A new program from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation Hiring Our Heroes is hoping to have big impact in major military areas nationwide by funneling momentum for military spouse employment into action.
The Military Spouse Economic Empowerment Zones program, announced today by the foundation and USAA, will focus on a currently unnamed collection of cities that will included areas like San Antonio, Texas, Hampton Roads, Virginia and Tacoma, Washington, to collect all of the spouse programs that already exist into a one-stop-shop of sorts for job opportunities, said Elizabeth O'Brien, the Chamber foundation's head of military spouse programs.
"We've identified specific locations across the country that have a commitment to supporting our military families, and identified communities where we are able to leverage our Military Spouse Professional Networks," she said. "Most importantly, we are creating a one-stop-shop for the military spouse. Education opportunities, volunteer opportunities, job opportunities -- we're taking all of these resources that already exist and convening them in one location."
Known as In Gear Career until early this year, the Chamber's Military Spouse Professional Network (MSPN) is a collection of locally based, in-person networking groups across the world that look to advance military spouse employment opportunities in their individual areas.
The locations, which are volunteer led, work with the base and community to connect spouses with jobs and education by the simple act of networking. This blogger has been involved in the organization since it was first launched, and most recently led a network location in Anchorage, Alaska.
Although Chamber officials plan to start the MSEEZs at only a few locations now, they also want to identify best practices that will allow them to take the program wider throughout 2018.
The cities where the program is kicking off immediately were chosen because they already have the key pieces in place, O'Brien instead, including community and local employer interest in military spouse employment and the support of the base.
That trifecta of components means that the Chamber simply needs to push all of those puzzle pieces to work together, instead of building the system from the ground up.
"One of the great things we can do through the Chamber is convene and raise awareness," she said. "Many of these pieces already exist, but they really need a conveyor."
If you're in a heavily military region with a robust MSPN chapter, be on the lookout for the new MSEEZ program to be coming your way. Find a list of network locations here.