Soldiers sacrifice much for their country, but often overlooked is the sacrifice their families also make in the process.

As new assignments require soldiers to relocate, military spouses have a hard time maintaining a stable career. A recent survey found military spouses have an unemployment rate almost four times higher than the national average, with nearly 80 percent of those surveyed saying they believe their status as a military spouse has had a negative impact on their career.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the majority of jobs are found through networking which puts relocated military spouses at a disadvantage as they seek employment compared to those with deeper roots in the community.

Just this past fall, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper asked governors and communities to expand assistance to military spouses. The Greater Fort Knox Region is doing just that. The Knox Regional Development Alliance in partnership with the Kentucky Career Centers–Lincoln Trail, the Lincoln Trail Workforce Development Board and Fort Knox, is excited to announce a new model of support designed to expand assistance to current and incoming military spouses seeking employment in our communities.

This comprehensive, first-of-its-kind program is designed to help military spouses find valuable employment while connecting them with a strong network of professional contacts. It is our belief through this new program we will fill gaps in regional employment, boost local revenue and create a heightened sense of community for our military families. As 635 Soldiers and their families move to our region this fall with the activation of the Army’s new V Corps, it is our hope this program will help make the transition easier for these military spouses and the countless others who call Fort Knox home.

Current and incoming military spouses interested in the program can get started by going to greaterfortknox.com/jobs and answering a simple eight-question career survey outlining work history and career goals. That questionnaire is then forwarded to KCC-LT where participants will be matched with a professional career coach who is ready to evaluate their needs and begin providing no-cost employment support.

Experienced career coaches will aid military spouses in a variety of ways, such as sharing job leads, assisting with resumes and cover letter writing and connecting individuals to job training and licensing courses. With four Career Center locations throughout the region, as well as an interactive website complete with online training videos, access to support is available no matter where in the area military families choose to settle.

The final component of the new program addresses the importance of networking. In this step, military spouses will be matched with a volunteer community connector, who can help them build a professional network and expand their base of regional contacts. With this additional step, it is our hope that qualified military spouses new to the area will be given the same opportunities as those of us who are more established in our communities.

Details of the new model have been shared with Army Human Resources Command officials who have agreed to include the resource on military orders for any new soldiers stationed at Fort Knox. This means military spouses can benefit from the assistance program before they arrive.

We believe early access to this support will make military families’ transition to our communities go more smoothly and get them excited to be a part of our vibrant and caring region.

As we began drafting this model and reaching out to local residents and organizations, we were met with an overwhelmingly positive response. When we contacted Cathy Doolin, Abound Credit Union, about pairing her up with a military spouse, her response exemplified this community.

“I am so excited about this program and am looking forward to meeting with this lady, creating relationships and life long connections,” she said.

In 2018, the Greater Fort Knox Region was named a Great American Defense Community by the Association of Defense Communities and we continue to live up to that title. We are a community dedicated to supporting each other as well as the wonderful individuals and their families stationed at Fort Knox. We hope our military spouse assistance program demonstrates our values to those arriving in the area and that this model eventually may become a new normal for military communities across the country.

Retired Brig. Gen. Jim Iacocca is president and CEO and Beth Avey is vice president of the Knox Regional Development Alliance, a regional economic development agency committed to promoting and protecting Fort Knox. They can be reached at jim@growknox.org and beth@growknox.org.