by Libby Jamison, Guest Contributor
What’s your biggest hurdle to maintaining employment as a military spouse on the move every few years? For many, it’s not the job hunt itself.
More and more employers are now hiring milspouses searching for a job at a new duty station. Programs like Joining Forces have made a positive impact in the last few years on this issue.
However, licensing requirements that vary wildly from state to state are still a substantial burden for military families who move on average every 2 to 3 years.
Even with a willing employer available, the costs and time associated with re-licensing can prevent milspouses from meaningful employment.
Today, 1 in 5 U.S. workers must have a state-level license to do their jobs. This is a massive increase since the 1950s when only 1 in 20 needed licensing! Approximately 1,100 professions are regulated in at least one state, including many medical and educational positions popular in the milspouse corps. Months or even years of education and training to obtain a license can be rendered useless by a whole new set of requirements in another location.
The good news is that this issue is being addressed. (kind of!) Almost every state has passed legislation or issued an executive order to better support military spouses needing a license or certification to work. (Check with your state’s licensing bureau or the appropriate professional regulation body to see where they stand.)
But the degree of helpfulness of these rules varies. Some still require great expense and time for re-certification, meaning many military spouses may not be able to afford it or have time to complete the process during a tour of duty.
A licensing waiver isn’t useful if it takes 8 months to process, leaving a spouse with a significant gap on the resume.
Additionally, most of the rules do not apply to certain professions like teachers and attorneys. This patchwork of rules and regulations is frustrating and continues to present significant barriers to employment for military spouses.
Solutions to this issue are still being explored.
In July 2015, a report from the Department of Treasury, Council of Economic Advisers and the Department of Labor was released on occupational licensing and its consequences on the U.S. economy. While a report on occupational licensing didn’t go viral (how could it compete with all those cat memes?), it did specifically refer to military spouses as a reason to work toward better management of licensing requirements.
Following the report, the President proposed $15 million in grants to fund states interested in fixing this problem. The White House also suggested limiting licensing requirements to only those necessary to address public health and safety concerns. While the federal input on this issue is appreciated, each state must act on its own to actually enact the changes needed.
Other groups are working on the military spouse licensing issue at the state level.
The Military Spouse JD Network (MSJDN) support military spouses working in the legal field. Since 2011, they have helped enact rule changes in 15 jurisdictions to reduce the burden of repeated bar exams. Most recently, Maryland added a military spouse attorney special permit to practice which will go into effect on January 1, 2016. By telling the stories of the families impacted (including many forced to live separately in order to maintain the military spouse’s career) and sharing common sense solutions, MSJDN has made progress and continues to fight for reduced barriers to employment for military spouses.
We know military spouses are a determined and resilient group. The milspouse squad includes senators, federal judges, Peace Corps volunteers, teachers, nurses and other rock stars that put Taylor Swift’s posse to shame! By banding together and sharing the real impact of these burdensome and oppressive rules on our military families, we can change the rules and remove the obstacles between us and meaningful careers on the move.
Join the Military Spouse JD Network for their annual career development event in Seattle on October 23! “Making the Right Moves” is a full day event including panels on leveraging technology to work remotely, exploring careers in public service and much more. A networking lunch and resume review is also part of the day.
Visit the Making the Right Moves event page for more information and to register today.
Libby Jamison is the Communications Director for the Military Spouse JD Network. She also manages her own virtual law practice and is Of Counsel to the Law Office of Thomas Carter. She currently resides in Rhode Island with her husband, a Navy helicopter pilot. Libby volunteers with MSJDN, the Military Spouse Business Association, Hire Heroes USA, Junior League, and her local spouse group.