Venita Peters broke into a broad smile within minutes of her arrival at the Victory Terrace Community Center in Oak Harbor, Washington. For the past 20 years she has moved repeatedly, nationally and internationally, to support her active-duty U.S. Navy husband who is now based at nearby Whidbey Island Naval Air Station.
Throughout his career and deployments, she has focused on raising their three daughters. But this event, a Military Spouse Empowerment Summit hosted by the Officers’ Spouses’ Club of Whidbey Island in partnership with Boeing, allowed her focus on someone she seldom has time for.
“I just want to do something for myself,” Peters said simply. “My whole life has been focused on my husband and kids. And while I wouldn’t change that, now is the time for me have a career. And this will help me.”
That resonated with Debra Plageman, who has moved with her husband and children 10 times since 2002. “We’re so limited as to what we can do outside the home,” Plageman said. “I’m hoping this can give me the tools to run my own business successfully, no matter where my next move takes me.”
Peters and Plageman were among about 120 military spouses who attended the unique summit. With childcare provided for free, the group spent the day focused on developing and refining the tools they need to enter, or re-enter, the civilian workforce.
Boeing employees who are military veterans reviewed resumes and helped participants understand how the skills they use to support their families, and their volunteerism, are valued in the civilian workplace. The spouses created LinkedIn profiles, took professional portraits, and attended workshops ranging from entrepreneurship to establishing personal brands.
“It’s extremely difficult to be a military spouse and maintain a career,” said Amy Raymond, who is preparing to move with her family to a new military base. This time, she plans to use the cross-country move to re-start a once-flourishing career. She was optimistic that the summit was exactly what she needed, when she needed it.
“I want to leave here with maybe a few good connections and have some of the latest tools (like LinkedIn and headshots) when I look for a new job in a few weeks.”
The Military Spouse Empowerment Summit is one of countless ways Boeing supports members of the U.S. armed forces and their families. More than 7,000 service members, veterans and spouses in Washington state alone are receiving workforce transition assistance from Boeing-supported programs this year.
“Boeing is committed to supporting our heroes who serve our country,” said Bill McSherry, vice president of Government Operations at Commercial Airplanes.
“From our hiring and employment programs to grants and partnerships like this one, Boeing is focused on ensuring the men and women who serve this country, and the families who support them, are able to successfully transition to civilian life,” he said.
It’s a commitment that does not go unappreciated.
“I think it’s great,” said Peters. “To recognize us spouses and the value we bring is great.”
By Deborah Feldman