By Lea Johnson
21st Space Wing Public Affairs staff writer
PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — Frequent moves can make it hard for military spouses to have a thriving career. To help put active duty members’ spouses and retirees from Peterson Air Force Base to work, the United States Chamber of Commerce hosted a Hiring our Heroes job fair May 30.
According to Noreen O’Neil, U.S. Chamber of Commerce Military Spouse Business Alliance director of operations, the first Hiring our Heroes job fair was held in March 2011. In 2011, more than 100 job fairs were held across the country which helped more than 9,000 veterans and military spouses find permanent employment. The goal for 2012 is to host 400 fairs, O’Neil said.
Nearly 400 people attended the job fair and visited with 49 local and national employers.
“Employers that come to our fairs have to have a minimum of five jobs, and they have to be willing to accept resumes and be able to hire on the spot if possible,” O’Neil said.
Employers can sometimes have misconceptions about military spouses. “(Employers) think that spouses don’t want to work, but that’s not true. They really do and they fall behind with their skill set if they stay out of the workforce,” said Roberta Phillips, U. S. Chamber of Commerce Center for Women in Business executive director.
Kimberly Hessler, Homeland Security Careers, said sometimes employers believe military spouses move too often to be a quality employee. “(Employers) just need a little bit of education. The statistics say that military spouses stay longer in positions than their (civilian) counterparts,” she said.
In addition to the job fair, the Center for Women in Business hosted a mentoring workshop for spouses who may have been out of the workforce for several years.
According to Phillips, over the course of a military career the average spouse will have moved nine times. Many spouses have degrees and valuable skills to offer, they just need help marketing those skills to employers. “What we teach them is how they repackage themselves to make themselves more employable and more interesting,” she said.
Another key portion of the mentoring workshop was teaching spouses about networking, Hessler said. “(Spouses) come into a city with no network. They don’t know anyone, there’s no relationship,” she said. “People aren’t getting jobs off of a cold résumé, it’s because they know somebody who knows somebody who needs their skill set.”
For more information about Hiring our Heroes, go to http://www.uschamber.com/hiringourheroes.