The San Antonio City Council announced a new partnership to help military spouses, like Robyn Hawkins, find meaningful employment.
Unemployment rates among military spouses continue to be higher than the national average, according to a press release, leading advocates to work with local employers to see the range of skillsets this demographic brings to the workforce.
Hawkins, who lives in San Antonio, is married to a recently retired airman. She learned firsthand about the perception hiring managers have of military spouses.
“[One employer] essentially told me, in so many words, that they just weren’t going to hire me because I was a military spouse, and they knew I wasn’t going to be there for that long,” Hawkins said. “They didn’t say that verbatim, but that’s the vibe I got from their response.”
Through its partnership, San Antonio is working with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Hiring Our Heroes Foundation to pair spouses with local companies for 12-week fellowships like paid internships, and there is no cost incurred by host organizations.
“We really want to put our money where our mouth is, and that’s a tangible investment in the military,” said retired Maj. Gen. Juan G. Ayala, who serves as director of the Military and Veteran Affairs Department at the City of San Antonio. “And military spouses are one of the most important components of retention.”
A unique subset of the population, military spouses bring value to any position, Ayala said. Not only does their experience traveling from location to location mean they are not afraid of new situations, but it also means they’re accustomed to working with diverse groups of people.
Plus, holding down a household during a service member’s deployment means they can operate independently, and their work ethic is unmatched, he added.
Nationally, the Military Spouse Fellowship Program boasts a 91% job-placement rate, and Hawkins is one of its most recent success stories.
When her husband retired from the Air Force in 2022, they settled on San Antonio as their next move because of its welcoming disposition toward veterans and their families. She found out about the fellowship because her husband was going through a similar program for transitioning service members.
Hawkins stopped working in 2012 to take care of the couple’s newborn son. In a military marriage, she said, the decision around who will be the primary caretaker will always fall to the spouse. In these instances, the service member’s career continues while their partner may opt to take a break from full-time employment.
“But that doesn’t mean [military spouses] don’t have goals for themselves or that they’re not driven,” she said. “It just means for that specific amount of time, they had to make a choice for their family, for their spouse, and that’s the choice that was made.”
In Hawkins’ case, she used those six years away from the workforce to complete her bachelor’s degree and earn her master’s degree. When she began applying for full-time positions again, she admits she did have concerns that hiring managers would see that gap in employment and immediately count her out.
But those concerns melted away with the Military Spouse Fellowship Program, she said. Incoming fellows are paired with a local Hiring Our Heroes program manager who walks them through resume revamps and connects them with networking opportunities.
Hawkins’ work experience in human resources transferred easily to a fellowship with the City of San Antonio’s HR department. She went from fellow to full-time HR analyst for the city in just a few months.