Moving homes can be hard enough, but for those requiring licenses to work, it can be significantly tougher—more tests, more fees, more time spent jumping through hoops instead of doing their actual jobs. For military spouses across the country, the current system discourages working at all.
When the U.S. Air Force Reserve moved Amse Heck’s husband, John, from Philadelphia to a new base in Virginia, the real estate agent assumed that she would be able to restart her career.
“I thought we’d get here and I’d hit the ground running and build my real estate clientele up,” Heck said.
Instead, Heck discovered that the Pennsylvania and Virginia state real estate boards had no reciprocity agreements that would allow an easy transfer of her credentials. As a result, she had to retake all of her courses in Virginia, in addition to paying for two exams and repurchasing insurance.
“That was very demoralizing, to feel that I had built up a career and some stability to contribute to our family income, and then to come here and not be able to get anywhere for months,” said Heck, who is one of thousands of military spouses facing a maze of licensing requirements across the country.
Today, she has found her dream job at Blue Star Families, a national organization dedicated to supporting the families of military members.
“I love working with Blue Star Families, being able to help other spouses get access to programs and licensing opportunity,” Heck said.
Pointing to findings from its annual study, Blue Star Families CEO Kathy Roth-Douquet said that “isolation and economic insecurity” are “really hurting our military families today.” Most surveys, Roth-Douquet said, show an unemployment rate around 20 percent for active military spouses, compared with about 4 percent overall.
Excessive occupational licensing affects hundreds of occupations in the United States, erecting unnecessary employment barriers and increasing prices for consumers. In 1950, only about one in 20 American workers required a license for their job; today, according to the Institute for Justice, that figure stands at approximately one in four.
“It’s the moving, it’s the being far from family and friends, and it’s the requirements of this military lifestyle” that complicate matters, said Roth-Douquet, who as a military spouse once received one week’s notice that her husband would be gone for a year. “People lose their jobs, and getting started again, the licensing makes it that much harder.”
Through its Spouseforce program, Blue Star Families allows spouses to submit their education, credentials, and work preferences—including remote work—and matches candidates to potential employers.
Heck’s family is already feeling the benefit.
“As my wife gets a lot of personal satisfaction out of seeing my career advance, I get a lot of satisfaction out of seeing her career advance and seeing her make those goals and achieve those goals,” John Heck added.
This story originally appeared as a Freedom to Flourish segment, sponsored by Koch Industries, on Hill.TV’s Rising with Krystal & Buck.