Military Family Advocates Urge Spouses to Look at Tech Sector

(From right to left) Kelly Barrett, 18th Air Force commander key spouse, Kris Salmi, 92nd Air Refueling Wing commander key spouse, and Mary Heathman, 92nd ARW vice commander key spouse, visit with a Child Development Center class at Fairchild AFB, Wash., on May 21, 2019. Air Force photo by A1C Whitney Laine.

As the Defense Department adjusts to the digital age, another military community is trying to plug into the technology sector: spouses.

Tech jobs offer flexible opportunities for a largely female group that sits at 24 percent unemployment and relocates 10 times more often than non-military families, panelists said at a July 11 event on Capitol Hill sponsored by Blue Star Families and the BSA Foundation’s About 690,000 US military spouses worldwide face challenges when searching for jobs, obtaining professional certifications for careers like teaching and nursing, and convincing employers to hire members of the very transient cohort, the White House’s Council of Economic Advisers found in 2018.

“Modern American capitalism is not working well enough for these folks,” Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) said of military families during opening remarks.

He pointed out that people entering the workforce today are more likely than older generations to hold several different careers, and multiple jobs at once, throughout their lives. The digital age enables workers to have a side hustle they can do from home, or to use online resources to retrain into a career field that will continue to grow.

Military spouses can bring a loyal, talented workforce to a technology industry that needs more diverse employees across the country, the speakers said. Nearly half of them have earned at least a four-year degree, according to Microsoft. Whether coding, consulting, or simply relying on technology to work remotely, digital natives and older spouses may have more options to learn new skills than they think.

Blue Star Families has launched partnerships with companies like Salesforce, which offers certifications that are transferable to thousands of jobs nationwide. Danny Chung, Microsoft’s chief of staff for military affairs, noted his company is expanding its 22-week Military Spouse Technology Academy from one 19-member group in Tacoma, Wash. to include San Antonio, Texas this fall. Other organizations also provide Web-based tutorials and certificate courses to sharpen software skills.

Spouses shouldn’t be afraid to tell potential employers about their gaps between jobs, Chung added—it can help companies learn to serve spouses better and can clue you in to a larger support network. In turn, those jobs can also make future relocations easier because of the promise of continued employment.

“Tech is a big, scary world, and I love the fact that everybody is making it so approachable,” said Bobbi Rossiter, a program manager at the resume-writing firm The Resume Place and a Marine Corps wife. “It’s thinking ahead as to, how can I create a space where I can have a career while I’m supporting my service member spouse, and the tech companies really do provide opportunities for that.”