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Colorado Springs group helps connect military spouses with would-be employers

May 6, 2017 Updated: May 6, 2017 at 1:15 pm
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Details for open job positions hang from an employment board, Feb. 14, 2017, at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont. The employment board is located in the education building and is updated as job openings are received. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Staff Sgt. Delia Marchick)

A Colorado Springs group is redoubling its efforts to connect military spouses with would-be employers ahead of next week's Military Spouse Appreciation Day.

The Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce's Military Spouse Career Committee hopes to attract more job seekers and job providers and bring them together as never before, said spokeswoman Katie Lally.

"Our committee can act as a clearinghouse," she said.

The committee has existed quietly for years under the chamber's Military Affairs Council, but this year decided to make a more public push.

"There are opportunities out there we want to let spouses know about," Lally explained.

Spouse employment has been a perennial challenge for nomadic military families.

Of the 40,000 active duty troops in the Pikes Peak region, about 13,000 of them move every year. That leaves their spouses with a tight window to see jobs and few community connections to lean on when job-hunting.

Employers, too, may shy away from hiring military spouses, because they may wind up moving away at the whim of the Pentagon.

Lally, herself a Navy spouse, says the wives and husbands of troops, though, bring big value to employers.

"They are flexible, they are adaptable and they're loyal," she said.

Frequent moves help make military spouses workers who bring a wider world view, she said. They're also toughened by the uncertain life of a military family.

But a recent study from Syracuse University's Institute for Veterans and Military Families found that military spouses struggle on the job market with unemployment running as high as 23 percent.

Shannon Rauen, who heads the Colorado Springs committee, said the military husbands and wives in the workforce tend to be underpaid.

"Military spouses earn, on average, roughly 38 percent less than their civilian counterparts," she wrote in an email. "Rather than minimizing the gap, higher education seems to exacerbate the problem. The higher the education level, the larger the income gap between active duty spouses and their civilian counterparts."

Lally said the best fix for those concerns is to get the people of Colorado Springs to understand the challenges military spouses face in the work force.

"Our job is to create awareness," she said.

The committee is also hosting a May 16 event aimed at improving job prospects for military spouses. For information on that event, visit bit.ly/2q83TIS. If you have jobs to offer or need job-seeking help, you can also email MilitarySpouseCareer@gmail.com.

Above all, Lally said, military spouses need to know they're far from alone when they face the job market.

"We can help them," she said.

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Contact Tom Roeder: 636-0240

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