Military's New Plan: Educating Spouses




 
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Military's New Plan: Educating Spouses
 
November 15th, 2007  
Team Infidel
 
 

Topic: Military's New Plan: Educating Spouses


Military's New Plan: Educating Spouses
San Diego Union-Tribune
November 15, 2007
Pg. 1
Retention initiative focuses on family
By Paul M. Krawzak, Copley News Service
In its latest bid to recruit and retain service members by focusing on their families' needs, the Pentagon yesterday announced a program to help military spouses train for high-growth, portable careers.
Almost every base in San Diego is included in the first round of the project, which will start next month. Seventeen other military installations in eight states were chosen.
The Pentagon, with help from the U.S. Department of Labor, will pay up to $6,000 over two years to help each participant pursue career-oriented education and training. Targeted fields include teaching, health care, information technology, financial services and construction.
About 1,100 military spouses in San Diego County might take advantage of the program, said Reg Javier of the San Diego Workforce Partnership, a nonprofit organization that coordinates job training. The group will oversee the local part of the project.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Labor Secretary Elaine Chao kicked off the initiative yesterday morning at a Pentagon ceremony. About 200 military spouses, government officials and job-training executives were in attendance.
Gates said the $35 million, first-of-its-kind project would “open the door for our military spouses to have more fulfilling careers. (Education) is often unaffordable for young families.”
Several surveys have shown that more than two-thirds of military spouses want or need to work but can't because of frequent moves and the high cost of schooling, Chao said.
As the two Cabinet secretaries signed an order to start the program, San Diego resident Gwen Bates sat between them to represent other military spouses.
Bates, who has an associate's degree in marketing, said she has found it difficult to get financial aid for additional education.
“A lot of it is for the active-duty (service) member, not the spouse,” said Bates, a mother of three whose husband, Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Alexander Bates, is serving in Bahrain.
Bates wants to earn a bachelor's degree in marketing or start her studies toward becoming a physician.
To finance the program in California, the federal government will send $10 million to the state, which will transfer the money to the San Diego Workforce Partnership.
The government has designated $5 million for the first phase of the project in San Diego County. Another $5 million will be used during the next round, when more bases in the region or statewide are expected to take part. The Pentagon has not announced a start date for the second phase.
Camp Pendleton is an inaugural member of the program. So is the San Diego Metro Complex, the Pentagon's term for an area that includes the San Diego Naval Medical Center and the naval bases in Point Loma, on North Island and at 32nd Street.
Federal officials didn't say why Miramar Marine Corps Air Station was left out of the first phase, but the base tends to have officers who are older and better educated than personnel at other installations.
“This is a huge deal to the Marine families at Camp Pendleton,” said Col. Al Ingersoll, who is stationed at the base and represented Camp Pendleton at yesterday's ceremony.
The program will help the military recruit and retain Marines by keeping their families satisfied, Ingersoll said.
“If they're happy, they'll stay,” he said. “If they're not happy, there's not a big enough bonus you can give them.”
Eligible spouses can receive up to $3,000 per year to pay for education and training. The money can be used for tuition, fees, books and equipment as well as credentialing and licensing fees.
Federal guidelines provide “a lot of leeway for the participant to choose their own training,” said Mary Cate O'Malley, a spokeswoman for the San Diego Workforce Partnership.
Community colleges are a prime option for military spouses because they provide the training envisioned by the program's coordinators at an affordable price, said Lisa Curtin, executive director of San Diego City College.
Curtin, who attended yesterday's signing ceremony, said the community colleges' $20-per-credit fee would enable a student to take a full academic load for a year for much less than $3,000.
To enroll in the program, military spouses must have a high school diploma or equivalent certification. In addition, their active-duty spouses cannot be scheduled for a transfer within the next year.
Only spouses of junior enlisted service members, noncommissioned officers and junior commissioned officers are eligible. In the Navy, this includes seamen recruits through petty officers second class and ensigns through lieutenants. For the Marines, it includes privates through sergeants and second lieutenants through captains.
The program's genesis dates to 2003, when a federal initiative to improve recruiting, retention and readiness in the armed forces included a recommendation to reach out to military spouses.
That suggestion led to the 2004 creation of milspouse.org, a Web site designed to provide spouses with information on education, career training and employment, said Christine Ollis, chief of the adult services division in the Labor Department's Employment and Training Administration.
Ollis said the project launched yesterday is the latest outgrowth of the 2003 recommendation. The Defense and Labor departments began forming details of the program in June.
Yesterday, the initiative drew praise from defense analysts such as Loren Thompson.
“This will make it easier to recruit and to retain high-quality war fighters because they will not feel as if their spouse is making a sacrifice in order for their careers to go forward,” said Thompson, chief operating officer of the Lexington Institute, a pro-defense think tank in Arlington, Va.
 


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