Evaluation of the Military Spouse Employment Partnership

Progress Report on First Stage of Analysis

by Gabriella C. Gonzalez, Luke J. Matthews, Marek N. Posard, Parisa Roshan, Shirley Ross

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Research Questions

  1. Does the Military Spouse Employment Partnership support employment of military spouses?
  2. Are there areas where the Partnership can improve?

The frequent relocations associated with military service place distinct demands on service members and their families and can complicate military spouses' career trajectories. Recognizing this challenge, the White House published a directive in 2011 ordering the Department of Defense to expand the Army Spouse Employment Partnership, which had recruited 52 employer partners since its inception in 2003 to assist military spouses seeking employment, to serve Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force spouses. The resulting Military Spouse Employment Partnership, launched on June 29, 2011, is one of four initiatives under the Department of Defense's Spouse Education and Career Opportunities program. In December 2014, the U.S. Congress mandated an evaluation of the Partnership and the Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Military Community and Family Policy sponsored RAND to assess the extent to which the Partnership addresses its objectives. This report documents the first phase of research to help meet the congressional requirement for a "report evaluating the progress of military spouse employment programs." This research should be of interest to policymakers responsible for programs or oversight of programs supporting military spouse quality of life, as well as scholars who study military spouse issues and program evaluation.

Key Findings

The Military Spouse Employment Partnership Offers a Diverse Array of Employer Partners for Military Spouses to Connect With and Job Postings

  • The majority of employer partners represent professional and business, education, health, or finance industries, which are career fields that military spouses have reported interest in.
  • Employer partners in the program also tend to be large (based on the number of people they employ), and report having an international or national presence.
  • More than 70 percent of employer partners report offering part-time work, 25 percent offer temporary or seasonal work, but fewer than 50 percent of partners report that they offer telework opportunities, which is a growing trend for private- and public-sector employers in the United States.
  • Early analyses of jobs posted in the program's career portal suggest that jobs listed by employer partners are spread across the United States.
  • We also found some evidence that jobs listed on the career portal were relatively well matched to typical military spouses' education or experience levels.

There Is Room for Improvement

  • Criteria for employers to be a partner and outreach strategies may impede the program's meeting the employment needs of military spouses interested in coding- and education-related jobs.
  • Some industries, such as software development, may not meet partnership criteria, such as being in business for more than five years and having a multistate distribution.
  • In the case of education, most public school systems and private schools would not have a multistate distribution.
  • Only about one-third of job postings included information about required education or experience.
  • A separate issue requiring greater partner engagement is the presence of already filled or out-of-date job postings within the portal.
  • The current career portal includes search options for keywords within the job title and several filter options, but many of these options are not completed consistently by employers.

Recommendations

  • One step toward including more diverse job types could be to modify the partnership criteria for some industries on a case-by-case basis. The program may need to adopt new methods of promoting the partnership for industries with fewer single national points of contact. For education, departments of education for each of the 50 states may provide avenues for achieving connections to and enrollments from local school districts. However, further analysis is needed to determine whether these suggested tactics could best meet the career interests and education levels of military spouse users of the career portal.
  • The Military Spouse Employment Partnership could encourage partners to populate a data field for job type. Alternatively, or in addition, they could apply a machine learning algorithm similar to that used in this report to infer the likely job type of a given job post.
  • Additional portal filter options would be useful to resolve ambiguities in some of the posts or search terms used by military spouses. For example, coding might indicate software development or it might indicate medical billing coding or some other sort of systematic database work. Additional filter breakouts could help resolve such ambiguities.
  • Functionality of the career portal could be improved by encouraging partners to list education and experience information as a separate data field. The career portal currently does not include filter boxes for the education or experience requested in a job posting.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One

    The Need for an Evaluation of the Military Spouse Employment Partnership

  • Chapter Two

    Description of the Military Spouse Employment Partnership

  • Chapter Three

    Assessment of Job Postings Available on Career Portal

  • Chapter Four

    Concluding Remarks and Next Steps

  • Appendix A

    Select Findings from the Survey of Active Duty Spouses (2012)

  • Appendix B

    Methodology Used For Job Postings Analysis

This research was conducted within the Forces and Resources Policy Center of the RAND National Defense Research Institute, a federally funded research and development center sponsored by the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Staff, the Unified Combatant Commands, the Navy, the Marine Corps, the defense agencies, and the defense Intelligence Community.

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