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Riverview chamber committee hears advantages of hiring military spouses

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image The Riverview Chamber's Veterans Affairs Committee meets the third Friday of each month. Photo Penny Fletcher

84 percent of military spouses are college graduates; 26 percent are unemployed; and 42 percent are underemployed.

While it’s a general belief that businesses hiring spouses and other dependents of military personnel means they are likely to lose them quickly, a program called InGear Career shows why that’s not true.

The third Friday of each month the Veteran’s Affairs Committee of the Riverview Chamber of Commerce meets at the Bridges Retirement Community on Bloomingdale Avenue (across from the Barn Theatre) to discuss how local businesses can help veterans.

While discounts are popular, according to Eros Dahl, who is in charge of talking with business about discounts, the team said they knew more could be done and has been investigating ways to go about it.

One of the biggest problems military families have is that spouses with careers are displaced and while they may have good job skills, they have no connections when they enter new communities.

“It’s the general belief that if you hire spouses or other dependents of military personnel, you’ll lose them and have to replace them quickly,” said Amanda Patterson Crowe, executive director of InGear Career, a program specifically developed to help these spouses get jobs. “We incorporated as a chapter here in 2013 as a nonprofit 501(c)3 because this is one of the biggest concerns of military families.”

She went on to explain that 84 percent of military spouses are college graduates; 26 percent are unemployed; and 42 percent are underemployed.

“Much of this is in remote locations like Fort Sill, Oklahoma. Tampa Bay is much better, but still, businesses have the idea if they hire them they will quickly have to retrain someone else,” she said.

InGear Career started with the Tampa chamber and is now working into the outlying areas surrounding MacDill Air Force Base because the families are spread all over the area.

“We’ve found that the chambers are the best way to introduce our job seekers to businesses,” Crowe said. “Statistics show that military spouses don’t change jobs at a higher rate than the general population. But their resumes can be very jumbled, and that’s where we can help by making the introduction and showing what a good candidate the person is. You see, maybe a spouse is a nutritionist, and is applying for a job as a budget analyst because they’re good with numbers and there aren’t any nutritionist jobs available. But the skills can cross over nicely.”

Spouse employment is a big reason why many people leave military service, she added. “If the spouse isn’t happy, it’s a strain on the whole family.”

Meanwhile, Dahl has been working diligently to find businesses that will offer true discounts to military families. “Coupons are one thing, but deep discounts are another,” he said.

He has researched and is now working with the Brandon Foundation on this issue, he added.

Gayle Cook of the MacDill Family Resource Center also brought information about their services.

The group is involved in many upcoming events as well.

On Feb. 14 there will be a national salute at the James A. Haley Veterans Hospital in Tampa at 11 a.m. with “goody bags” taken to hospitalized vets. Also, working with the South Shore Music Association, they are getting a music festival together with Mike Self, one of its organizers.

Then there will be the 7th Annual Poker Run for the Haley House Fund hosted by the American Legion Riders Alafia Chapter Post 148, said Richard Rohde, team leader for the chamber’s Veterans Affairs Committee. This will be held Saturday, March 1 at the Post, 7240 U.S. 301 in Riverview.

The group will soon have a dedicated page on the Riverview Chamber of Commerce website, said the chamber’s executive director Tanya Doran.

Meanwhile, anyone who wishes to help in any way may contact the chamber at www.riverviewchamber.com or just show up at a meeting at The Bridges at 8 a.m. on the third Friday of the month.

Crowe may be contacted directly by businesses at Amanda.crowe@ingearcareer.org.

More may be learned about InGear Career at www.ingearcareer.org.


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