group military spouses are educated, motivated to work, and have attributes that employers value."

No complete data exists on the exact military spouse unemployment rate. Researchers estimate the rate to be between 12 and 18 percent, while over 30 percent of spouses examined in a 2013 study reported that they are underemployed based on education background.

Funded by Prudential Financial, the new paper marks the first time a non-military support organization has been a part of such an effort. All past reports and studies have been produced military affiliated organizations or the Defense Department.

"We know that more than one third of [military spouses] say they are unemployed or underemployed. We want to help turn that around by providing them with meaningful career opportunities," James Beamesderfer, Prudential's vice president of veterans initiatives said in a statement.

While most programs and efforts, including a past report from the Institute of Veterans and Military Families, focus on hiring veterans, researchers wanted to produce something that could be used specifically as a tool for hiring spouses, said Deborah Bradbard, a senior research associate at the organization.

"What we're trying to do here is say those veteran efforts have been successful because people have come to the table … let's do the same thing with spouses," she said. "We want this to be sort of a hands-on set of products that can be part of that conversation."

Military spouse employment experts said they hope that businesses see Prudential's investment and take time to examine the subject for themselves.

"I think what's going to happen is it's going to gain traction on different levels for the folks that haven't been engaged prior to this," said Elizabeth O'Brien, who directs military spouse programs at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation's Hiring Our Heroes. "It's going to bring in those folks who haven't been a part in the past."

The report was released today at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation's quarterly meeting. It is the first in a series of three planned reports, officials said. The next two will build off the employee characteristics presented in the first paper by examining a series of military spouse case studies and giving managers guidance and others guidance on recruiting and hiring military spouses. Those reports are expected to be released late this year.

--Amy Bushatz can be reached at amy.bushatz@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @amybushatz.

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