U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, WorkForce Central CEO Linda Nguyen and Pacific Mountain Workforce Development Council CEO Cheryl Fambles join several military spouses at a roundtable event in Lakewood, Wash., on Feb. 16, 2018.



LAKEWOOD, Wash. – Heads nodded in unison as the individuals seated around a conference table related their experiences as spouses of military service-members – with U.S. Sen. Patty Murray listening intently to every word.

Military spouses face many barriers to employment, and that is exactly what several of them told Murray, WorkForce Central CEO Linda Nguyen, Pacific Mountain (PacMtn) Workforce Development Council CEO Cheryl Fambles and Joint Base Lewis McChord (JBLM) Director of Personnel and Family Readiness Alecia Grady at a roundtable discussion on Friday morning at a Starbucks in Lakewood, near JBLM.

“I request a 5-minute conversation with a recruiter, and they say no,” said Raul Armedariz, whose spouse serves in the U.S. Army.

Others shared similar stories of frustration in the job market. Some were advised to change the address they listed on their applications, because of the perception that employers are less likely to hire a person who lives on base. Some avoid revealing that they are married to a service-member at all. Others have faced questions from potential employers about previous time spent overseas, with a predictable follow-up: “So if we hire you, how long are you going to be here?”

Camo2Commerce (C2C), a program offered through a partnership between the PacMtn WDC and WorkForce Central, aims to help exiting service-members transition seamlessly into the local workforce. And while a majority of the program’s services have been available to military spouses for the past two years, C2C is placing added emphasis on serving military spouses with this year’s “Year of the Spouse” programming.

“No military family should have to choose between financial security and serving their country, and in today’s security environment, we can’t afford to lose good people who want to serve because their spouse can’t find work,” Sen. Murray said. “I’m so grateful to the military spouses who shared their experiences with me today in Lakewood. I look forward to getting to work with incredible partners like Camo2Commerce, PacMtn WDC, WorkForce Central, and JBLM to keep making headway on this issue as we all work to better support our military families.”

New C2C services include the Spouse Workforce Ambassador Program, which will provide eight to 12 military spouses with an opportunity to immerse themselves in the public workforce system this spring and summer. After spending one week learning about the system, participants will spend the next three to six months working 20-hour weeks, split between connecting military families to local WorkSource sites, welcoming individuals at the American Job Center (WorkSource Pierce affiliate site) at JBLM, and assisting at employment events throughout the summer.

Also this summer, C2C is developing short-term industry certification training with a focus on Health Care, Childcare, Hospitality, and Financial Services. A Military Families in Transition event will be offered in the fall.

“Our military families are so important to our Pierce County community and economy,” Nguyen said. “As workforce development professionals, we have a responsibility to help military spouses navigate the barriers they face when looking for work, and we are so grateful to Sen. Murray for being such a staunch advocate in this area.”

Since her election to the U.S. Senate in 1992, Sen. Murray has worked as a champion for military families in the world of employment. In 2011, she authored the VOW to Hire Heroes Act, landmark legislation that passed the Senate with a 95-0 vote.

“Our military families are important to our entire region and this state,” Fambles said. “We need every bit of talent to stay here and help grow our businesses. Military spouses have so much to offer—let’s figure out what more we need to do to help them be successful. Sen. Murray continues to understand our needs and to advocate for us in Congress. We are so thankful.”

For more information on C2C programming, visit: http://camo2commerce.com/

WorkForce Central strengthens the Pierce County economy by identifying skill gaps between jobseekers and employment opportunities, fostering data-driven decision making, and connecting workforce development partners into a cohesive, collaborative and effective network.