March 14th, 2022

How Our Service Scholarship Helped a Military Spouse Escape the Underemployment Trap

U.S. Army soldier, Markus Arteche was visiting his Central Florida family after completing an arduous deployment to Afghanistan.  Friends introduced him to Michelle, and they fell in love.  They married and moved to Hawaii—sounds idyllic—but Michelle soon experienced the professional challenges inherent in becoming a military spouse. “I really felt like a second-class citizen who was expected to put my husband’s career first,” Michelle recalls.  “I was underpaid, and hiring managers were not taking my full skillset into account.”

It’s a common struggle—let’s call it the Military Spouse Underemployment Trap.  A White House report calculated military spouses earn 26.8% less than their non-military peers and their unemployment rate hovers at 24%.[i]  This disparity amounts to $190,000 in lost wages for a family over the course of a typical 20-year military career.[ii]  Michelle remembered, “Everywhere I went, every military spouse I talked to had the same thing at the top of their mind—finding a good job.”

Why such a wage discrepancy?  Experts cite the constant relocations required of service members’ families, which inflict on spouses multiple forced career restarts, lost promotions, résumé discontinuity, and having to constantly reestablish a local professional network—every one to three years.[iii]

But Michelle beat the odds.  After leaving Hawaii, the young mother-of-two pursued a master’s degree while working contract jobs.  Scouring LinkedIn one day, she came across the Adecco Group US Foundation’s Service Scholarship for military spouses. The scholarship offered free courses in data analytics, digital marketing and/or product management through our partnership with General Assembly (GA), a pioneer in education and career transformation. Michelle applied for and received the scholarship – deciding then to enroll in the part-time Digital Marketing Course. She excelled in the program and used skills she learned to professionalize her employer’s web presence by updating their meta tags – content descriptors that tell search engines what a web page is all about.  The next month, her employer’s site experienced a 312% increase in website visits. “The scholarship and course gave me a strong competitive edge,” Michelle recalled.

Michelle leveraged her new skills to seek a higher-paying job and after two significant offers, she accepted a position paying $55,000 more than her pre-scholarship position! The company also accommodates her family’s lifestyle.  She enjoys working remotely, with the flexibility to care for her children, one of whom has special needs.  “So much has changed because I found meaningful work,” Michelle said, “and I would not be in this position without the GA course. I know my worth and want to be seen the way I see myself.  I am also helping other military spouses be seen.”

The Adecco Group is a leader in addressing our nation’s high military spouse unemployment rate. We are proud to be recognized as a military spouse-friendly employer and to offer spouses portable careers, online training, and professional support. In 2021, the Adecco Group US Foundation gifted $20,000 of technology education scholarships, in partnership with General Assembly, to women veterans and military spouses who were disproportionally impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. This year marks the Adecco Group Military Alliance program’s 20th anniversary of actively supporting the U.S. military community through employment and education opportunities.  To date, the Adecco Group has employed over 100,000 military spouses and veterans.

[i] “Military Spouses in the Labor Market,” The Council of Economic Advisers, page 3.

[ii] Ibid.

[iii] Ibid.