Our founders, Liza Rodewald and Erica McMannes, recently attended the Military Spouse Employment Summit held by Hiring Our Heroes (HOH) and USAA in the U.S. National Chamber of Commerce in Washington, DC. It was here, in our nation’s capital, that representatives from both the business and military communities came together. Director of Military Spouse Programs for HOH, Brian Alvarado, shared recent findings that, “Military spouses have long faced unemployment challenges with an unwavering unemployment rate of 22% to an estimated increase of 38% due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.” There were panel discussions and opportunities to share experiences, frustrations, and successes with regard to raising awareness of untapped talent who can fill the skills gap and be part of a solution to the “great reshuffle” of our country. There has been a lot of movement over the past decade, but there is still a ways to go.
At the time of this blog, the number of unfilled job openings reached a record 11.5 million according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, suggesting the labor market remains resilient in the face of a slowing economy. Even before the pandemic, Liza and Erica saw the ways in which military spouses play an essential role in support of the military community by fulfilling business needs. They also noticed that, while the lives of military spouses can be complicated, challenging, lonely, and stressful, this special segment of the population is also resilient, smart, enduring, and talented. Military spouses have unique qualities that make them an important part of our country’s workforce, but due to frequent moves, licensing issues, and work-life balance, their career and job opportunities often get put on hold or fall to the wayside. They face unemployment and underemployment due to their sacrifice in support of their service member and, oftentimes, an employer may have a lack of confidence in a resumé that typically has a strong start and foundation but is spattered and full of gaps over the years.
With that in mind, Erica and Liza started a company where they would employ military-connected individuals through remote work, no matter where they lived. Their 2016 pre-pandemic vision was catapulted due to an international health crisis. They have had great success in obtaining employment for military spouses and other untapped talent by focusing on an underutilized and often overqualified talent pool to meet employer needs. This was recognized when HOH honored them with the Military Spouse Small Business IMPACT Award at the Summit.
Photo: Founders Erica McMannes and Liza Rodewald
During their visit, Instant Teams took DC by storm to share their priorities and concerns with Members of Congress, as well as attending the Hiring Our Heroes Summit with other business and military and governmental leaders and nonprofit organizations. They also attended the 10th anniversary of the Elizabeth Dole Foundation in honor of the military spouse caregivers, an organization that Instant Teams also supports by offering remote work opportunities and subject matter expertise.
Liza and Erica provided a critical link to U.S. Senators and Members of the House of Representatives by discussing a range of challenges and opportunities that confront military spouses today. These include: closing the employment gap of constituents from across the country, making government regulations less restrictive on military spouses who start and run businesses, and extending economic support (such as the Work Opportunity Tax Credit) that is currently available to veterans, also available to their spouses.
Instant Teams plans to open a headquarters office in Southern Pines, North Carolina and were able to visit with members of the North Carolina Congressional Delegation including Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC), who has worked with a host of stakeholders and organizations in support of our military community in the U.S. Senate.
“For many years, spouses have been the glue that holds together our military families and in many ways our military,” said U.S. Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC). “Thanks to innovators and leaders such as Instant Teams, they are now also becoming a force to propel our economy and create opportunity. I am proud to work with the military spouse community to make the process of establishing businesses and careers more seamless so that current and future generations of military spouses can succeed.”
Photo: Instant Teams Founder Liza Rodewald with Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC)
Liza Rodewald and Erica McMannes have both worked to transcend the challenges of military life by not only becoming entrepreneurs themselves, but empowering current and future generations of military spouses to do the same. During her time in Washington, Erica McMannes, Instant Teams Co-founder, visited with Congressman Hudson (R-NC)
“Military spouses sacrifice for our nation, yet too often cannot find job opportunities tailored to the unique demands of military life,” said Rep. Richard Hudson (R-NC). “Growing our economy and supporting our military families are vital to our region. As Fort Bragg’s Congressman, I applaud companies like Instant Teams that empower military spouses in our community with opportunities to join the workforce.”
Photo: Instant Teams Founder Erica McMannes with Congressman Richard Hudson (R-NC)
There are many others on Capitol Hill who rally behind our military community in support of Instant Teams’ efforts, such as U.S. Representative Brian Mast (R-FL) who welcomed Instant Teams as well.
Photo: Captain Justin Rodewald, Representative Mast and Instant Team Founder Liza Rodewald
One of our hopes is for Congress to recognize that remote and hybrid work environments are critical for the future of our nation’s economy because they allow military spouses and other skilled workers to take pride in a non-traditional work format. Instant Teams is also working with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden and Joining Forces to ensure that military spouses are able to start and sustain careers and businesses. Additionally, unique work opportunities such as those offered by Instant Teams provide caregivers of service members the chance to work while also balancing the demands of their new life with a loved one with visible or invisible wounds.
Here, (photo) Erica McMannes and Instant Teams’ DC advocate partner, Ernest Baynard, are with General Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who served as a Keynote Speaker at the Elizabeth Dole Foundation 10th anniversary celebration in Washington, DC. The support of senior military officials such as General Milley and his spouse are vital to the long-term strength and viability of our military families.
Photo: Liza Rodewald, LTGEN Evans and Erica McMannes
Liza and Erica also spent time with Lieutenant General Jason Evans, Deputy Chief of Staff, G-9, United States Army. His work and leadership continues to be imperative in bridging the gap between the military and civilian communities.