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Hiring Heroes: The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Wants to Help Veterans, and Spouses, Find Jobs

As an Army wife, Laura Dempsey took the bar exam in four different states as she tried to build her career as an attorney while following her husband’s military career from coast to coast.

She knows firsthand how hard it can be for spouses to find jobs. Now, she spends her days trying to make that task easier for other spouses.

Dempsey is the director of Military Spouse Employment Programs at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Hiring Our Heroes program, an initiative founded by a former Marine to help veterans and their spouses find jobs.

All 10 of the program staff members are veterans or military spouses.

The group aims to help lower the skyrocketing unemployment rate faced not just by soldiers, but by their spouses as well.

The national unemployment rate is about 8.3 percent. For Iraq and Afghanistan veterans under the age of 25, that number soars to nearly 30 percent. Of the 85 percent of military spouses who want or need a job, the unemployment rate is 26 percent, according to Department of Defense statistics.

“Spouses are chronically under-employed,” Dempsey said.

It may only get worse.

Over the next five years, experts expect 1 million service members to transition to civilian life. That’s 1 million more people culling job fairs, submitting resumes and fighting for what is often just a handful of jobs.

Dempsey said her office is just the first of several efforts that will be made to help military families return to the civilian workforce.

“This is just the beginning of a much larger effort to raise awareness of this issue and to get more veterans and military spouses jobs,” she said.

Job fairs

Hiring Our Heroes will host 400 job fairs this year, 20 of them specifically for spouses.

Since the program launched in March 2011, it has hosted 138 hiring fairs in 45 states and Washington, D.C., during which, more than 9,000 veterans and spouses found employment.

A wide variety of industries send representatives to the hiring fairs, including major national corporations (NBC Universal has promised 1,000 jobs for veterans; Capital One has pledged $4.5 million toward the program), law enforcement, franchises and more.

All hiring fairs are open to veterans and their spouses. The first spouse-specific event in January of this year was the largest hiring fair of its kind, with 1,300 spouses registered for the event, Dempsey said.

“Clearly this was something there was a demand for,” she said.

In addition to companies interested in hiring military spouses, the spouse fairs include career forums, presentations on how to build a career network, how to plan a telework career, representatives from the Better Business Bureau who can help attendees plan financially for the financial ebbs and flows that are often a fact of military life, makeovers, and more.

“We try to make it fun,” Dempsey said. “There aren’t many things that are directed just for spouses. Our primary focus is jobs, but we recognize you’re not going to get many people there unless you make it an enjoyable experience.”

For more information about upcoming job fairs, visit the Hiring Our Heroes website, check the Facebook page or follow on Twitter @hireourheroes.

Upcoming Spouse Hiring Fairs include:

May 18, 2012

Silver Spring Doubletree Hilton

8727 Colesville Road

Silver Spring, MD 20910


May 30, 2012

Peterson AFB

Peterson Officers Club

260 Glasgrow, Building 1013

Peterson AFB, CO 80914


Aug. 9, 2012

Camp Lejeune

Marston Pavilion

Seth Williams Blvd., Building 730

Camp LeJeune (Jacksonville), NC 28547


Sept. 6, 2012

The Clubs at Quantico

3017 Russell Road

Quantico, Va.


Oct. 11, 2012

Pacific Views Events Center

202850 San Jacinto Road, Building 202850

Camp Pendleton, CA 92055


July TBD

Fort Lewis, Wash.


September TBD

Fort Leavenworth, Kan.


October TBD

Maxwell AFB, Ala.


October TBD

Macdill AFB, Fla.


November TBD

Jacksonville, Fla.


November TBD

Fort Bliss, Texas

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