FORT DRUM — A new service is being offered at Fort Drum for spouses of military members.
Recently, the Department of Defense announced a 12-week paid fellowship program for military spouses called the Military Spouse Career Accelerator Pilot program.
David J. Zembiec, Advocate Drum’s chairman and CEO of Jefferson County Economic Development, said that for some Fort Drum’s Transitional Assistance and Employment Program has been working with transitioning soldiers.
He said when soldiers are about six months away from getting out of the Army, they could do a paid internship with local businesses.
“It’s a good chance to give the soldiers a chance to see, as they’re looking to move into the private sector, to see if they want to pursue a career in that area when they get out, and it gives the employer a chance to sort of test drive the soldier and see if someone is a good fit for them and someone they want to keep on board permanently if the soldier is interested in staying on,” he said.
In the past couple of years, the Army has been looking into trying to improve employment opportunities for military spouses.
Mr. Zembiec said spouses coming in from outside the community may struggle to make the right connections in order to find employment opportunities.
“They’re now doing a similar program for spouses that they’ve been doing for soldiers,” he said.
Instead of being six months, the new program is about three months.
He said military spouses have experiences in many different fields, including accountants, engineers, medical professionals, as well as people who have experience working in a manufacturing facility.
The fellowship program will cover a variety of fields, Mr. Zembiec said.
During a January visit to Fort Drum, first lady Jill Biden spoke with military spouses and leaders in the community to discuss employment opportunities for family of service members.
While speaking with families, Mrs. Biden said she heard from Fort Drum families that they wished that they had a job.
“We are working for them, all these different agencies are working for them,” she said in January.
The military spousal unemployment rate is currently about 22%.
Mr. Zembiec said he wasn’t sure if this program is directly related to her visit, but said it’s all related overall.
Officials during the first lady’s visit said that when military spouses are looking to build their careers, some of the challenges they face include employers not wanting to hire them due to them potentially leaving the area, finding jobs that aren’t transferrable, and finding remote employment.
“There’s been growing attention in trying to improve opportunities for military spouses,” he said.
He said Advocate Drum has formed a work group to establish a military spouse economic empowerment zone, and they are working on it with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
Mr. Zembiec said the group will be dedicated to improving opportunities for military spouses to find employment and for local employers to find talent.
Already offered on post, the USO Transition Program helps spouses find employment, help with a resume, or interview coaching.
Employers can go to the fellowship program’s website at wdt.me/fellowships to register for the internship.
Interested military spouses can reach out to the Transition Assistance Program at Fort Drum at 315-772-3434, or 315-772-3286.
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