OLYMPIA – Washington state has been named Community Impact Leader of the Year by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Hiring Our Heroes division for extensive efforts to boost employment for military spouses – a result of the collaboration between the state’s Employment Security Department, the Washington State Department of Veteran’s Affairs and Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

Lourdes E. “Alfie” Alvarado-Ramos director of the Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs; Alecia Grady, JBLM director of Personnel and Family Readiness; and Suzan G. LeVine, Employment Security Department Commissioner, accepted the Community Leader Impact Award at the Sept. 17 Annual Military Spouse Employment Summit.

“This award recognizes the incredible partnerships that make this work possible, from implementing the first on base American Jobs Center in the country which serves military spouses, conducting military spouse hiring activities, to expanding our employment partnerships through our Washington State Military Transition and Readiness Council,” said Alvarado-Ramos. “We are thrilled to accept the Community Leader Impact Award on behalf of Washington State’s military and veteran community.”

Washington state has taken exceptional steps to create an inclusive community that helps military spouses and veterans to thrive. It was the first state to reach deep into local communities to create regional military spouse economic empowerment zones in Olympia and Spokane.

“We look forward to collaborating with other local communities to ensure that military spouses can have rewarding, portable careers that move with them from location to location and support their transition into civilian life,” said Grady.

Last year, Gov. Jay Inslee issued an executive order which extended Washington’s support for veterans and transitioning military service members to include military families. As a result of the order, LeVine and Alvarado-Ramos held roundtable discussions with military spouses across the state to better understand the employment challenges they face and uncover solutions. The team generated a report that was forwarded to state and federal leaders, and to elected officials to further legislative action. The full report and supporting material can be found on the dva.wa.gov/militaryfamilies website.

“The listening tour allowed us to hear firsthand about the challenges and understand the unique perspectives that military spouses bring to the workforce. We received hundreds of ideas for improving employment opportunities for military spouses. They are a powerful force for change in our community and we need to ensure their voices continue to be heard,” said LeVine. “We even heard from service members how critical it is to their readiness to have their spouses obtain gratifying work. Supporting military spouses continues to be a top priority in Washington.”

LeVine encourages interested businesses to contact WorkSource for help hiring veterans and military spouses. Employment Security has staff at centers who are specifically assigned to help veterans find jobs, including disabled veterans. The department has provided these services since 1933.

WorkSource is a partnership of state, local and non-profit agencies that work together to deliver employment and training services to Washington businesses and job seekers. You can learn more at WorkSourceWA.com.

The 2020 Military Spouse Employment Summit was recorded and is available for viewing at hiringourheroes.org/watch.