|FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – January 20, 2016||Contact: Lauren Weiner-(202) 406-0224|
|In Gear Career Merges with Hiring Our Heroes to Provide Greater Opportunities for Professionally-Focused Military Spouses|
Tampa, FL– In Gear Career (IGC) is pleased to announce our merger with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Hiring Our Heroes (HOH) program. While the veteran unemployment rate has dropped, the rate for military spouses has held steady at nearly three times that of their civilian counterparts, hovering at nearly 30% for some spouse groups. This situation is not something that we can ignore, and the merger of the two organizations will provide a stronger opportunity to address the issues facing military spouses in the employment realm.
IGC, a Tampa-based non-profit, was launched by Lauren Weiner, Donna Huneycutt, and Haley Uthlaut, the spouses of active duty troops and a Department of Defense civilian, all of whose career progressions were challenged by their frequent moves with the military. Weiner and Huneycutt launched a consulting firm in 2005, leveraging the untapped talents of military spouses on military installations. Uthlaut, herself a veteran, Gold Star spouse, and current military spouse, approached Weiner and Huneycutt to similarly connect and support this untapped professional military spouse labor pool on a broader scale, and together they developed the idea of a non-profit organization to support the spouses that Weiner and Huneycutt couldn’t hire directly. From early on in the group’s history, it worked collaboratively with the US Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Hiring our Heroes program to support military spouses in progressing or continuing their professional careers, which in turn supports retention of some of our best active duty troops.
In Gear Career was the first non-profit organization to provide local professional networking for military spouses experiencing permanent changes of station. IGC’s unique model targets the root causes of unemployment and underemployment for military spouses. Primarily, the frequent military moves (Permanent Changes of Station, or PCS) mean that spouses cannot build and sustain the professional network that is required for job searches, career progression, and natural mentorship opportunities. IGC’s local chapters around the world work, hand in hand with the community, to develop and sustain these professional networks across professional disciplines. When a spouse PCSes to a new location, they can immediately plug into the professional network in their chosen career field. In the past, spouses developed these networks at each duty station, and the contacts they made were not effectively available to other spouses coming in to the area, except on an ad-hoc basis.
“Military spouses aren’t looking for a hand-out; IGC is looking to ensure that spouses simply have a level playing field in seeking employment opportunities and career progression. Our programs, and particularly our local chapter model, seeks to make sure spouses can hit the ground running in each duty station with the network that is so critical to getting a professional-level job in today’s job market,” says Lauren Weiner, one of the founders of IGC and the Chair of the Board.
Donna Huneycutt points out that many military spouses today married into the military after developing professional careers–and often incurring significant student debt. “In addition to the local networking, we focus on educating employers about the talents of this labor pool and supporting military spouses so that they can port their careers with them after proving themselves on-ground. This means that they can pay back student loans, help support the family, and avoid forcing their active duty spouse to make career choices based on geography.”
IGC routinely worked with local Chambers of Commerce to build and sustain these networks. IGC also advocates for military spouse employment in local communities—including educating employers about the benefits of hiring spouses, and helping to highlight local opportunities from interested employers—through our relationships with local Chambers and other community organizations. “IGC makes personal introductions to hiring managers for specific open positions, instead of simply asking spouses to send their resumes in to a resume database. We find that the personal introduction ensures that spouses don’t get lost in the shuffle, particularly in larger companies,” says Amanda Crowe, Executive Director of IGC.
IGC also worked closely with the US Chamber of Commerce on national programs, including a toolkit for Government Service (GS) employment for spouses. Hiring Our Heroes is a successful program of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, supporting efforts to employ veterans and military spouses. Earlier today, Hiring our Heroes announced that 2016 will be designated as “The Year of the Military Spouse” within their organization. The joining of In Gear Career and Hiring Our Heroes will enable us to expand our reach into the communities we serve and provide career development and networking opportunities at the grassroots level for military spouses and employers.
Elizabeth O’Brien, Director of the Military Spouse Program for Hiring Our Heroes, said: “I am so pleased to welcome In Gear Career and Amanda Crowe to Hiring Our Heroes. The merging of our two teams will immediately impact our ability to better serve military spouses and employers at the grassroots level, while providing networking opportunities, and professional development throughout the year.”