Military offers major labor pool

The Thurston Economic Development Council and Thurston Chamber of Commerce have partnered in an effort to link Thurston County area employers with a well-qualified, but largely untapped, workforce – military spouses and military personnel entering the civilian work force.

The council and chamber have sent out a survey to area employers to better gauge their hiring plans for the next 18 months, and the levels of education needed for those jobs.

With the information in hand, the two job-based agencies can do a better job helping public and private sector employers match up with a growing population of military spouses and veterans in South Sound.

Employers in the region would be well-served to take a few minutes to fill out the survey. Better yet, they should make a concerted effort to draw on this pool of prospective employees when job openings surface.

As many as 100 to 200 Joint Base Lewis-McChord soldiers will leave military service each month over the next year or two as United States military presence in Afghanistan winds down and JBLM becomes more of a major military hub due to base closures and realignments elsewhere. Many of the soldiers mustering out of the service want to remain in South Sound to raise their families and build careers. It means some 800 military spouses and 3,000 transitioning soldiers will be looking for work locally.

Some 97 percent of military spouses have a high school degree. About half have attended college or received some form of specialized training. Thanks to the tuition assistance provided military spouses by the Heroes at Home 2 program, some 87 area military spouses will graduate from higher education programs in June 2013 in the fields of medical and business office administration, human resources, education and nursing.

Employers: Do your part in helping military personnel and their spouses transition to civilian life. Don’t forget this job-ready workforce when hiring new employees.