Microsoft is teaching military spouses in-demand computer and technology skills in its effort to bolster career opportunities for a group with an unemployment rate four times higher than the national average.
Microsoft's Military Spouse Technology Academy kicked off with 19 spouses near Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., last week. At the end of the 22-week program, Microsoft leaders will decide whether and how to expand it to other military installations.
“The military spouse is highly talented,” said Maj. Gen. Chris Cortez, USMC (Ret), vice president of military affairs for Microsoft. “We know that they move every two or three years and by and large, they don't have the opportunity to work for a company and stay in that company for a long period of time. We're trying to break through that paradigm that the military spouse is in right now, that they have to quit and start all over again.
“We want to provide them with a career that can go with them anywhere in the world.”
In May, President Donald Trump signed an executive order aimed at helping military spouses land federal government jobs. Following the order, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce launched its Hiring 100,000 Military Spouses initiative, a three-year campaign to raise awareness for military spouse employment.
MOAA has been examining military spouse employment challenges since 2013, including a partnership with Syracuse University's Institute for Veterans and Military Families on a survey designed to get a closer look at the issue. That survey found a high unemployment rate, but also found about 90 percent of military spouses who want to work are underemployed, based on their education and experience levels.
“Now - perhaps more than ever before in our history - the ongoing tectonic shifts taking place in the technology and communications sectors have the potential to empower military spouses as never before,” said Col. Mike Turner, USAF (Ret) and vice president for development for MOAA. “Moreover, smart companies now have an opportunity to reach out to a largely untapped workforce of highly educated, experienced and committed professionals who thrive in high-stress, mission-driven environments characterized by constant change.”
Under Microsoft's efforts, spouses will learn in-demand technology skills. According to government estimates, information technology occupations are projected to grow 12 percent from 2014 to 2024, well ahead of the average projected job growth.
Upon course completion, each of the spouses participating in the current pilot program will have a job interview with Microsoft.
“We fully anticipate that we're going to have good success in terms of the graduates of this program getting employed in the IT industry,” Cortez said.