New Olympia program helps spouses find careers

OLYMPIA, Wash. — Hiring Our Heroes stopped in Olympia Tuesday to name the city a Military Spouse Economic Empowerment Zone.

Military spouses face a constant struggle by trying to find careers while handling deployments and frequent moves.

“For military spouses, you forget about trying to get the income when you’re always thinking about rebuilding and setting up the network and making sure your family is comfortable, the children are taken care of, the husband has everything he needs,” said Mandy Toban.

Toban is a busy mom with five kids. Her husband, Matthew Toban, has served in the army for nine years.

After years in the military, Toban knew she needed to focus on herself.

“I felt like I lost myself a little whenever he joined the military, so finding a career gave me that sense of self again,” she said.

Toban isn’t the only one who’s struggled.

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Across Washington, there were more than 64,000 active duty and reserve personnel in 2017. Studies show, only half of military families have two incomes.

“Some organizations are hesitant to hire military spouses because they know they might just be here for 18 months or 36 months, so there’s quite a few barriers that exist,” said Anna Christen, Hiring Our Heroes military spouse programs deputy director.

Christen said spouses are hungry to work, but many struggle to find jobs.

The Military Spouse Economic Empowerment Zone, or MSEEZ, focuses on creating a pipeline between military spouses and careers that meet their needs.

Olympia is now one of just five cities in the country with the program. The goal is to help place spouses, like Toban, into careers where they can thrive.

“You need your own sense of self, that own sense of proud beside supporting your family, which you love, but you need something of your own,” she said. “I really feel like finding a career, not just a job, but a career path will help you with that identity.”

Wednesday a job fair is being held at Joint Base Lewis-McChord from 1 – 4 p.m. at Hangar 9 on McChord Field.

There will be more than 100 employers. For more information, visit Hiring Our Heroes' event page here.