Fifteen thousand jobs earmarked for military spouses sounds awesome. On the first anniversary of Joining Forces–the Michelle Obama/Jill Biden program designed to recognize and honor military families–the First Lady announced a new partnership with 11 employers that would yield 15,000 jobs for spouses and veterans.
That coulda been amazing. We probably have 15,000 jobseekers among our readers at SpouseBuzz alone. Then I found out that of the 11 new employers offering those 15,000 jobs, all 11 offered work at call centers.
That floored me. Call centers? The call center industry is notorious for repetitive tasks, low employee morale and high attrition. They might offer a good bill-paying opportunity to some spouses during some phases of life, but call jobs aren’t actually hard to find. Those are jobs that are hard to get anyone to take. (Take our poll here to let us know what would entice you into a call center job.)
“Our military spouses are often some of the most talented, most resilient and most employable people around,” Michelle Obama announced to the reporters on the conference call. I totally agreed with that. Around here we are big fans of programs that help our motivated spouses find jobs. I’m just confused about how call center jobs are being proclaimed as the “exciting” answer to the problem of spouse employment. Are call center jobs in this country reserved for the “most talented, most resilient, most employable people around?” I don’t think so.
To be fair, Navy Captain Brad Cooper, the executive director of Joining Forces, pointed out that the flexibility and portability that spouses say they want is present in this kind of work. Cooper said there were mid-level jobs available for some spouses as well as entry-level jobs. “While they are primarily customer service jobs, there are also jobs in health care and telecommunications,” said Cooper.
While I am grateful that the power of the White House has been turned on spouse employment, I think call center employment is the wrong focus. Those are jobs we can find for ourselves without help from the White House. The research on military spouse employment points to the fact that most Americans get their job through a network of people they know. Moving every 2.5 years due to the needs of the military severs that network. If Joining Forces seriously expects to improve the lives of military spouses, we need the kind of spouse employment programs that create the kinds of connections that bring spouses to work.
Navy wife Jacey Eckhart is Editor of SpouseBuzz and author of I Married a Spartan?? The Care and Feeding of Your Military Marriage available on iTunes, Amazon, and on www.jaceyeckhart.com.