New program to help military spouses with long-term careers

Military spouses often cannot establish long-term occupational careers because of the frequent location changes required by military service.
That problem is addressed in a new federal program available to families at Fort Lewis, McChord Air Force Base and Naval Station Kitsap, as well as 15 major installations in other states. Other Washington installations may be eligible for the program in the future.
Under the program, which is offered by the Departments of Defense and Labor, eligible military spouses can receive up to $6,000 over two years for education and training aimed at enabling them to pursue portable careers in high-demand, high-growth occupations.
Washington State received a combined $3.7 million to implement the program statewide in April 2008. Of the total, $1.2 million is earmarked for Pierce County’s Fort Lewis and McChord AFB. The funds, which will be administered by the Tacoma-Pierce County Employment and Training Consortium, will provide training and employment to 331 military spouses between January 2008 and June 30, 2010, according to Linda Nguyen, who serves as executive director of TPCETC and the Workforce Development Council.
“Military spouses suffer an unemployment rate that is three times that of their civilian counterparts,” Nguyen said. “Many say the cost of continuing their education is more than they can afford.”
The Military Spouse Career Advancement Initiative was created to help spouses overcome financial barriers. The federal funding makes it possible for eligible candidates to receive $3,000 in a career advancement account for one year. The grant can be renewable a second year for an additional $3,000. This money can be used to pay for expenses directly related to postsecondary education and training, including tuition, books, equipment and certain fees.
Eligible participants are spouses with sponsors in pay grades E1-E5 and 01-03 who have completed some college or who have obtained a high school diploma or GED. Interested spouses may apply at one-stop career center on or near their installations’ voluntary education centers. Additional information is available at
The TPCETC was created by the City of Tacoma and Pierce County in 1982 provide employment and training opportunities for eligible individuals within Pierce County. Most of the consortium’s funding is from grants, primarily the Workforce Investment Act. The consortium has 50 full-time employees. It is governed by a five-member executive board composed of County Executive John Ladenburg, Tacoma Mayor Bill Baarsma, Pierce County Councilmember Tim Farrell, Tacoma City Councilmember Mike Lonergan and Workforce Development Council Chair Dennis Loney.