Travis military spouses talk about career challenges

July 30 2019

Daily Republic 7/26/19 By Ian Thompson

TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE — They love their military spouse and being part of the military, but the challenge of finding gainful, career-advancing employment is proving to be a financial and emotional stress point.

"It is walking this fine line of fulfilling my goals and staying in the military which we love,” said spouse Dr. Nicole Nunez.

Nunez’s husband will be transferring to a new base and she is concerned how that will affect her work as a biotech scientist.

Depending on the yet-to-be-named base, it may be to a location where there is no biotech industry to work in.

Angela Clemens went from teaching at a South Korean university to teaching English to Korean students online because of the extensive amount of time, effort and cost it took to get credentialed to teach in California.

With the teacher shortage California is experiencing, “it is very frustrating,” Clemens said. Travis military spouses talked about these challenges at the Travis Regional Armed Forces Committee’s meeting in June, and to a civic leaders breakfast Thursday at Travis Air Force Base. Their hope is to work with local business leaders, governments and groups such as the Travis Community Consortium and the Travis Regional Armed Forces Committee.

“We must take decisive action,” said Travis Community Consortium and Travis Regional Armed Forces Committee member Sandy Person of energizing local, regional and state leaders to get changes made. The Air Force and Department of Defense are doing what they can to help military spouses. Person and the spouses plan to speak to more civic groups to encourage local business leaders “to take a leadership role in creating collaborative relationships,” Person said. That will be important because a recent letter from military service chiefs to the states’ governors stated that military spousal employment support will be a factor in the Pentagon’s basing decisions.

One of the most challenging aspects about being the spouse of an active duty service member is maintaining a career and keeping up their family’s financial stability. All of the spouses stress they love the military service and don’t want leave. Their vow is to build support for changes that will make it easier to link up with meaningful jobs at their new base and change state laws that would make it easier to have teaching and professional credentials transferred between states.

They are building groups such as the Military Spouses Professional Network to talk to local leaders and state officials. Military spouses are some of the most mobile workers in the labor market and it leaves them particularly vulnerable. Frequent moves make it difficult to keep a steady job, and if the particular profession requires licensure or state-mandated courses, then the spouse has to weigh the options of getting re-certified in the new state, working at a job below their skill level or not working at all.

One response to a 2017 survey had one spouse write, “Everywhere we go, I am forced to start at the beginning. I was an assistant director in Virginia, then a part-time cook in Rhode Island and now a records clerk in California. I feel I am going backward in my career with no help.” Being a teacher, nurse, doctor, lawyer or any other profession that requires a state-certified license means dealing with difficulty of restarting that career with every move.

It means taking classes, passing exams, paying fees and taking the time to get re-certified every two to three years as the military member is moved to a new base. And that process eats time. Some spouses talk about waits between six months and a year to get that certification.

Of about 500,000 military spouses in the U.S., 88 percent have some post-high school education. Even with this educational background, 16 percent of them are unemployed and another 18 percent are holding seasonal or temporary jobs. Roughly 38 percent earn less than their civilian counterparts. And since 66 percent of military families are dual-income households, this has the Air Force and the Department of Defense concerned because of military member retention.

Temporary or provisional licensure, which allows a military spouse to practice his or her profession while fulfilling the necessary requirements to qualify for permanent licensure in a new state, have been popular in some states. Arkansas passed legislation in 2017 which required state boards and commissions to promulgate rules for temporary licensure, certification or permitting of spouses of active duty service members. In the same year, Texas passed legislation allowing for temporary certification of military spouses with teaching credentials in another state so they can work as an educator while pursuing licensure in Texas.

Last year, Utah started allowing spouses to practice a number of professions in the state without requiring a distinct license in Utah, as long as they hold a current license in good standing in another state and pay all applicable fees. California has made some changes such as waiving license renewal fees, but military spouse groups and their supporters such as the Travis Community Consortium want to see more done.